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A Complete Guide to Netflix’s ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’

Everything you need to know about the new docuseries starring chef and author Samin Nosrat

By fusing together elements of travel shows, cooking programs, and documentary films, chef/author Samin Nosrat and director Caroline Suh have created a new style of food TV with Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Season 1 of this exciting new series is now streaming on Netflix.

Each episode of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat explores one of the four elements of good cooking that Nosrat outlined in the game-changing, James Beard Award-winning book of the same name. To develop a greater understanding of the kitchen fundamentals, Samin meets with restaurant chefs, home cooks, and artisans around the world. She begins her journey in Italy learning about fat, then heads to Japan for a salt tutorial, then it’s off to the Yucatán region of Mexico for a crash course in acid, and the show winds down in Nosrat’s hometown of Berkeley, California for an exploration of heat.

Every installment has at least one dish demonstration, as well as lessons that can be applied to all styles of cooking. And in a refreshing change of pace for the culinary TV genre, the series features more women and people of color on screen than any other major food show on television. Nosrat recently told Eater: “I think there’s infinite ways that you can make exciting, new, beautiful food shows, and I totally want to do it.”

Here’s are guides to all four Season 1 episodes, with notes on the culinary insights, the people that Samin cooks with on her journey, and the restaurants and markets that she visits:

Season 1

Episode 1: “Fat”
Episode 2: “Salt
Episode 3: “Acid”
Episode 4: “Heat”

And for more on how Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat made the jump from page to screen, check out Samin’s interviews with and the hosts of the Eater Upsell.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat [Netflix]
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‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ Recap: Nosrat Summons Superior Flavors Using the Power of Fire
Amy Dencler and Samin Nosrat in the kitchen of Chez Panisse

The final episode of Season 1 offers techniques for roasting, grilling, and frying

The final episode of Netflix’s culinary docuseries Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat explores how different types of heat impact flavor and texture. After heading to Italy for a lesson in cooing with fat, Japan for a crash-course in salt, and Mexico for a tutorial in using acid in the kitchen, chef/author Samin Nosrat returns to her adopted hometown of Berkeley, California to examine how heat changes the texture and flavor of ingredients. The episode notably includes a lesson in live fire cooking filmed at Chez Panisse, the California cuisine institution where Nosrat got her start in the kitchen.

What does Samin learn about heat in this episode?

For grilling, Nosrat explains that it’s best to avoid cooking directly over an open flame and instead cook over hot coals in lower temperature zones to get an even cook. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re cooking over a stove, an open fire, or in a slow cooker,” she says. “The goal is always the same: Apply the right level of heat so that the surface of your food and the interior are done cooking at the same time.”

When cooking poultry, Nosrat recommends allowing the bird to come up to room temperature for an hour or more to ensure it cooks evenly. If not, it might burn on the exterior and come out raw inside. When it comes to her recipe for whole roasted buttermilk chicken, the fat and acid in the buttermilk is “the most delicious kind of insurance,” she says. The buttermilk will prevent the bird from drying out if it stays in the oven a bit too long. She also notes that when roasting the chicken, it’s important to face the legs towards the back of the oven where it’s hottest to allow for more even cooking. Poultry cooks in two stages and should be given some time to rest after roasting so that the muscle can relax.

Using a bean and vegetable salad as an example, Nosrat also explores how heat changes different types of legumes and greens. For white beans, she recommends simmering rather than boiling. When beans are boiled they don’t cook evenly and often break apart. For the vegetables, Nosrat recommends using a separate pan for each type of vegetable to allow them to cook at their own pace. “High heat reorganizes aromatic compounds in our food and produces deep savory flavors that don’t exist in the pale versions,” she explains.

In addition to lessons on the principles of heat in cooking, Nosrat also discusses how to shop at the grocery store for basic ingredients and how to select the right type of salt for different styles of cooking.

Who cooks alongside Nosrat, and where does she visit?

At Chez Panisse, Nosrat learns the nuances of chef Amy Dencler’s use of open flame grilling. Dencler creates several “heat zones” in the fire by moving around different temperatures of coals so that things like steaks cook evenly on the grill. Norat then visits the Berkeley Bowl West grocery store where she discusses the role the fat content plays in building flavor for meat dishes with the butcher.

At home, Nosrat prepares a bean and roasted vegetable salad with her illustrator and friend Wendy MacNaughton, who did the illustrations for the book version of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Later, Nosrat invites her mother Shahla Nosrat to her house to help discuss the process of steaming and frying through the making of tahdig — a type of Persian rice that features a crunchy brown rice crust.

