JUST A DASH: Homemade Hickory-Smoked Sea Salt

PHOTOS BY JEN HARRISON

When the seasons change and you want to fondly remember those soft summer nights with the comforting flavor of food fresh off the grill, smoked salts are a great answer.

It’s a great time of year, these days between late spring and early summer when the sunlight is generous, the air smells like jasmine, and evenings are so perfect for grilling.

I’m one of those people who, at the end of the week, like to grill everything left in their fridge—meat, tofu, vegetables, watermelon (which is so delicious grilled and sprinkled with sea salt and a squeeze of lime), halved avocados brushed with olive oil and grilled face down, and whatever else I have lying around. We might make sandwiches (with grilled garlic bread) or burgers, and load them up with grilled leeks and squash and bell peppers.

Then we light a fire in the firepit and enjoy the bounty. I’ll have some sparkling wine, and we all watch the fire; sometimes we roast marshmallows, but most importantly, we talk. My kids often have a few friends over. It’s one of my family’s favorite summertime rituals.

Sometimes, when life is too busy for an evening spent outdoors, tending the coals, or when the seasons change and you want to fondly remember those soft summer nights with the comforting flavor of food fresh off the grill, smoked salts are a great answer.

A couple years ago, I learned how to smoke salts on a classic Weber charcoal grill. It was an easy way to create a delicious smoky accompaniment to lots of your favorite dishes. Try smoked salts on roasted veggies, deviled eggs, sprinkled atop a good piece of honey drizzled blue cheese, dark chocolate confections, and probably a million other things.

As with most things artisanal and homemade, there are tons of different ideas about the “correct” way to smoke salts. Some people swear aluminum pans are reactive and won’t give your salts the right kind of flavor. Some people poke tiny holes in the bottom of aluminum pans, pour in their salt, and say they work perfectly. Some people soak their wood chips in water for an hour, some overnight, some not at all.

It’s possible to smoke salts on a gas grill or even inside your home in a dutch oven. The instructions below, are based as closely as possible on how I was taught to smoke salts (in a glass pan and without soaking the wood chips). Just know, however you get there, and whoever’s advice you take, you’ll eventually find what works best for you, and that’s what’s most important both with salt and everything else in life. I just hope you enjoy!