According to Smoky
Welcome to According to Smoky. Here you will find the latest and greatest from C. Clark "Smoky" Hale notable 'baster', author, publisher, television star in both the barbecue and 'the real' world. And yes, he is a real person and not the webmaster.
Smoky will be offering his talents, techniques and secrets discovered over the last 150 years, or so. He will be to the point, pull no punches and if you suffer through the process, you will become a much better outdoor cook, turning out masterpiece meals for friends and family alike.
In this column, Smoky discussing some of the questions you must ask yourself the essence of ‘Smokin’ . . . . . take notes!
So, with no further adieu, we turn the mike to Smoky. You're on Smoky . . . . .
Part 3C. Clark “Smoky” Hale
Let's Get Started...
SALT AND SUGAR
Two very important ingredients that we have not discussed are salt and sugar. Salt is, by far, the most widely used seasoning in cooking. The human body requires it, craves it and the palate is disappointed when it is not available. Sugar, in its many forms, is also essential to human life and we have become addicted to its sweetness. In appropriate amounts, both enhance flavors.
Table salt is a compound of sodium and chloride (NaCl) and, as previously noted, ALL salt is sea salt. Since there are minor variations in the constituents of sea water in different locations and at different times, minute amounts of other elements and compounds may be included. Most frequently these, in declining percentages, are sulfate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate and bromide. These may account for some minute variations in taste, but, in my opinion, neither fulfill the claims of advertising nor the extravagant costs of exotic salts evaporated from current sea water.
Much of the salt used in cooking in this country comes from gigantic salt mines in underground salt domes in South Louisiana. This salt was deposited from the evaporation of ancient seas - in or around the Jurassic Period - in a thick layer called the Louann Salt. In South Mississippi and Louisiana, this layer of salt rises in great columns through weaknesses in the overlaying formations to form giant domes. Some almost reach the surface. Mining them for many years has created giant caverns. [For more information on how salt domes form, Click Here.]
Salt is also mined by drilling into a deposit and flushing the salt to the surface where is evaporated or where trace chemicals are separated chemically. And, of course, there is the Great Salt Lake in Utah, the remains of an ancient evaporating sea.
Because salt is hydrophilic (attracts water) it quickly becomes soggy if exposed to a humid atmosphere. In 1911, the Morton Salt Company began adding chemicals, first magnesium carbonate, now calcium silicate, to reduce the caking and “When it rains, it pours” became the advertising slogan which still exists. While this is not distinguished by the average palate, it renders the table salt unusable for curing, pickling and dairy use. In 1924, minute amounts of potassium iodide began to be added to combat iodine deficiency which causes mental retardation, goiters and other disorders. This, too, has little effect upon taste, but renders the salt unsuitable for curing, pickling and salting butter and cheese.
When salt is applied to meat, either dry or in a solution, it creates two effects. It begins to remove moisture and it begins to toughen meat. The first may be countered by reducing the amount of salt, waiting until food is ready to go on the grill to apply the salt or waiting until the meat is partially or fully cooked. The second effect can be ameliorated by the same and the addition of sugar.
Sugar occurs naturally in several forms: sucrose and saccharose from sugar cane; glucose and dextrose from corn; levulose and fructose from fruit, lactose from milk and maltose from malt. Invert sugar, often used in brewing, is made from one half sucrose and one half an equal mixture of glucose and levulose. Turbinado sugar is partially refined sugar that is sprayed with a syrup while still in the de-watering turbine - hence the name. Brown sugar was formerly, and some may still be, unrefined sugar. Now, most is refined sugar mixed with a little molasses.
Sugar can be had in liquid form, grains of various sizes and as a powder. Powdered (confectioner’s sugar) contains a little corn starch (read corn sugar) mixed with the cane sugar to reduce caking. So if you want to add a little glucose and dextrose to your sucrose and saccharose, use confectioner’s sugar.
Now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about sugar, of what value is the information? In my opinion, not much more than useful information to counter the next crazy claim that “Invert sugar is essential in your seasoning” or “You must use turbinado!”
Sugar has two main functions. It counters the unwanted effects of salt and it is sweet to the palate. In any form, it will caramelize and carbonize if over heated. While some may enjoy the taste of caramel on their meat, I am not among that group. And if you have ever chipped a tooth on hard sugar char or had to chisel sugar char off your grates, you will avoid creating it with syrupy sauces and fruity glazes except for desserts.
In my opinion, it is always better to under sweeten than to over sweeten.
C. Clark Hale
8168 Hwy 98 E.
McComb, MS 39648
Smoky's 5th basic position for really great barbecue'n.
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