POULTRY - Bitterman's Craft Salt Cooking: The Single Ingredient That Transforms All Your Favorite Foods and Recipes - Mark Bitterman

Bitterman's Craft Salt Cooking: The Single Ingredient That Transforms All Your Favorite Foods and Recipes - Mark Bitterman (2016)

Chapter 2. POULTRY

Salting a bird’s tail may be a fruitless way to catch it (although if you are close enough to start salting the tail feathers, you’re probably in a good position to grab the whole bird), but sprinkling salt anywhere else on poultry is definitely a good idea.

There are three ways to salt poultry:

1. Sprinkling coarse salt all over the raw bird or its parts and refrigerating it, uncovered, for several hours (or better yet, overnight) will dry the surface of bone-in poultry and help the skin crisp and brown during roasting.

2. Soaking the raw meat in a brine solution of 1¼ tablespoons fine salt dissolved in every cup of water will increase the juiciness of cooked poultry, particularly breast meat.

3. Adding a rough-textured salt, like flake salt or sel gris, immediately after your bird comes off the heat will create sparks of salinity in every bite.

It goes without saying that proper salting will enhance the intrinsic avian flavor of the bird. More and more mainstream poultry producers are offering free-range chickens, which do get a chance to peck outside at corn thrown from an actual farmer’s hand. They generally get more exercise and have the opportunity for exposure to the sun. Their meat genuinely tastes more like chicken than traditionally cooped birds, but you’ll likely pay nearly twice as much as you’ll pay for their mass-produced competition.

Korean Bamboo Barbecue Chicken with Toasted Sesame Salt


Barbecue is slow roasting with an open fire. Here, this technique is mixed with Korean flavors assembled from tangy pineapple juice, a hefty dollop of gochujang (Korean chili paste), and a salt that has fire in its very DNA. Bamboo salt is a traditional Korean salt made by packing sea salt into canisters of giant bamboo, capping it with yellow clay, baking it in an iron oven, and finally roasting it in a pine fire. The results speak for themselves: rich, full, slightly umami, rounded with an eggy sulfuric element. The Koreans believe these five elements—salt, plant, earth, iron, and fire—combine in this single ingredient to produce chi that is beneficial for the mind and soul.

3 cups pineapple juice, divided

2 tablespoons 3x-roasted Korean Bamboo Salt, divided

½ cup gochujang, divided

4 pounds bone-in chicken parts

Mild vegetable oil, for coating grill grate

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon wasabi powder

3 tablespoons Korean black vinegar (heukcho)

1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons finely diced red onion

1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon Toasted Sesame Salt (recipe follows)

Mix 2 cups of the pineapple juice, 5 teaspoons of the bamboo salt, and 2 tablespoons of the gochujang in a jumbo (2-gallon) resealable plastic bag until the salt dissolves. Add the chicken pieces. Seal the zipper, leaving about an inch open; push on the bag to release any trapped air through the opening, and close the zipper completely. Massage the liquid gently into the chicken and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours.

Light a grill for indirect medium heat, about 325°F. If you are using a charcoal grill, this means banking your coal bed to one side or at opposite ends of the fire box, leaving an area open that’s large enough to hold the racks of ribs. If you have a two-burner gas grill, turn one side on to medium and leave the other side off. If you have a three-burner or more grill, turn the outside burners on to medium and leave the center burner(s) off.

Brush the grill grate and coat with oil. Put a pan of water directly over the fire. Remove the chicken from the brine and discard the brine. Put the chicken on the grill, skin side up, away from the heat, with the dark meat closer to the fire than the white meat. Cover the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest pieces of chicken registers 160°F for white meat and 165°F for dark meat, about 50 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining 1 cup of pineapple juice, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, remaining 6 tablespoons of gochujang, the honey, wasabi, and vinegar to a boil. Turn the heat down so the sauce simmers; simmer until lightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

About 6 minutes before the chicken is done, brush the chicken with half the sauce, turn, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Brush with the remaining sauce, turn, cover, and cook for another 3 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a large serving platter. Sprinkle with the scallion, red onion, and cilantro. Dust with the sesame salt and serve.

Toasted Sesame Salt


Fantastic on edamame, steamed vegetables, grilled fish, burgers, popcorn, duck fat-fried potatoes, the rim of a bloody Mary, and much more.

