There are many theories about grilling a steak that have to do with seasoning profiles, but none is as conclusive as the need for salt. Yes, the sodium in salt is necessary for proper nerve and muscle function in the human body. Also, it is one of the primary five tastes we can detect with our taste buds. These are good reasons to include salt in your diet, but it does not explain why salt is necessary for your steak.
The reason you salt your steak is that it breaks down the structure of the protein. What are naturally coiled, tight protein structures become unraveled and more pliable. This makes your steak tender. Without salt, your steak may be more difficult to chew.
Salt Breaks Down Protein
The disruption of the protein structure also releases flavor and aroma. Once the proteins are not a strong, they can release scent and flavor molecules more readily.
Salt Creates Osmotic Flavoring
When you put salt on your steak, moisture will start to appear on its surface within minutes. This is because of osmosis, and the chemical (NaCl) is trying to find balance between the outside and the inside of the steak. As salt (or sodium) crosses the barrier into the meat, water is displaced to the outside of the steak.
The water is eventually reabsorbed to a certain extent, but the osmotic process brings salted flavor through the meat. It also leaves some moisture on the outside of the steak that will cook into a nice crust.
Recommendations for Primo Steak
Use coarse sea salt or kosher salt for the best penetration of your steak. Salt should be generously applied to all sides of the steak, but not more than you would normally put on food. It is very possible to over-salt your steak. Then, make sure the steak rests with the salt on it for a minimum of 40 minutes. Some people recommend three days, but there are no steadfast rules. Each grill master has his or her preferred method.
Are there other benefits to salt?
Salt is the most commonly used spice, and that is no accident. As it produces one of the five primary flavors identifiable by the taste buds, it can be used to balance other flavors that may become overwhelming, such as bitterness or sweetness. Not only does it enhance the flavor of steak, but it is a flavor in itself. Don’t neglect the salt when cooking your steak!