Don’t salt meat before cooking
April 4, 2011
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The idea behind this one is that the salt will draw out juices from the meat, removing flavor and preventing the surface from browning properly. In theory salt can draw out moisture, but in the real world it does not seem to make any difference. I have salted meat before cooking innumerable times, including steaks for pan frying or grilling, roasts, and briskets headed for the smoker. I have never once seen any juice being drawn out by the salt. In addition, there are innumerable cooks ranging from at-home amateurs to professional chefs and cookbook authors—including the super-fussy people at Cooks Illustrated—who direct that salt be put on meat before cooking. It’s impossible to believe that if the myth were true, all these people would be blind to the supposedly dire effects.
If you use enough salt and let it sit long enough you will draw out moisture. But the real question is: does this reduce the quality of the final product? Not in my experience. Of course you must pat off the accumulated moisture with a paper towel before cooking if you want the meat to brown properly. In fact, drawing off some moisture may well concentrate the flavors and lead to a better result.