1 tablespoon fleur de sel

3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, divided

¾ inch square dried nori

1 tablespoon delicate flake salt

Put the fleur de sel, 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, and the nori in a spice or coffee grinder. Grind for 30 seconds, tapping the sides a few times to knock any of the adhering mixture from the sides. Pour into a small bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and the flake salt and stir with a small spoon until the salt blend is evenly coating the flake salt crystals.


Kala Namak, Red Alder Smoked Salt, Trapani e Marsala Sea Salt, J.Q. Dickinson, Pure Sea Salt Co. Solar Sea Salt, Maldon Smoked Sea Salt


Korean Bamboo Salt comes in many varieties. The more times the salt is roasted, the more powerful the flavor: 1x comes off as merely a mild salt; 3x is alluringly different; 6x is hard to find, but when you do find it, you may very well want to dilute it down with another salt, because boy is it powerful: eggy, sulfuric, and intense. Which brings me to Jukyeom, also known as 9x roasted bamboo salt. Powerful is not the word. More likenuclear. This salt has actually been shown in serious, peer-reviewed medical research to lower blood pressure, ward off cancer, and more. It comes in two major types: an amethyst-colored variety and an oyster-colored variety. Each is subtly different in flavor and is reputed by some to have slightly different therapeutic properties. There are plenty of homeopath-minded cooks who advocate using 9x in cooking. I have yet to find the courage to use it on unsuspecting dinner guests.

Roasted Wings with Buffalo Salt


In 1964, buffalo wings got their start in Buffalo, New York, when Teressa Bellissimo deep-fried some leftover chicken wings and served them with melted butter and hot sauce. From there, hot wings have traveled the world over, picking up every flavor imaginable. Ours is classic, except we replace the sauce with blended salt. The result is dynamic. Sal de Gusano, named for the larvae found on agave roots (a Oaxacan delicacy) that are drowned in bottles of mezcal, has a hefty dose of umami, but also an incendiary flare from habanero chiles. Just the thing to make these baked hot wings take flight.

½ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

3 pounds chicken wings, cut into sections, tips saved for another use

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon Sal de Gusano

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Put the vinegar in a small saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until reduced by half. Stir in the brown sugar. Remove and reserve 1 teaspoon, and toss the rest with the chicken wings. Refrigerate while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Mix the paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, ground mustard, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Toss 2 tablespoons with the wings, and put the wings on a sheet pan in a single layer, evenly spaced and not touching. Roast until browned and crisp on the edges, about 45 minutes.

Combine the melted butter, the remaining 4 teaspoons of spice mixture, and the reserved 1 teaspoon of vinegar mixture in a large serving bowl. Toss the hot wings with this seasoning mixture and serve immediately.


Fleur de Hell; Scorpion Salt; or any fiery, hot, chile-infused sea salt

Salt-Perfected Roast Chicken


Always salt your roast chicken from the inside out. This isn’t about seasoning the bird fully. The most important role salt plays here is that it denatures the proteins of the connective tissues around the bones, developing incomparably savory chicken flavor and releasing it into the rest of meat. The cavity is the only thing you actually need to salt to roast chicken perfectly. Even after salting it generously, the chicken emerges from the oven strategically underseasoned, which leaves plenty of room to add several glorious pinches of moist, mineral-rich sel gris right before serving—bringing everything to life with a satisfyingly salt-perfected crunch.

3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch slices

1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1-inch wedges

2 yellow potatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

6 sprigs rosemary, cut in half, divided

2 teaspoons sel gris, divided, plus more for serving

1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns, divided, plus more for serving

1 (4-pound) chicken, visible fat removed, washed and dried

2 tablespoons dry vermouth

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Toss the celery, onion, potatoes, and carrots with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large roasting pan. Stick 4 of the rosemary pieces into the vegetables and scatter with 1½ teaspoons of the sel gris and ½ teaspoon of the cracked pepper.

Sprinkle the interior cavity of the chicken with the remaining ½ teaspoon of sel gris and ½ teaspoon of cracked pepper. Put 6 of the rosemary pieces into the cavity. Coat the outside of the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place the chicken breast side down on top of the vegetables.

Roast for 45 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 400ºF, and turn the chicken breast side up. It’s easiest to use large tongs with one arm inserted into the chicken cavity and the other gripping the top of the chicken. Roast for 20 minutes more, or until the skin is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165ºF.

Remove the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. Carve the chicken and arrange in the center of a platter. Remove and discard the rosemary pieces from the chicken and roasted vegetables and, using a slotted spoon, arrange the vegetables around the chicken.

