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I see some references on this site to 'salting' a steak before frying it. What does this mean? Should I coat the steak in salt? I can imagine that would result in a very salty steak!

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I just want to add that you can definitely oversalt a steak with coarse salt. Coarseness itself does help you salt less, but if you're using sea salt, it's going to be too salty. For steaks, kosher salt (that are pyramidal or crstalline in shape) is the way to go. It's less salty than coarse sea salt per pinch. I found this out the hard way (I was using coarse sea salt for my steaks, and indeed they turned out too salty.) –  Gilead Feb 26 '11 at 21:39

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Yes that's exactly what it means, apply salt to the steak. You shouldn't coat it, but you should apply salt very liberally. It's actually hard to over-salt a steak; many inexperienced cooks actually underseason the steak.

I suggest about 1 tsp per side for a good ribeye. Salt it about 10-15 minutes prior.

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Does this not result in extremely salty steak though? I like a shake of salt on my steak, but too much salt on anything ruins it. If I remember correctly from physics, salt doesn't cook (i.e. burn) away.. But if I understand you correctly, I'll give it a try! I noticed you wrote in an answer to another question, you suggested "dip it in a mixture of melted clarified butter and oil". What does 'clarified' mean in terms of the butter - melted? What kind of oil? –  DaveDev Sep 25 '10 at 23:07
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@DaveDev See this question for how to make clarified butter: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/1827 –  JustRightMenus Sep 25 '10 at 23:36
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@DaveDev: Use kosher or coarse salt. It's almost impossible to make something too salty if you apply kosher salt to the surface. And you're right that salt doesn't cook, but it does dissolve into the liquids of the steak, and more significantly if you're pan-cooking, the excess will stick to the pan, not the steak! –  Harlan Sep 26 '10 at 14:59
    
@Harlan, I second that. You can only apply salt liberally if you're using kosher salt, not sea salt. I know they're both NaCl, and per unit mass, they amount to the same thing, but kosher salt is generally less salty per pinch than sea salt. –  Gilead Feb 26 '11 at 21:41
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@raven, who says that salt is unhealthy? It may not be after all. –  MarkS Mar 13 '12 at 0:05

The steak won't absorb the salt, so even if you over do it the result won't be nearly as bad as you think, you'll only have a salty residue on the exterior of the steak. Benefits of salting before you cook:

  • Some of the moisture in the meat will be pulled out by the salt, and help to concentrate the flavors of the steak
  • Having salt on the exterior helps the transfer of heat and creating a crust that forms on the outside of the steak.
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Salting the steak isn't just about making it taste salty - although a bit of saltiness is great for the flavour. If you salt your steak in advance of cooking, the salt starts to change some of the proteins in it and this can lead to improved tenderness and juiciness. However, this article at Serious Eats: http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/the-food-lab-more-tips-for-perfect-steaks.html talks about salting time, and explains how you have to either salt your meat immediately before cooking, or leave it for a significant period of time to allow the salt to have its effect. I'm not going to repeat that content here, but I've done both and there definitely is a difference if you salt your steak and leave it for 40 minutes before you cook it, noticeable all the way through the meat.

But be careful, it is possible to oversalt the meat especially if you're using table salt. I haven't figured out exactly why that's the case, but it does seem to be. The most obvious reason is that by volume, table salt weighs a lot heavier than kosher or flaked salt because it packs more densely, and most people salt by volume...

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I thickly coat the steak in salt for an hour, then rinse it off. Works great.

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Read this, it will clear up all the mystery:

http://www.ehow.com/how_4539892_make-steak-tender.html

The first step to make steak tender is to pile on the kosher or sea salt. You want the steaks to be completely saturated in the kosher salt. Salt pulls moisture out of the meat and then dissolves some of the salt, absorbing it back into the meat. The salt relaxes the proteins in the meat, resulting in a tender, juicy steak. So don't worry about how much kosher salt you put on. You want around 1/2 teaspoon per steak, possibly more if your steaks are really thick. If your steaks are thinner, use less.

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