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There has recently been a growing trend in the move from plain old table salt to its fancier cousin Himalayan salt. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, the light pink color is pretty unmistakable.
Himalayan salt is often touted for its health benefits and distinct mineral flavor. But what is really impressive is its ability to be used as a cooking vessel and serving platter. What isn’t always so clear though, is how to clean them. I’ll review how to clean your Himalayan salt block so you can use time and time again safely.
- How to Clean a Salt Block
- Additional Tips for Cleaning a Salt Block
- Frequently Asked Questions about Cleaning Salt Blocks
How to Clean a Salt Block
To clean a salt block, I am going to use two things: physical force (abrasion), and a tiny bit of chemistry. Don’t worry – nothing crazy here like saponification, heat capacity, or pH. I’m talking about dissolving salt into water.
Here’s a quick outline of the steps, which we will talk about in detail below:
- Let the salt block cool completely
- Get a clean sponge with a scour pad
- Get the sponge damp
- Scrub the salt block vigorously
- Wipe down with the soft side
- Air dry
Step 1: Let the Salt Block Cool Completely
It is very important to make sure your salt block is completely cool. This is to ensure you don’t get burned, but it is also to make sure you don’t damage the salt block. This cooling process should be natural – i.e. do not run it under cold water or try to chill the block.
Rapid cooling will cause cracks to form as the outside layers of the block cool and contract faster than the inside (still hot portion). Depending on the size of your salt block, it may take a few hours or even overnight to completely cool your block.
Step 2: Get a Clean Sponge With a Scout Pad
A clean sponge is critical for your salt block. You do not want any soap on the sponge at all. Salt will dissolve in water, and what you may not realize is anything else in the water can get trapped in the salt when it dries.
Yes, this means you can trap soap in your salt. That said, make sure you use a clean, never before used sponge or keep a specific sponge just for your salt block.
Step 3: Get the Sponge Damp
I just went over salt dissolves in water, and I am basically trying to dissolve the smallest outer layer of the salt block when I am cleaning it. This not only makes it so food has nothing to cling on to (because the salt it was stuck too is now water), but it also allows me to untrap oil, and reshape and smooth out the block.
Step 4: Scrub the Salt Block Vigorously
Elbow grease is a must to remove food grease and burnt on pieces. You won’t need to break your wrist or anything, but remember this is a physical cleaning process. Basically, you are scraping the food off.
If food is being stubborn, add a bit more water. If you are still having issues, you can use steel wool and a tiny bit of water. Note that steel wool is not stainless and will rust quickly if exposed to salt.
Step 5: Wipe Down With the Soft Side of the Sponge
I finish the cleaning process by wiping down with the soft side of the sponge. At this point, you are trying to pick up anything left on the block and making sure the surface is smooth.
Additional Tips for Cleaning a Salt Block
Never use soap or other chemicals to clean your salt block. Anything that is water-soluble has a chance to become trapped in the salt when it dries. This means that any soap you use today might get trapped in the salt and come out during your next grill or bake session.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cleaning Salt Blocks
Why Does It Take So Long to Cool a Salt Block?
In general, the bigger and heavier something is, the longer it can hold heat. Salt blocks are much heavier than aluminum baking sheets and can hold much more heat for longer periods of time.
There are some other physical properties at work like insulation as well, but the moral here is to make sure you give adequate time for your salt block to cool before you handle it. This can be a few hours or even overnight for larger blocks.
Can I Use Soap on a Salt Block?
No, do not use soap on your salt block! Anything that is water-soluble can be trapped in the salt crystals after the water dries. This would lead to soapy tasting foods on your next cook.
How Do I Remove Burnt Food From a Salt Block?
Add a tiny bit of water to a scour pad or steel wool (this will rust your steel wool), and physically scrub off burnt food. The nice thing about a salt block is the water will dissolve the salt which the burnt food is stuck to. This means the burnt food has nothing to stick to but water and will come off quite easily.
Are Salt Blocks Anti Bacterial?
Salt does have antimicrobial properties, so it will inhibit bacteria and fungus (mold). Due to the same process by which salt dries all foods, osmosis, water in bacteria cells is also taken up by the salt effectively drying them out and killing them.
This does not replace the need for good food handling practices. Salt does not do anything against viruses, toxins, or rancid fats which are not cells nor contain water.
Why Is My Salt Block Cracking?
Some small cracks are inevitable when using salt blocks. Big cracks however are due to physical damage. The most common causes are heating the block too fast, or cooling it too quickly. Keep temperature changes slow, no more than 150-200°F per 15 minute interval.