Hardware & Software: Use A Salt Cellar, Not a Shaker
Keeping your salt in a little dish is a big idea.
Until I went to cooking school I would keep my salt in two containers. One was a shaker I'd keep on the counter, moving it every evening to the dinner table and then back again, although I'd also take salt from here for some cooking, shaking it a bit more when needing more. I'd also keep a plastic container of salt in the cabinet for when I needed to measure out salt into a recipe. I did this for years, not realizing how inefficient this was. Even though I would watch TV cooking shows and watch the cook or the chef reach into a dish or bowl with his or her hands and just grab a pinch, it didn't seem to be something that I would or could do.
Culinary school changed that. At the start of each class we'd each take a small plastic cup and fill it with kosher salt, some portion of which we'd use in that day's cooking. I became accustomed to taking a measured spoonful from here, perhaps later pinching a bit more that I'd gradually sprinkle and add to a nearly finished dish.
Here's how professional chefs do it and how the pinch of salt came to be: kosher salt, with its larger crystals, provides a measurement standard for the chefs and cooks. Fingers go into an open container filled with the salt and a recipe will call for adding a two-finger pinch or a three-finger pinch of the salt. This serves as an alternative to measuring with a spoon, plus it enables a chef to add a pinch, then taste, and then adjust as needed with perhaps another pinch.
By the time I finished cooking school my salt shaker had become relegated to a back shelf. Now on my kitchen counter are two little ceramic dishes, one with coarse kosher salt that I use when baking, seasoning raw foods before cooking, or salting boiling water to cook vegetables or pasta. The other dish holds a more expensive sea salt that I use to finish a dish or in things that need quick dissolves, like salad dressings. And what's been most interesting is I find that I'm using less salt than I had before. I think it has to do with control and the all-important practice of seasoning a little and then tasting before adding more.
Salt is a complicated topic and deserved its own article, but the point here is that salt shakers are useless when you're actually cooking. Putting a salt dish -- some call them salt cellars -- on your counter, even if space is precious, will also make you feel like a pro. So go ahead. Reach in and grab some salt. See, you're already a better cook.