ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) - Himalayan salt blocks are slabs of salt that have been compacted over millions of years and are now being used as cooking devices.
Himalayan salt adds a mellow flavor to foods and is lower in sodium than regular salt. Using oil while cooking on the salt blocks allows the salty flavor to cook into and season the food. The salt block should be heated slowly, over the course of about an hour, using an oven, a gas burner or a grill. Heating the block too quickly could cause it to crack. Himalayan salt blocks are advertised to last about 30 uses before they begin to crumble. Once they start to break apart, they salt block can be ground up and used as table salt.
It's important to never season food while it is cooking on the salt block because the heat can burn pepper or other spices and taint the flavor of the dish.
To clean the salt block after use, simply wipe it off with a clean towel. Salt has antibacterial properties so, other than wiping off the cooking oils between uses, the salt block remains clean. Never use water or a dishwasher to clean a salt block as the moisture would cause the block to disintegrate.
Restaurateurs Holly Mangelson and Jon Dykeman shared their methods for cooking a few different meals using Himalayan salt blocks.
You'll need: truffle oil, bread, fresh mozzarella, fresh Roma tomatoes, fresh basil.
Brush the heated salt block with truffle oil. Olive oil can also be used, but chef Jon Dykeman prefers truffle oil because of its flavor.
Slice the bread. Place the slices on the salt block and allow the bread to warm and absorb some of the oils. Once the first side is sufficiently warm, flip the bread slices over and allow the other side to warm.
Slice the fresh mozzarella. Place the slices on top of the warmed bread so that the cheese begins to warm and melt.
Place fresh slices of Roma tomato on top of the cheese and bread.
Top each slice with fresh basil.
"Asparagus really is one of the best things to cook on a salt block," said Dykeman.
You'll need: olive oil, asparagus.
Brush the olive oil onto a heated salt block.
Place the asparagus on the salt block and allow to cook for five or six minutes, or until the underside of the asparagus is slightly browned (called maillard reaction) and the shoots have begun to turn bright green.
Flip the asparagus and so it may cook evenly on both sides.
You'll need: olive oil, shrimp.
Brush olive oil over a heated salt block.
Place the shrimp on the block and allow them to cook until the undersides of the shrimp are coral in color.
Flip the shrimp so they cook evenly on both sides.
You'll need: truffle oil, tenderloin.
Thinly slice tenderloin.
Brush oil over a heated salt block.
Place the sliced tenderloin on the block and allow it to cook for four or five minutes, or until browning is evident underneath.
Flip the tenderloin and allow it to cook evenly on both sides.
Mangelson said that salt blocks can also be used as serving platters for cold dishes like sushi or ice cream.
Himalayan salt blocks can be purchased online or at kitchen specialty stores. They tend to cost between $40.00 and $200.00 depending on the size.