Salt Baked Steak
By: Jack Mancuso
You’ve probably heard the phrase “pheasant under glass.” But what about steak under salt?!
A salt crust for food is where the edible is completely covered in salt, sometimes bound with egg whites or other liquid like wine. It seems odd, but it provides even, gentle cooking that maximizes flavor. And you get a fancy presentation to seal the deal.
Fish is at the head of the list for this baking method. Chicken and vegetables are not far behind. But what about beef? There’s no reason why you can’t use salt to create an amazing steak. Salt baking protects the meat from juice loss. Effectively, salt baking is the oven version of low-and-slow, but you can also do this on the grill using a cooking tray (otherwise, all the salt falls through your grates). If you have a grill that runs hot, the salt helps protect your steak, too.
Tip: Use a coarse salt. You need a lot, so you may want to stay away from more expensive products like pink or sea salt. If you’re feeling a little creative, mix some of each together for good pricing and unique flavor.
- 2 Grass Fed Rib-eye steaks
- 2 cups non-iodized salt
- 2 eggs (whites only)
- ¾ water
- Dry herbs (optional-these are an aromatic element. Examples include Cuso's Grass Seasoning, pepper, and garlic powder).
- Set your smoker to 450F.
- Place the salt in a bowl.
- Add the liquids slowly, forming a paste. You can use water, wine, beer, or juice along with the egg whites
- You want the texture of a paste (not runny).
- Place a heat probe into your meat before encrusting it. You won’t be able to see it, so this ensures you get the cook desired.
- Cover the steak with the pre-crust “batter” on all sides.
- Put into the smoker for 15 minutes
- No matter the cooking method, flip the meat when the salt on one side turns brown. Pull the meat when the internal temperature reaches 125F.
- Let the meat rest in the shell for 5.
- Crack open the salt, then sear both sides of the steak quickly.
- Let it rest again for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Enjoy the fun of cracking it open like Creme Brule in front of your guests.
PitMaster’s Memo: History of Salt Crust
The first recipe discovered for salt-baked fish appeared in the 4th century BCE. Archaestratus’ Life of Luxury detailed the process for a whole fish after it was gutted and cleaned. This recipe suggested stuffing fresh herbs like thyme into the fish before creating the salt-egg white crust. In Thailand, lemongrass stuffing is mentioned.
In the 13th century, a Muslim cookbook discussed using salt on a terracotta tile with fish placed on top. Then, the cook applied the final layer of salt. Into the oven it went! Come the Qing Dynasty in China, you’ll find recipes for salt-baked chicken. First, the chicken receives a tight wrapper of herbs, followed by the salt crust.
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