In an earlier blog post, Eggplant 101: How to Cook the Purple Globes, I described a method for salting and grilling eggplant that my friend Miry taught me. In this post, I go into more detail on the technique of salting it, and I've included photos.
The purpose of salting eggplant is to remove the bitter, irritating compounds, and make the texture more amenable to grilling, sautéing, or baking. Most recipes will tell you to leave salted eggplant a colander to drain. I have found that method to be not nearly as effective as the one I'm describing here.
Prep time is about 20 minutes (depending on how many eggplant you're preparing). Wait time is 1 hour to 8 hours.
· Kosher salt (I prefer Diamond Crystal, but you can use other brands)
· A roll of paper towels
· As many sheet pans as it takes to hold the eggplant slices in a single layer, plus an extra sheet pan for weighing it all down from the top
· Something heavy to use as a weight, such as canned goods, a 6-pack of beer, a cast iron frying pan, a saucepan filled with water, etc.
1. Peel the eggplant if that's what your recipe calls for. Then slice it lengthwise into half-inch planks, even if you’re going to end up dicing it. (The planks are easiest to work with during the salting process.)
2. Line a baking sheet with two or three layers of paper towels. Generously salt the paper towels with kosher salt (you’ll end up using about 1/4 to 1/3 cup for a half-sheet pan, which is what I used in the photos here).
3. Lay the eggplant slices on the salted paper towels, then salt the tops of the eggplant slices with more salt. Lay a double-layer of paper towels over the top.
Here are the eggplant slices, well-salted, sitting on paper towels. A double layer of paper towels will go on top of the slices.
4. If you’re using more than one sheet pan to hold the eggplant, stack them on top of each other. Place an empty sheet pan on the top, then place whatever weight you’re using. In this photo below, I’ve used my cast iron fry pans, but you can use anything that’s heavy enough to press down.
The sheet pans of salted eggplant are stacked. On the very top, I've placed an empty sheet pan, and then weighted it down with my cast-iron pans.
5. Let the eggplant sit at room temperature for at least an hour, and up to eight hours. The slices are going to release a lot of liquid. The paper towels should be soaking wet after an hour.
6. When you’re ready to cook them, remove the eggplant from the sheet pans, and swish them in a bowl of cool water for 15 to 30 seconds. This will rinse off the extra salt and liquid still clinging to the slices.
Swish the eggplant in a bowl of water for about 30 seconds to remove the extra salt.
7. Proceed with your recipe. At this point, you can dice the eggplant if that’s what the recipe calls for. Before adding more salt to the recipe, let the eggplant cook and then taste it – you may not need to add more.
Here is a photo of a tray of eggplant that was first salted, then rinsed and placed on a parchment-lined sheet pan. I brushed it with olive oil and baked it in a 400-degree oven until the edges were browned and the middle was tender and cooked. Prepared this way, eggplant can now be diced and sauced, or simply eaten as-is.