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Why Very Hot and Very Cold Foods Need More Salt

Here’s the science that explains why.  

You’re probably familiar with “season to taste,” a common refrain at the end of recipes that reminds cooks to sample the food and adjust the seasonings—most often, the salt—as necessary before serving. But do you know about “season to temperature?”  

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OK, I made up that last phrase, but the gist is that the serving temperature of food dramatically affects how seasoned it tastes. And the more extreme the temperature—whether piping hot or very chilled—the more salt you need. In fact, we ran an experiment to prove it. We divided a large batch of unsalted chicken broth into five portions and seasoned each with a different amount of salt—1, 2, 3, or 4 teaspoons, as well as a portion that we left unseasoned. Then we tasted each portion at three different temperatures: 180 degrees, 90 degrees, and 45 degrees.

The hot, lukewarm, and cold portions that contained equal amounts of salt tasted noticeably different from one another—over, under, or properly seasoned. For example: The broth with 3 teaspoons of salt tasted just right when steaming hot, but overly salty when it was lukewarm and under-seasoned once it had been chilled.

Why? Because the receptors through which taste buds signal to the brain that food tastes salty tend to be the most responsive at temperatures between 85 and 95 degrees—close to the temperature inside our mouths. 

So the next time you’re seasoning food that is well above or below that range, follow these general guidelines:

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.