Pour off any excess fat, leaving just a film of fat over the juices on the roasting pan. Place the roasting pan on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the leaves of the remaining 2 rosemary pieces and the vermouth to the drippings in the pan. Bring to a boil, and spoon over the chicken and vegetables. Scatter more sel gris and cracked pepper over all and serve.


Any French sel gris or Piran Sel Gris, Sal de Ibiza Granito, Dolce di Cervia or other medium-coarse salt like Maine Sea Salt, Oryx Desert Smoked Salt, or Antarctic Sea Salt.

Lotus-Wrapped Chicken in Salt Crust


Most ancient cultures with a coastline made sea salt pastes to protect meats roasting in open fires. A salt paste solidifies into a hard crust that distributes heat evenly to a roasting bird or whole fish as the salt seasons and crisps the skin. There is a long tradition of salt crust roasting in France and an even older one in China. The trick to making salt paste is starting with a powerfully moist salt, like sel gris. Most sel gris is about 13 percent seawater, moist enough to cling to itself when pressed, like packing snow into snowballs. Kosher salt won’t work as well here, as it has to be moistened with tap water, which starts to dissolve it, causing it to leach its salinity into anything it touches. In this recipe, I use sel gris and give it added perfume by wrapping the chicken in fragrant dried lotus leaves.

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Tsushima No Moshio

1 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns

1 (4-pound) chicken, wing tips removed, cut into 4 sections

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 dried lotus leaves

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

3 to 4 cups (2 pounds) sel gris

2 to 5 tablespoons water (optional)

2 tablespoons white shoyu soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

A pinch of shio salt for accent

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Mix the garlic, ginger, Tsushima No Moshio, and Sichuan peppercorns in a small bowl. Rub the chicken sections all over with the mixture.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the chicken sections as evenly as possible all around, about 2 minutes per side.

Soak the lotus leaves in a large bowl of warm water until flexible, 5 to 10 minutes. Cut the leaves in half along their center spines and lay out flat on a work surface. Put a piece of chicken at one end of each leaf. Drizzle each piece of chicken with the sesame oil, and roll each up in the lotus leaf, folding in the sides as you go, in the same way you would roll a burrito. Tie the leaves in place with cooking twine.

Press the sel gris between your fingers. It should be moist enough to stick together. If it isn’t, stir in a few tablespoons of water until the salt is moist enough to cling together when firmly pressed. In a large shallow baking dish or roasting pan, make a ½-inch-thick oval of the sel gris, just large enough to hold the lotus bundles. Put the lotus-wrapped chicken pieces on the salt; it is okay if they overlap. Pack the remaining salt over the top until the lotus-wrapped chicken is completely encased. Bake for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Mix the shoyu soy sauce and lemon juice in a small bowl.

Break the salt crust with a mallet. Serve a lotus-wrapped chicken bundle to each person. Snip the string tying the lotus leaves. Unfold the leaves, drizzle some of the lemon-shoyu mixture over each serving, and a sprinkling of more shio; eat the chicken from its leaf wrapper.


Rub: Vancouver Island Sea Salt, Cherry Plum Salt, Shinkai
Deep Sea Salt
Crust: Sel Gris de Guérande, Sel Gris de Noirmoutier, Bitterman’s Fleur de Sel
Accent: Cherry Plum Salt, Amabito No Moshio, Shinkai Deep Sea Salt, San Juan Island Sea Salt

Turkey Wanderlust


If you don’t know about turkey London broil, it’s probably because you never cared. It’s nothing more than a butterflied boneless turkey breast, like beef London broil. But this turkey cut is an enthusiastic companion to all sorts of marinades and seasoning rubs—and it cooks in less than 10 minutes. To celebrate its underappreciated versatility, we have teamed it with four globally inspired rubs, each inspired and powered by a distinctive craft salt. Choose your weapon.


1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

1 tablespoon smoked salt (such as hickory, alder, or cherry)

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

2 teaspoons smoked ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground anise seeds


1 tablespoon ground thyme

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon any Mediterranean sea salt (such as Cuor di Trapani Sea Salt or Trapani e Marsala Sea Salt)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon ground turmeric


2 tablespoons cracked Sichuan peppercorns

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1 tablespoon shio (such as Full Moon Shio for mineral brightness or Tsushima No Moshio for umami)

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

½ teaspoon ground ginger


⅓ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated yellow onion

1 teaspoon finely ground rock salt (such as Persian Blue Salt for mild sweetness or Himalayan Pink Salt for bold saltiness)

½ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pounds boneless turkey breast, cut for London broil, or turkey tenders

1 recipe salt rub of choice

1 tablespoon olive oil

To make the rub of your choice, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.

