Chef Kamen began his presentation by offering the audience in the Ecolab theater a taste of his sensory evaluation testing procedures. Each of the conference attendees received 4 variations of a traditional bratwurst recipe:
1. using kosher salt
2. using 25% less kosher salt
3. using high quality sea salt
4. using a sea salt that is naturally lower in sodium (by approx 30%)
Kamen claimed conference attendees could not distinguish between bratwurst samples seasoned with typical levels of kosher salt and those with 25% less. The audience preferred the bratwurst samples seasoned with standard sea salt, but liked least the sample that was seasoned with sea salt that contained naturally low levels of sodium.
The results are represented as follows:
Liking (#1= most liked; #4 = least liked):
Perceived saltiness (#1= most salty; #4 = least salty):
#1 = sea salta
#2 = kosher salta
#3 = naturally low sodium sea saltb
#4 = 25% reduced kosher saltb
Kamen says his test results revealed that sodium could be reduced by up to a third without a perceived difference, and pointed out that the panelists that preferred higher levels of sodium had fewer years of professional culinary experience.
The effects of different culinary salts on saltiness depended upon the “food matrix being seasoned”. In other words, panelists did not perceive salty differences in chicken broth seasoned with baline sel de mer, kosher salt, and sel gris, but when seasoning mashed potatoes, kosher and baline sel de mer were perceived to be more salty than sel gris.
Kamen emphasized that factors other than saltiness can impact taste preference; his advice was also echoed by Chef Almir DaFonseca at an NRA conference in 2008, who advised chefs not to use salt as a “crutch” to compensate for lack of imagination in the kitchen; DaFonseca said “Salt is not a flavor profile in and of itself, it is a component of the taste, texture, complexity, and depth of a dish.”
Chef Kamen notes that a common misconception among many chefs is that using sea salts alone makes it easier to lower sodium in foods.
Here’s a few sodium reducing strategies chef Kamen shared at the Worlds of Healthy Flavors Conference:
* Reduce salt incrementally, and on a dish by dish basis
* Inclusion of additional flavor profiles may allow for the decreased usage of salt
* Season at the end of preparation to avoid adaptation to salt
* Take into account the inherent salt in your ingredients
* Incorporate whole fruits and vegetables into dishes as they generally contain lower sodium levels than meats and ready to eat foods
* Reduce portion size