06/14/2013 05:20 pm ET | Updated Aug 14, 2013

A Surprising New Way to Use Salt on the Grill

You've probably seen those imposing slabs of Himalayan pink salt at your local cookware shop. Maybe you even bought one. I did and plunked it down on my grill and tried grilling shrimp on top of it. The process looked cool (hey, that's one of the reasons we grill). The result was pleasant enough, but I couldn't help feeling that straightforward grilling the shellfish directly on the grate would have been better. So what's the big deal?

Well, it turns out I got it wrong. You grill the food under the salt slab -- like the brick in Italian pollo al mattone. Used this way, you get cool and flavor, not to mention a luscious salt-inflected crust encasing compressed luscious poultry juiciness.

This I learned and plenty more reading Mark Bitterman's handsome new book Salt Block Cooking (Andrews McMeel Publishing).

In addition to smart recipes and stunning photos, Salt Block Cooking covers the half billion year history of the salt block, with cameo appearances by Alexander the Great and the fabulously rich 16thcentury Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar (credited with modernizing Pakistan's salt industry).

Salt. It may be the only food we eat that starts as a rock. Reason enough to check out this book and to try Mark Bitterman's Salt Brick Grilled Chicken recipe!

Go to to find out more about salt block grilling!

For the essential tools that all grillers need, visit's store.

Sign up for the UP IN SMOKE newsletter to learn how to grill the right way!

Sign up for Workman's Blue Plate Special to get a FREE Steven Raichlen eCookbook and discounts on three of Steven's eBooks!

Chat with Steven LIVE on Twitter on June 26th!

Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Primal Grill on PBS. His web site is