Shahla does several things to achieve the right texture in the dish: She adds lots of salt to the water that she uses to boil the rice (until the water tastes like “seawater”). She then uses an oil that can handle high heat and lets it sizzle. In order to avoid creating a soggy tahdig, Samin’s mom also wraps the pot lid in a towel to reduce moisture during the frying process. Butter is poured in last so it doesn’t burn.

What are the episode’s most quotable moments?

“One of the valuable lessons I learned at Chez Panisse was that you don’t have to use expensive ingredients to make good food. All you need to find are simple, quality staples and to treat them with respect. So knowing what to look for is your first step on the way to a good meal.” — Nosrat, on how to make good meals at home

“People always treat meat and expensive ingredients as the most luxurious foods, but someone who took the time to cook three different vegetables and a pot of beans, and pick a whole bunch of herbs and make this, that’s like true decadence.” — Nosrat, on the luxury of a really delicious and thoughtfully made bean and roasted veggie salad

“Tahdig test: It’s the first test before the give birth to a child test” — Nosrat, on the importance of making good tahdig as a woman in Iranian culture

“I think a big part of what keeps people out of the kitchen is that they feel like they have no agency, no power, no knowledge, and so there’s a way that if they’re involved in just a tiny bit of the process, they take away that knowledge and they feel empowered.” — Nosrat, on why she has people help her cook at dinner parties

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‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ Recap: Samin Heads to Mexico for a Study in Citrus
Samin and her friend Rodrigo in Mexico

The chef and author visits the Yucatán region to explore all the ways that acid can be used to improve food

In the third episode of Samin Nosrat’s new Netflix series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, the chef and author heads down to the Yucatán region of Mexico to learn about how to harness the power of acid. Early in the episode, Nosrat notes that acid “does the absolutely necessary job of balancing flavors, which makes it indispensable to cooking delicious food.” This installment of the show features some lovely footage of outdoor markets in Mérida, as well as a step-by-step guide to making one of the area’s signature dishes, pavo en escabeche.

What does Samin learn about acid in this episode?

Applying acid changes food in a number of ways. It adds brightness and provides contrast, but it can also be used to change the texture of the food as well. “Marinating in acid has a different effect on food than cooking in it does,” Nosrat explains. “A highly acidic marinade will tenderize meat. But if left too long, the meat will toughen up, like an overcooked steak.” Browning certain foods, like chile peppers, also produces acid, thus creating new flavors.

To show all of the different ways that acid can change ingredients for the better, Samin and local home cook Doña Conchi make pavo en escabeche, a turkey and meatball stew. First, they pour a marinade of sour orange juice and spices over turkey and let that sit for a few minutes. Then the chefs form the meatballs, and roast the chiles over an open flame. While those ingredients are cooking in a big pot, Samin and Doña Conchi make pickled onions. “Soaking the onions in acid takes the fire out of them, without diminishing the brightness they add to the dish,” Samin explains. After the meat has cooked for an hour, Samin and Conchi eat the turkey and meatball stew with the peppers and pickles as garnishes, along with tortillas. “It’s perfectly balanced,” Samin remarks. “It’s so good.”

Later in the episode, the cookbook author samples various piquant salsas at a local taqueria in Mérida, and meets with tortilla expert Doña Asaria to learn all about nixtamalization. This ancient involves soaking corn in lime and water to make masa that can be ground and used for tortillas. “The corn tortilla is a perfect foil for acid, because it has such a soft and steady flavor,” Nosrat remarks. “It balances the intensity of acidic ingredients.”

After a quick explainer about the PH scale, Samin heads to the town of Tixcacaltuyub, where local farmers harvest some of the world’s most prized honey. As our host explains, although honey is usually considered a sweet ingredient, it’s actually a sour food that’s on the higher-end of the PH scale.

Then it’s back to Mérida, where Samin and her chef friend Regina scour a local market for chocolate and tomatoes — two sour foods — that will be incorporated into dinner that evening. The episode ends with a demonstration of how to make tikin xic — fish cooked in banana leaves — and a citrus pavlova. While making the dessert, Regina and Samin ponder the ever-changing flavor profiles of local citrus. “Even in a citrus grove, the fruit trees on one side of the grove and the another end of the grove will taste completely different,” Samin remarks. “The only way to know that it tastes right is to taste it.”

Samin citrus shopping with Regina Escalante

Who are some of the people Samin meets, and where does she visit?

Samin begins her journey at the citrus market in the town of Oxkutzkab where she remarks that “The Yucatán is the citrus belt of Mexico.” After cooking the escabeche con pavo with Doña Conchi, she meets photographer Rodrigo Ochoa at an unnamed local outdoor taqueria (possibly Taqueria La Lupita). In the town of Tixcacaltuyub, Samin learns about Melipona honey from her guide, Andrea Figueroa, and hosts Doña Pascuala and Don Carlos (who, according to the Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat website are affiliated with the Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya). And at the end of the episode, she cooks with Regina Escalante, the chef of Restaurante Merci in Mérida.

