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Old 11-13-2014, 11:54 AM   #1
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Baked potato over a bed of sea salt?

I'm just curious what other DC members think about the benefit (if any) in baking a potato on a bed of coarse sea salt.

The theory is that it allows moisture to escape from the potato and yields more even cooking.

I live in an area with a large Asian (particularly Korean) population, and big bags (5#, 10# even bigger) of sea salt are incredibly cheap, so the cost of salt is almost nothing. (Isn't that an ironic twist on history! Since the word "salary" came from "salt" back in antiquity when salt was a hard to get commodity, and if I'm not mistaken it was one of the first seasonings -- also used to preserve foods.)

Also, what do you think about entirely enclosing the potato in salt?

BTW an additional benefit is the salt is reusable although it can gain some potato taste overtones, not always necessarily a detraction.

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Old 11-13-2014, 12:31 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Who Cooks View Post
...baking a potato on a bed of coarse sea salt.

The theory is that it allows moisture to escape from the potato and yields more even cooking...

Also, what do you think about entirely enclosing the potato in salt?...
Seems like these two options are opposites. One allows moisture to escape and the other would hold it in.

I bake potatoes directly on the oven rack. This enables all-around even baking. I don't see how a salt bed would help.

A full salt crust would result in a steamed potato rather than a baked one.
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Old 11-13-2014, 12:38 PM   #3
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I also bake mine directly on the oven rack. I also puncture them with a fork, coat them with evoo, and salt them before they go in the oven.
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Old 11-13-2014, 02:53 PM   #4
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I can see this is going to turn into baked potato methods. I wouldn't do mine on a bed of salt.

I cut thin slice off the ends of two large potatos. It allows the steam to easily escape. Then I nuke them for four minutes, and put them in the toaster oven to bake for about 30 minutes, depending on the size. This part is important..with a hot pad in each hand you gently pinch the potato all over being careful to not break the skin. This will produce the perfect fluffy baked potato.
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Old 11-13-2014, 03:53 PM   #5
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How does the salt allow moisture to escape?

I don't like really dry baked spuds.
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Old 11-13-2014, 04:05 PM   #6
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Poking holes in a potato allows moisture to escape. I don't see how salt underneath the potato would do that. As Andy said, encasing a potato in salt would prevent moisture from escaping, cause it to steam.
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Old 11-13-2014, 04:26 PM   #7
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We had a local steak house that used this method and it made a nice presentation.

I'm a potato skin eater so it would not be my first choice.

Salt-Baked Potatoes Recipe | Epicurious.com
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Old 11-13-2014, 04:32 PM   #8
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I do my baked potato ... never mind. Isn't there a roast, salt encrusted roast recipe on the box of salt. Do not remember which one. Analyze the reason why it's done and you have your answer about potato baking.
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Old 11-13-2014, 05:42 PM   #9
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I too am a fan of baking in the oven on the rack. It gives me a nice crispy skin.
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Old 11-13-2014, 06:02 PM   #10
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I see no benefit using a bed of salt.

I'm a rack roaster too.

I do poke holes if I remember because of a few explosions and tater guts in the oven to clean up.

I'm a skin eater and like a crispy skin but don't coat the tater with anything. High heat seems to give me the results I like.
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Old 11-13-2014, 06:07 PM   #11
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When I'm in a hurry, I stab and microwave the potato(s) for 3 minutes each then pop them into the oven for 30 minutes or so @ 400ºF.
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Old 11-13-2014, 06:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
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I'm a skin eater and like a crispy skin but don't coat the tater with anything. High heat seems to give me the results I like.
Same here. The only reason I coat the skin with oil is so the salt will stick to the skin.
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Old 11-13-2014, 07:31 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyema View Post
How does the salt allow moisture to escape?

I don't like really dry baked spuds.
At least you asked the right question. I might even have it exactly wrong! I googled a bit and some hits say the salt seals in the steam!

In theory (at least mine) that would allow you to cook the potato longer, heat the starch longer, maybe make it more flakey.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aunt Bea View Post
We had a local steak house that used this method and it made a nice presentation.

