Often times many recipes indicate “salt to taste” rather than providing an exact measurement. While the amounts of salt needed do vary across palates, there are some ways to gauge about how much is needed. In my book, five principles apply:
- Always taste any unfamiliar ingredient you are adding to a dish so you know how much salt to add during the cooking process. For example, parmesan cheese is a naturally salty ingredient so tasting your parmesan before cooking can help you gauge how much, if any, salt is needed during cooking.
- Salt in stages during cooking. For example, add a small pinch while caramelizing onions, then a little when adding garlic, and then as needed towards the end of the cooking time.
- Taste your dish frequently throughout the cooking time, especially during the latter stages. Sometimes salty flavors concentrate during cooking.
- In general, barring other salty ingredients, I usually factor in about a minimum of 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt per serving size for a dish. So for a dish serving four, 1/2 teaspoon minimum total (fine sea) salt usually suffices. Beyond that, amounts will vary according to taste.
- Salty flavors intensify during refrigeration so if you are making a cold potato salad, for example, go shy on the salt before serving.
And as always, I vouch for using fine sea salt (Himalayan Pink, Celtic Grey, Hawaiian Red for example), both for its mineral content (making it closer to its whole form) and ease of integration into baked goods as well (as opposed to coarse sea salt.)