To prepare the turkey, rub it with your selected rub and drizzle with the oil. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Preheat a grill or broiler to medium-high direct heat.

If grilling, clean the grill grate with a grill scraper. If broiling, put the turkey on a broiler pan. Grill or broil the turkey until browned and resilient to the touch, about 4 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into one end should register 160°F. Transfer to a carving board and rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

Note: These rubs can be used on a variety of meats. Consider multiplying any or all of the recipes above and keep any extra in reserve for a quick and easy roasted or grilled dinner. Each can be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly closed jar for up to 2 weeks.

Chicken Roulade Fireworks


I once knew a French woman who ate only chicken breast. Dropping by her apartment, about the size of a spacious motel bathroom, was always an emotionally confusing experience. The dread of the impossibly cluttered, unkempt apartment was matched by the anticipation of her inevitably delicious cooking. I was never a chicken lover, but to her it was a blank canvas on which to paint layers of color, texture, and flavor. Here we spiral pounded breast with layers of pungent dark greens, tangy goat cheese, flaming red peppers, and startling black flake salt. The roulades are coated with a thin glaze of pesto that crusts and caramelizes in the frying pan, coating the Technicolor rolls with a crunchy lacquer tasty enough to lure visitors to any home.

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, about 1½ pounds total

½ teaspoon fleur de sel or shio

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces soft goat cheese

1 packed cup baby arugula

¾ cup roasted red bell peppers, store-bought or homemade, drained

1 small scallion, finely chopped

2 teaspoons Black Diamond Flake Salt, plus more for garnish

¼ cup basil pesto, store-bought or homemade

1 tablespoon olive oil

Place each chicken breast between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap, smooth side down. Pound with the flat side of a mallet or a heavy skillet to an even ¼-inch thickness, being careful not to tear the meat.

Sprinkle each piece of chicken with the fleur de sel and pepper. Then divide and spread on the goat cheese, leaving a ¼-inch border around the edges. Top with one-quarter of the arugula, a few roasted peppers, some scallions, and some flake salt. Roll up jelly-roll style from a short side, pushing in the sides as you roll, to enclose the filling. Secure with toothpicks or skewers. Brush the pesto over the surface of each piece of chicken. To make ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and sauté the chicken rolls until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes per side, 16 minutes total. When done, the rolls will be browned and feel firm when gently squeezed. Remove the toothpicks and slice crosswise on a slight diagonal to reveal the filling. Shingle the slices on plates and sprinkle with a few more flake salt crystals.


Icelandic Flake Salt, Kilauea Onyx Sea Salt, Black Lava Salt

Fleur de Hell Fried Chicken


This numbingly salty, fiery, fragrant fried chicken is proof that Heaven orders its takeout from the underworld. The secret is the combination in my own flaming salt, which I call Fleur de Hell—a mixture of fleur de sel and Indian bhut jolokia (ghost chiles), and Sichuan peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns, actually the dried hulls of berries, have nothing to do with black, white, or green peppercorns. They are barely spicy hot but are floral, mentholated, a little sweet, and dramatically numbing. Sichuan pepper anesthetizes the palate in a magical way, blurring its sensations so that it can take an insane amount of salty prickles and hot chile burn without experiencing pain. Your taste buds will thank you, even if they have to travel through hell and back.

1½ cups buttermilk

5 teaspoons Fleur de Hell, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs (such as marjoram, rosemary, thyme, sage, flat-leaf parsley, etc.)

3 pounds boneless skinless chicken pieces

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground fiery chile (such as ghost, bird, or habanero)

1 large egg, beaten

1½ cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil, for frying

3 whole dried red chiles (such as cayenne)

Mix the buttermilk, 3 teaspoons of the Fleur de Hell, garlic, and herbs in a small bowl. Put the chicken in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and pour in 1 cup of the buttermilk mixture. Massage to make sure all of the chicken is coated. Squeeze out any excess air and seal tight. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. If it is convenient, you can allow the chicken to marinate in the buttermilk for as long as 24 hours. Refrigerate the remaining ½ cup of buttermilk mixture in a separate container.

