Thursday, April 07, 2005

Tip: Save the salt until the water is hot!

Look in the bottom of your saucepans. See all those little pits, particularly in the aluminum and non-stick pots? To avoid them in the future, don’t add salt to your potatoes, or vegetables, or whatever until the water comes to a boil.

Salt is sodium chloride (NaCl) and in the presence of water, the salt ‘dissociates’ into sodium and chlorine ions. When you toss a spoonful of salt into cold water, the crystals settle to the bottom of your pan and slowly begin to dissociate. Some of the chlorine latches onto passing hydrogen ions in the water, and, voila, you’ve got little tiny concentrations of hydrochloric acid around each salt crystal to etch away at the bottom of your cookware.

When the water is hot, the salt goes into solution almost immediately, all the ions are evenly distributed throughout the liquid, and you never get a concentration of acid in one spot to dig any little pits.

If you absolutely cannot remember to add the salt after the water boils, just dissolve the crystals thoroughly in little water in a glass dish or measuring cup and then throw it in the pan. But of course, the best solution of all is: don’t salt your food until after it’s cooked. Most of us get way too much salt in our diets anyway, so if you can learn to leave it out in the cooking, you’ll use a lot less and who knows, maybe even live longer!

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