How to Make Things Taste Less Salty

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Making things taste less salty is all about balancing out the taste you don't like. Find out how to make things taste less salty with help from a published cookbook author and food expert in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Understanding Taste for Better Cooking
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Barb Stuckey, author of Taste, and I'm going to talk to you a little bit about salt. Specifically too much of it. No not about having too much in your diet but about what to do when you have too much salt in your recipe. Too salty. Boy that's a common thing to have to deal with. So I'm going to step back a minute and we're going to just talk a little bit about what makes salt different than a lot of things you cook with. Salt is one of the five basic tastes. And they are sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and umami. And those are the only five things we cook with that are detected only by your sense of taste, and no other sense. So it's a little bit different than dealing with something that has aroma. You can cook the aroma out of a dish. Like lemon juice for example. Too much lemon juice, you can evaporate off some of the lemon aroma. You can't do that with salt. Salt is in there once it's in there. So you're going to have to learn instead to balance it. And just like you wouldn't use a hammer to screw in a screw you want to use the right tool. And the only thing that you can use to balance the taste of salt is other tastes. So lets go through them. Lets start with bitter, for example. Bitter and salt really do a nice job of holding each other in check. So if you've got something that's too high in salt you could add a little bit of bitter. I know that sounds counter intuitive because people generally don't like a lot of bitter in their food. But just a touch of, for example, soluble espresso powder or beer used to deglaze a pan maybe instead of wine. Or wine. I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food. But the bitterness of wine can be great for offsetting too much salt in your food. Sweetness is a logical for balancing salt. We love the combination of sweet and salty together. So adding just a touch of salt in the background can really help to bring the perception of salt down. But again you want to be really careful with this because you don't want your spaghetti sauce, for example, to taste too sweet. That would be weird. Umami. Now umami is the taste of meat, the taste of aged cheese. It's the taste of glutamate. We call it savory. And we love umami rich foods. And you can correct too much salt with a little bit of umami. But you have to be really careful because some of the ingredients that we love, that are high in umami, like soy sauce for example, or ketchup, are also really high in salt. So you don't want to add more salt to exacerbate the problem, you want to use an umami source that is low in salt. Mushrooms would be a great example. Or you could use tomato paste. If for example you can find tomato paste that doesn't have salt. So that's a good solution. And lastly I want to talk about sour. Because sour might be something that you try to add when you're trying to bring down a saltiness but that's not going to help the problem. In fact it's going to make it worse. Because sour and salt seem to ramp each other up. They exacerbate or enhance each other. And that's because of the way that we detect sour and salty on our tongue. Sometimes you can fool the tongue. That's a good thing to remember when you're trying to boost the level of salt but it's not going to work when you're trying to reduce the level of salt. Lastly I just want to remind you that the best way to correct a dish when you've got too much of something in it, is to make another batch of it. So if you're making soup and it's way too salty make another batch without adding any ingredients that contain any salt. And then when you combine the two batches then you'll have solved the problem. The best way to fix a dish that's too salty, of course, is to not put too much salt in, in the first place. So I recommend putting salt in a tiny bit at a time. Take whatever salt your recipe calls for and cut it in half and just add half of it and then taste and then add a little bit more if it needs it, and then taste, and so on. You can always add salt at the last minute but it's really hard to take the salt out. I'm Barb Stuckey, author of Taste. And if you want to find out more about salt and all the other basic tastes visit my website barbstuckey.com.

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