First of all we tend to overload our food with salt at the cooking stage if some of our ingredients are tinned or preserved. This is because they are usually high in salt and the other ingredients don’t catch up.
The answer to this is to cook your food and then test for seasoning right at the end, when the flavours have had the opportunity to mix well. This is particularly important for sauces that are going to thicken by evaporation – a process known as reduction. A sauce with a volume of, say 500 ml will be less salty than it would be at half that volume and ready to serve. So always season at the end of the cooking process – though not on the plate! if you possibly can.
Also, we tend to add salt without actually tasting the effect of the salt. We throw a teaspoon of salt into our curry, for example, then wonder why it is too salty. The golden rule is start small – you can always add a little more if you are not happy but it is very difficult to take away if you have added too much.
Other ways to add salt
You can add other ingredients to your food, or perhaps I should say using the following ingredients in your food would mean that probably the dish needs less seasoning.
Bacon, ham, cheese, sausage, anchovies, smoked, cured and pickled fish, pickles of all kinds, garlic puree, Worcester sauce, tomato ketchup, bottled curry sauces, chilli sauces, some stock cubes, even butter.
The mouth effect
We tend to concentrate on sauces and gravies when it comes to food, but frequently the way we actually eat food will allow us to have completely unsalted foods so long as there is something salty to go with it. For example, old fashioned sausage and mash is a case in point. We tend to take a piece of sausage on a fork, and add a little mash to it. The sausage is salty, the potato is not. But the effect in the mouth is balanced. You can bear this in mind, for example when doing bacon and eggs. How often do you put salt on the egg, either to dry up the membrane on the top of a runny yolk, or to make the egg as salty as the bacon?
Neither is really necessary. When cooking vegetables, you don’t really need to salt the water, the combination of the other correctly seasoned food counteracts the lack of salt in the vegetable.