It’s Always Better — with Smoked Salt

I first heard about it in a cookbook by Eric Rippert — one of the top chefs in NYC. Don’t know him? He’s the low-key, French guy creating magic in the kitchen at Le Bernedin, that long-running, Michelin three-star, seafood restaurant on West 51st Street.

In his cookbook, Rippert uses smoked salt to finish some seared scallops. And that grabbed my attention. What a great idea. He calls for just a sprinkle. Adding a smidge of salinity and a subtle hint of smoke to the sweetness of the barely-cooked seafood.

Like a grace note, a small embelishment — but one that makes a big difference. And not only on scallops. On almost anything.

Smoked Salt. Who knew? Thanks, for the cool idea, Chef.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Salads, eggs, pastas, grilled anything — fish and chicken and vegetables, Greek meatballs, those Asian open-faced dumplings called shu mai, they all tasted better to me with smoked salt. Sometimes just a touch. Sometimes a lot more.

And then there was the night I tried smoked salt on popcorn. My wife and I both loved how the smokiness gave an appealing new depth to the the warm, just-popped white corn. You have to try it.

But before you do, you need to consider just what kind of smoked salt suits your taste. And then the specific dish you’re making. You might want to begin your affair with this dangerouly seductive condiment by first trying it on an old favorite. Maybe grilled asparagus. Seared tuna. Or your Sunday Brunch scrabled eggs.

Of course, you’ll find the best selection of smoked salt online — hickory, mesquite, applewood, alderwood. As a general rule, hickory and mesquite are the most intense. Still, I love ’em all.

If you’re up for adventure, why not get a small package of each and experiment away. You know that’s what I’ve been doing.

Add the smoke-infused salt while you’re cooking as you would any regular salt, tasting as you go. Keep in mind, you’re going to sprinkle on a little bit more right before you serve to finish the dish.

If you like mashed potatoes like I do — try them with smoked salt and a splash of truffle oil and be prepared to eat too many. I don’t use cream or butter in my potatoes, only milk and olive oil. Even so, these end up astoundingly rich, luscious and best of all, smoky.