Meanwhile, mix the remaining 2 teaspoons of Fleur de Hell, black pepper, Sichuan pepper, cayenne, and fiery chile; store in a tightly closed container for up to 1 month.

Mix the reserved ½ cup buttermilk mixture and egg in a pie plate; set aside.

Mix the flour and half the spice mixture in another pie plate or on a sheet of aluminum foil.

Remove the chicken from the bag and wipe off any milk mixture clinging to the chicken. Discard the liquid in the bag.

Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and pat off any excess. There should just be enough flour on the surface of the chicken to make the surface dry. Roll the floured chicken in the buttermilk-egg mixture, and dredge in the flour again, making sure it is well coated. Place on a rack set over a sheet pan to dry while the oil heats.

Heat ¾ inch oil in a deep heavy skillet large enough to hold the chicken without crowding until it registers 350°F on a deep-fry thermometer. Decrease the heat to medium to keep the oil temperature steady. Add the whole chiles to the oil.

Fry the chicken pieces for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown and a thermometer inserted in the center of a big piece reads 165°F. Drain on paper towels; dust with the remaining spice mixture and serve immediately.


Scorpion Salt or any intense, chile-infused craft salt will do. For a less spicy recipe, substitute glitter-fire salt like Saltwest Naturals Sea Salt or San Juan Island Sea Salt.

House-Cured Chicken Sausage


Usually when we cook with salt, our end goal is to slap some sense into your taste buds, and set them quivering with the play between minerality and food, but when curing, the role of salt minerals become less sensorial and more chemical, virtually subatomic. The purpose of the salt in this recipe is to reinvent the meat and, through that, your taste sensations. Curing changes the character of raw meat from deep inside (see Curing Salts, opposite), producing protein that is more tangy than savory, more sweet and salty than rich and unctuous. When properly done, the salt in a cure should disappear, making it nearly impossible for your palate to parse exactly where the salt leaves off and the cured meat begins.

1 pound boneless skin-on chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 pounds boneless skin-on chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 teaspoons finely ground traditional salt

½ teaspoon Prague Powder #1

2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ cup dried nonfat milk powder

1 large yellow onion, coarsely shredded

½ cup chopped dried apples

Spread the chicken pieces out on a sheet pan and freeze until firm but not solid, about 20 minutes.

Mix both the salts in a large bowl. Add the sage, pepper, nutmeg, pepper flakes, and milk powder and mix thoroughly.

Run the chicken through the medium plate of a meat grinder, and toss well with the spice mixture, onion, and apples. Grind the mixture one more time through the medium plate.

Refrigerate, tightly covered, for 24 to 48 hours to allow the meat to cure.

Form into 2-ounce patties (about ½ inch thick and 2½ inches in diameter) and sauté over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. The raw sausages can be stored tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Curing means to preserve something in salt. Salt reduces the water activity in the meat, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. It also improves taste, unraveling proteins in the muscle fiber, improving its texture, and creating more flavor-available amino acids. In the case of fermented meats, salt also gives desirable bacteria like Lactobacillus plantarum and Pediococcus acidilacticitime to grow, increasing acidity and creating a formidable, lasting barrier to the growth of undesired bacteria. Curing also creates an environment for Micrococcus bacteria that further improve flavor.

Because all salt is antibacterial, all salt preserves. But there are special kinds of salt called “curing salts” that are especially effective against Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that produces the deadly toxin botulism. Botulinum only grow in an oxygen-deprived environment, such as at the center of large dense meats like whole hams and salamis. Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are the main curing salts today, replacing more traditional curing salts like saltpeter (potassium nitrate).

Prague Powder #1 (also called Pink Salt, Instacure #1, DQ Cure #1, and sometimes just “curing salt” for short) contains regular sodium chloride and 6.25 percent sodium nitrite. This premixed blend of regular salt and nitrite salt is specially formulated for short curing times (days), such as when making pâtés, bacon, unfermented sausage, pastrami, and fish.

Prague Powder #2 contains 6.25 percent sodium nitrite plus 4 percent sodium nitrate. It is used in dry-cured, fermented meats like dry salamis, prosciutto, and other hams. The nitrate is sort of time-delayed nitrite, as bacteria like Staphylococcus carnosus and Staphylococcus xylosus will convert all nitrate entirely into nitrite by the time the cure is complete. Properly cured meats should contain no nitrate at all.

