The flavor is your sensory impression of food or other substances. The chemical senses of taste and smell identify it.
Your “trigeminal senses” determine chemical irritants in the mouth and throat, which, in turn, allows you to recognize flavor occasionally.
Interestingly, our brains are programmed to consider food as tastier if the specific taste receptors of saltiness are prompted.
Notably, the food’s flavor can be changed with natural or artificial flavors that affect the senses. Adding salt has been a customary practice of enhancing flavor.
Considering its immense significance, your brain has a good evolutionary reason to like salt.
Salt is the closest resource you have to a magic ingredient. It complements and brings flavor to your daily meals. Why? Let’s take a peek at how salt performs its wonders:
1. Enhances Taste
Notably, salt makes pretty much everything else taste better. Due to its chemical nature, salt can amplify agreeable tastes and reduce disagreeable ones.
Salt brings out the flavor of a dish. Certain flavor compounds are minute to detect; however, when you add even a tiny pinch of salt, the difference in flavor manifests.
Your taste receptors can now identify flavors that were not sensible before. Moreover, salt at higher concentrations can suppress sweetness and enhance the umami flavor.
In addition to all of these, the texture of salt enhances the taste of your food. Flake salts, such as hot and spicy salt options, offer crunchy bursts of saltiness that enhance your green salad’s soft texture and mild flavors.
Likewise, take note that salt or sodium is a significant nutrient. This is why sprinkling a bit of sodium chloride onto food is appropriate to help you consume other essential nutrients.
Salt also gives off aroma molecules from food into the air. These prompt our olfactory receptors and help us to smell food.
2. Makes Meat Juicier
Brining (salt solution) is no secret these days. It has been a popular cooking technique because it actually works.
Meat, such as chicken, turkey, pork, and shrimp, tends to dry out during cooking. Hence, to preserve juiciness and palatability, you initially need to brine it. For even better flavor, you may add other flavorings to the brine, like sugar, herbs, and spices.
When you soak the meat in brine, the saltwater flows into work on the protein cells. This changes the meat by loosening the protein strand, allowing them to absorb the brine.
When you weigh your meat before and after bringing it, it will weigh more afterward. This is due to the absorbed liquid.
Although a small amount of moisture would be lost during cooking, the majority of this will be undisturbed due to the magic of brining. Brining keeps the moisture intact. The result is flavourful meat due to the saltwater.
Moreover, there is an alternative way to brining your meat. Instead, you may opt for a salt block when grilling your meat or cooking your pork chop.
Others are using a salt block because this can last for a long time. This saves you money and energy when cooking your favorite meals.
3. Improves Sweetness And Blocks Bitterness
In addition to being a general flavor intensifier, salt has a certain ability to enhance the sweetness of food.
For instance, when making Yorkshire puddings at home, try to experiment and create two batches similarly, except that the other holds a bit of salt, and the other has none.
The verdict would be that the one with salt will taste sweeter. This is because sodium ions suppress the bitter flavor compounds and amplify the sweet flavors.
Furthermore, salt actively interferes with another basic taste receptor – the receptor for bitterness. To note, most kinds of aromatic food come off bitter.
Gladly, salt weakens and balances their flavor. As an outcome, food becomes desirable and more palatable. This is why it’s always a bright idea to pair bitter food or drinks with salty goods.
Likewise, if you ever find that some of your roast’s pan drippings have become extremely browned, worry not. If you adequately season it, you can still create a yummy pan sauce, as the salt will balance much of the bitterness.
4. Reduces The Perception Of Spiciness
If the meat is brined and basted with salt, the spiciness induced in the meat will eventually reduce considerably.
The salt will eventually balance the flavor of the meat and give it a nice moisture so that the spice can get diluted.
Sometimes even the spiciness can induce the perception of saltiness in the food item.
This would make the item more tolerable for people who can’t bear extra spice in their food. The main ingredient, capsaicin, in chili peppers is actually sensitive to salt.
It absorbs the moisture from the salt and gives a perception of a sour taste. The usual burning sensation that capsaicin generates can be offset by the inclusion of salt.
This will mediate the flavor and also regulate the spiciness to a large extent.
5. Keeps Away From Breeding Microorganisms
Salt as a component is considered to shield any food item from any possible infections.
It gives a moist coating on the food item and tries to evade the breeding of microorganisms or insects.
It radiates a flavor that is repulsive to all the microbes. Any bacteria attack on the food item can be completely saved and protected from an infusion of salt.
You just have to make sure that the content is not overtly exceeded. The measurement has to be maintained so that the food item or meat does not become salty to a large extent.
Salt is regarded as a global household resource. It’s immediately accessible in pure form without any intervening additives.
Although not all salt is created equal due to its different types, sodium content, and nutritional properties, still it’s regarded as a universal flavor enhancer.
At low concentrations, it can reduce bitterness and increase sweetness, sourness, and umami flavor. At higher concentrations, it suppresses sweetness and enhances umami which is good for savory food.