So you want to buy Himalayan salt block tiles. Quite right, too! We’re big fans of anything with Himalayan salt, but unlike with salt lamps, we don’t tell all our friends about cooking plates. The fact is, these are not suitable for everybody.
Long story short, you need to know something about them before you can actually start cooking. (It’s not like a kitchen pan you can buy off the market and start using on the fly.) Which means if you’re the sort of person who refuses to ever read a product manual, then give this a miss.
The good news is it only takes a few minutes to learn what’s what, and when you’re done reading this article you’ll practically be an expert. So before you buy your salt tile…
Himalayan Salt Block Tiles 101
We’ll be covering how to care for these tiles and what is liable to happen if you jump in head-first.
#1: Not for those who cannot follow instructions
I don’t recommend salt block cooking if you have no patience with learning or following instructions. These salt tiles need specific care and can just end up as a disappointing purchase if you don’t follow directions.
At the least, your block might crack or your food might end up being too salty. At worst, it can ‘explode’! Again, this will only happen if you don’t follow instructions.
#2: They have imperfections
These salt blocks were created by Mother Nature in the deep bowels of the Earth. As such, they have characteristic lines, grooves, or even fissures.
Companies that distribute and sell Himalayan salt tiles go through them carefully. Those not suited for cooking are immediately removed. Others are removed further when they don’t survive the initial burn that they are subjected to. (Think Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest principle.)
Still, your salt block WILL have its unique set of lines and fissures. It is simply its natural form and is all the more beautiful and one-of-a-kind because of it.
Update: Having had our salt tile for a while now, I just belatedly realized that the slab we use for cooking (we have separate ones for cooking and chilling) has been losing its brighter pink hue that it had when we first purchased it. Apparently, this is normal with use. It’s still pleasing to the eye though.
#3: Need tempering
While I’ve mentioned that some companies cure their products before selling them, I’d say you still need to temper a new tile to be on the safe side. Tempering it will make it stronger and more durable.
I may have scared you talking earlier about exploding ones but they are actually very versatile. They can handle being heated or cooled to really extreme temperatures.
That being said, the key to safely tempering (and using) one is to do it SLOWLY.
Do it too fast and too hot and you’ll crack your crystal. And if your tile has a bit of water or moisture inside it, the sudden extreme heat may cause it to explode.
Here are the exact steps:
- Put your tile in the oven
- Start with the lowest oven setting. Wait 30 minutes.
- Next, increase temperature by 70 degrees and wait another 30 minutes.
- Repeat these steps until you reach over 500 degrees.
- Now you can turn off the oven but leave your crystal block in without opening the oven door. Wait until your salt block cools down.
Never be tempted to shortcut this process if you don’t want your crystal block to break.
If you hear any cracking sounds in the process, don’t be too anxious. This is normal including any lines that may appear after tempering.
#4: Has to be heated correctly
Here are things you need to remember to heat your Himalayan salt the right way:
- It needs to be COMPLETELY DRY for at least 24 hours
- There must be some airflow between your coals or flame. Most folks use a grate or the metal ring in your gas burner.
- As with tempering, you need to start low and slow. Turn the heat on low for 15-20 minutes. Increase to medium heat and wait another 15-20 minutes. Turn heat up to high for another 10-15 minutes.
#5: Need to be 500 degrees for cooking
If you’re like me and need your kitchen tools, get a laser thermometer to know what temperature you’re at. (It’s an amazing gadget!) You just aim and get the temperature of your salt tile.
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But you can do it the old-fashioned way too. Just splatter a few drops of water onto the slab. If they sizzle and evaporate at once, then you’re good to go.
It’s common sense, but don’t touch a heated salt tile. Like we said in our earlier article, Himalayan salt tiles hold heat for a long time.
So what happens if you don’t heat your salt slab right? Your food won’t cook in the best way it can and might turn out too salty.
#6: You can’t slather oil
You can’t pour oil on it like you normally do to a regular pan. The oil will get into the cracks of your crystal and spoil it. It may even catch fire while you’re grilling and if it doesn’t, it will go rancid after a while even after some cleaning.
Instead, you want to spray or brush your oil onto your steak, fish, or whatever you’re cooking. This will keep the exposure to a minimum.
#7: No dishwasher
These salt blocks are simply big blocks of salt. So what happens when you put it in the dishwasher? The salt will dissolve in water, of course. For this reason, do not attempt to put it under running water or dunk it in a basin of water.
So you’re thinking, but how the hell am I supposed to clean it? Well, salt is naturally anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. You do NOT need soap or any cleaning agent.
All you need to do is to wait for around 3 hours until your crystal slab has totally cooled down. Then, wipe it clean. At most, you can wipe off the blackened food bits with a scouring pad. Finish off with a damp sponge after. Dry it with a rag or absorbent cloth and place it somewhere to air dry.
See It Done
After reading through our list, you might be thinking it’s a lot of trouble. Take it from a lazy dude like me though, it’s really easy once you know the basics.
Here’s proof. See for yourself in this video how you heat, cook with and clean a salt cooking plate. And this guy is Mark Bitterman himself, one of the early adopters of salt block cooking whom we quoted in our article for the 10 kitchen uses of these crystal plates.
To Sum Up
And that’s about it. Now you can probably see why I said earlier that folks that can’t follow instructions shouldn’t attempt to cook with a Himalayan salt block.
If you can follow the above instructions though, it’s easy peasy. Just ask all the proud and fond owners of these cooking crystals. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s very simple and the delicious taste of your succulent steaks, scallops, shrimp, and even sashimi will be worth the preparation.
If you’ve made your mind to buy Himalayan salt block tiles, then don’t forget to check out our Top 5 favorite picks. Our own cooking plates are on the list and so are the pieces we like to give out as gifts.