I'm a potato skin eater so it would not be my first choice.
Actually I'm convinced that the salt method results in dry, chewy skins, exactly what I like! In fact the idea of eating a potato without the skin appeals to me about the same as eating granulated sugar with a spoon. (Almost the same thing too -- both are essentially pure carbohydrates.)


I haven't done this in years. It just got me thinking today, and that's why I posted. I think I'll do one soon and see if I can put my finger on how the salt affects the end result.
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Old 11-15-2014, 09:41 AM   #14
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So the potato is sitting on a bed of salt. First, I'll explore the moisture notion. Then, I'll get to what is likely really happening to make the salt bed effective.

Moisture is driven out of the potato by the oven heat. The salt can't "draw it out." It's not in contact with the interior. It's not, for instance, like eggplant slices being dried a bit with salt, which is pretty much koshering. A more or less finely ground salt, including more "course" salt, is going to absorb some of the water expelled from the skin that is close to the salt. I don't know that the salt can hold on to the moisture under oven heat conditions. I doubt it, but really, it can only serve to raise the humidity immediately next to a portion of the skin. S, if you goal is to let water dissipate, it's at best useless and possibly counter productive.

But wait, there's more. If a salt bed doesn't help draw water directly, can it do something else. Perhaps. Salt is excellent at absorbing heat, as well as water. Salt water absorbs a bit more heat than fresh water. Salt tends to trap heat. I don't think this is much different from a pizza stone in an oven. But a pizza stone would be in contact with the skin, which we don't want. Rock salt has allows the hot air to circulate.

And rock salt is something of a radiation converter. Rock salt at a given temperature radiates as a single "ray." And it radiates at a significantly longer wavelength than other common substances. I can't find that anyone has determined the favored absorption wavelength for unpeeled potatoes, but I know that in technical infrared heating applications, you should match the radiant wavelength to the absorption wavelength of the target. So the salt (rock or fine) does alter the radiation frequency from the normal oven environment.

But wait, there's still more, and it might be the most important.

Infrared, which is the form of radiation we use for heat, may be "near" or "far". Near infrared is lower frequency, closer to visible light. Far infrared is higher frequency (lower wavelength). And far infrared penetrates surfaces significantly better than near infrared. The frequency determines which part gets hotter, the surface or the interior. The far infrared radiation from salt should penetrate far more deeply and more efficiently heat the interior of the potato.
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Old 11-16-2014, 03:54 PM   #15
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What an interesting post GLC! I'm not sure I entirely followed it, but I'm going to read it at least one or two more times and give it some thought. I really like it when people get science involved with cooking.

I think my best bet is to bake a potato by this method and see if I can decide what is different. For my experiment I think it will be better to see if I can entirely surround the potato with salt. I think the worst can happen is I'll get a good baked potato and some potato seasoned salt.

For the record, I am firmly in the "eat the skin" camp of potato lovers. I can't think of a single reason for ever removing the skin of a potato before eating it. I even leave the skin on when I'm making mashed potatoes.

By the way, has anybody else here ever wondered why people buy instant mashed potatoes? I certainly do, since they're so easy to make the old fashioned way. I just cut them in a few chunks, boil them until soft, drain them, then mash in some butter and a small amount of cream. And I definitely leave the skins in!

I'll post my results next time I bake a potato.
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Old 11-16-2014, 04:15 PM   #16
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Because you can make instant mashed in 30 seconds.... My partner does this once in awhile...
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Old 11-16-2014, 04:30 PM   #17
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I used to keep a pouch of instant on the shelf.

Transform leftovers into a Shepherd's pie of sorts.

Add to bread recipes.

Potato cakes for breakfast.

A coating for oven fried chicken.

Just plain old taters and gravy.

Cheap 'n easy!
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Old 11-16-2014, 04:34 PM   #18
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Nothing wrong with instant. I really like the Idahoan brand, quick and tasty.
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Old 11-16-2014, 04:40 PM   #19
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Well I'm sorry if I insulted anybody's sacred cow.
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Old 11-16-2014, 05:00 PM   #20
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Baked potato over a bed of sea salt?

Nobody's cow is insulted. If you don't like 'em, don't eat 'em.
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