Nitrites don’t just kill bacteria, they also set the red-pigmented myoglobin in meat, giving cured meat its attractive color and the delicious tang that any lover of traditional sausage craves. This is not to say that all cures require curing salt. Curing salt is actually forbidden in traditional prosciutto and serrano hams. Instead, producers use regular salt only and, after aging, poke a long toothpick made of horse bone into the arteries and bones of the ham and then smell it to determine if botulism is present. This nitrite-free tradition yields formidably tasty ham but results in waste and is therefore costly.

Some people are concerned that nitrites can break down into nitrosamines that may cause gastric cancer. There is scant hard evidence to back the fear, and the American National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences maintains that the safety benefits of nitrites far outweigh any risks. Nitrates are a naturally occurring substance, and it is speculated that diets high in nitrate-rich foods promote vascular health, dilating blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. Nitrate was even used in a 7th-century Chinese medical prescription to treat angina.

Dry-Brined Roast Turkey with Cider Jus


Salting and slow roasting solves all of life’s problems—if you’re a roast turkey. The slow roasting makes for moist, perfectly done turkey. The salting crisps the skin as surely as baking your bird in an inferno. Salt draws protein-rich juices from under the skin to the surface, where the moisture evaporates and the proteins crisp, producing a delicious bronzed crust. Rubs are generally made with fine salt for even distribution. However, fine salt tends to dry turkey too much; coarse sel gris does a great job of drawing protein-filled juices to the skin without drying out the breast meat, and the coarse crystals deliver the celebratory salty zing that every roast turkey dreams of.

1 (15-pound) fresh turkey

3 tablespoons coarse sea salt (such as sel gris), plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups apple cider

½ teaspoon each dried thyme, dried sage, and crushed dried rosemary

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and rub it all over with the salt and pepper. Refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours. During that time, the surface of the turkey will become visibly dry and the skin will tighten.

Take the turkey out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to start roasting. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Put the turkey on a rack set in a large roasting pan. Drizzle the oil over the top. Roast for 1 hour. Decrease the oven temperature to 170°F; add the cider and herbs to the roasting pan and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (without touching bone) reads 170°F, about 12 hours.

Transfer the turkey to a carving board. Rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, skim the fat from the surface of the liquid in the pan. Put the roasting pan on the stovetop and bring the drippings to a boil over high heat. Reduce until thickened enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Carve the turkey, sprinkle with more salt, and serve with the cider pan juices.


Bulls Bay Charleston Sea Salt, Maine Sea Salt, Yellowstone Natural Salt, Wellfleet Sea Salt, Bora Bora Sea Salt

Quail on the Rocks


Salt is a mineral that turns into rock under pressure. Like all rocks, salt absorbs heat and will conduct it to any food that is placed on it. Cooking on Himalayan Pink Salt blocks has become hugely fashionable (check out my cookbook Salt Block Cooking), and this recipe is a raucously aromatic reason to do just that. Chunks of Himalayan Pink Salt are heated in a roasting pan with aromatic spices. You can use rough-cut rocks, coarse Himalayan Pink Salt, or broken-up salt blocks. Then boneless quail are placed on the hot rocks and roasted, wafting in the aroma of roasting spices and subtly seasoned from being in contact with the hot salt.

1 pound Himalayan Pink Salt rocks, coarse salt, or broken salt blocks

6 cinnamon sticks, smashed with a hammer, divided

18 black peppercorns, smashed with a hammer, divided

Big pinch of red pepper flakes

5 star anise, broken into pieces, divided

¾ cup dry sherry

¼ cup sherry vinegar

8 (¼-pound) semi-boneless quail

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Mix the salt rocks, 4 cinnamon sticks, 12 peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and 4 star anise in a large roasting pan. Heat in the oven for 30 minutes, until the salt is hot and the spices are aromatic.

Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 cinnamon sticks, 6 peppercorns, 1 star anise, sherry, and sherry vinegar in a small saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until thickened and reduced to about ⅓ cup. Strain and reserve.

Remove the pan of hot salt and place the quail breast-side up on the hot salt rocks. Return to the oven and roast until the skin on the quail has browned and the meat is firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Brush with half of the spiced sherry glaze and roast for 3 more minutes to set the glaze.

Lift the quail from the salt and serve drizzled with the remaining glaze.


If you can’t find small rocks or coarse pebbles of rock salt, large rocks or even unwanted Himalayan Pink Salt blocks can be broken up with a hammer into marble-sized chunks.