Meat without salt doesn’t taste that great, but even so, you still can have too much of a good thing. Adding excessive amounts of salt to meat makes it unpalatable, at best, or, at worst, inedible. But whether you’ve bought an oversalted piece of meat or you’ve been too generous with the condiment while preparing the dish, all is not lost. When meat is too salty, you can use water to draw out the salt, or if there’s too much salt in the food you’ve cooked, you can add other ingredients that help dilute or disguise the taste.
How to Fix Salty Meat
The salty meat you’re most likely to encounter is ham, but other cured or uncured meats can also absorb too much salt as well. To remove the salt from other cooked meats, you can use the regular “too-salty-ham-fix.” Cover the piece of meat in cold water and let it stand at room temperature. The salt moves out of the meat into the water, but slowly.
If you can see salt crystals on the surface of the meat, it means the salt concentration is still high, and you should change the water between 4 to 6 hours. If no salt is visible, change the water after 6 to 10 hours. Soak very salty meat up to 72 hours to remove as much salt as possible. For less salty meat, 10 to 12 hours of soaking is probably enough to make the meat palatable, though it will still taste salty.
Boiling the meat after soaking it will continue to remove salt. However, it makes sense that you should not add any salt to the water, stock or sauce that the meat is in as it cooks. Adding potatoes and other vegetables won’t do any harm, and the additional ingredients – especially potatoes – may absorb some of the salt as it leaves the meat.
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How to Make Food Less Salty
Tasting the dish you’ve spent hours preparing, only to discover you’ve added too much salt, is deeply disappointing. Your first impulse might be to throw the whole thing down the garbage disposal and order takeout. But all your hard work doesn’t have to go to waste. Carefully put away that salt container and check out what else you have in your kitchen that can cover up your mistake.
Adding more of the dish’s ingredients dilutes the effect of the salt. Rinsed canned beans, vegetables and unsalted, uncooked rice don’t remove salt from a dish, but they spread out the taste and make it less noticeable. If you’re cooking a stew or a casserole, you can add more water. This makes the sauce watery, of course, so thicken it with cornstarch dissolved in a little water.
Fat counteracts the taste of salt, so dilute a cream sauce by adding more cream or turn a pesto or tomato sauce into a cream sauce. Sour cream or plain yogurt have the same effect, and they may provide a better complement to chicken- and tomato-based dishes and chilies. If you’re all out of dairy, balance out the salt with a little sugar or an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Add a little at a time, stir and taste, until the strong taste of salt fades enough to make the dish palatable.
Jenny Green has a Masters in English literature and has been a freelance writer since 2008.