The Effects of Salt

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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In addition to protecting hams from spoilage as they mature, salt contributes to their appearance and texture. High salt concentrations cause the normally tightly bunched protein filaments in the muscle cells to separate into individual filaments, which are too small to scatter light: so the normally opaque muscle tissue becomes translucent. The same unbunching also weakens the muscle fibers, while at the same time dehydration makes the tissue denser and more concentrated: hence the close but tender texture.