What are some of the most quotable moments from this episode?

“My mother raised me on the sour foods she grew up eating in Iran. The flavors of lime, pomegranate, and yogurt shaped my palate. So from a young age, I learned to appreciate the beauty of acidity. And that’s why I’ve always been so fascinated with Mexican food, especially the cuisine from the Yucatán. Ceviche, sopa de lima, cochinita pibil all share many of the tart flavors I grew up eating. This makes Mexico the perfect place to explore the element that adds dimension to every dish.” — Nosrat, on the acidic foods that she grew up with, and her affinity for Mexican cuisine

“The list of acidic ingredients extends far beyond citrus and vinegar. Anything fermented is also acidic; that includes cheese, pickles, and beer. Most of us cook with acid without even realizing it. Think of beef stew cooked in red wine, or meatballs simmered in tomato sauce. When used as a cooking medium, acidic ingredients mellow, becoming subtle but essential flavors in a dish, while acting as a counterpoint to salty, fatty, sweet, and starchy foods.” — Nosrat, on the foods that are deceptively high in acid

“My family is from Iran, and we eat very acidic food. So the thing we put on everything is yogurt. Even when my mom made spaghetti or pizza, we put yogurt on it. Once I became a cook, I stopped putting yourt on everything.” — Nosrat remembering the yogurt of her youth

“Not all cuisines share the same affinity for acid. I realized this in college, when I went to my very first Thanksgiving dinner. I loved the turkey and stuffing, but there was hardly anything acidic to cut through all the richness of the food. So I kept spooning cranberry sauce over everything. That experience was a great lesson in the importance of working acid into every part of a meal.” — Nosrat recalls her first Thanksgiving, and the lack of acid therein

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‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ Recap: Samin Explores the Wide World of Salt in Japan

Netflix’s culinary documentary series heads to small island communities in Japan where some of the world’s finest salts are harvested

The second episode of chef and cookbook author Samin Nosrat’s new Netflix series, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat — which is adapted from her James Beard Award-winning book of the same name — focuses on salt. Nosrat travels to Japan to gain some knowledge on the element that she says “enhances flavor, and even makes food taste more like itself.”

Throughout the episode, Nosrat prepares short ribs in her home kitchen. She salts the beef immediately and returns it to the refrigerator before applying a marinade of soy sauce, miso, and mirin. The short ribs are braised in a mixture of dashi — a Japanese broth made of kobu (dried seaweed) and katsuobushi (dried, smoked fish) — and served alongside quick-boiled green beans, rice, and salt-cured pickles.

What does Samin learn about salt in this episode?

First of all, the diversity of Japan’s salt scene is much greater than the average American might anticipate. There are 4,000 different types of salt in the county, with flavor and level of saltiness determined by the production and size of the final grains. Unlike other places where sea salt is harvested from water alone, the Japanese make their moshio from dried seaweed. Nosrat learns this gives the final product a greater depth of flavor.

In Japan, the seasoning of a dish isn’t derived from salt alone; there are other products which provide saltiness and umami. Nosrat tastes miso that is aged for three years and is unlike any version she has previously tried. She also takes in the traditional method for making soy sauce, which involves century-old wooden barrels. Industrial soy sauce ferments for three months, but this artisanal variety stays in the barrels for two years. There is just one company that still produces the barrels necessary for this method, and the survival of traditional soy sauce depends on this company’s business.


Who teaches Samin about salt, and where does she visit?

Nosrat opens the episode in an unnamed salt shop, going through a tasting with a clerk. She learns the finer the salt, the more immediate punch of saltiness on her tongue. She then travels to Kami-kamagari island with her chef friend, Yuri, and learns how sea salt is made at the Moshio Salt Factory.

On Shodo island, the host visits with food writer Nancy Singleton Hachisu and learns the art of miso from a woman named Kazumi, who is declared to be a “miso master.” Nosrat’s lesson in soy sauce comes from Yasuo Yamamoto, proprietor of Yamaroku Shoyu, where the traditional version is made.

Near the end of the episode, Nosrat, Hachisu, and Yuri prepare a meal in Hachisu’s home. They make boiled eggs seasoned with miso, tai meshi, a soup comprised of the Japanese tai fish, dashi, and rice. Nosrat and Yuri procure the fish from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.

What are some of the most quotable moments from this episode?

“That’s so good, that’s just so clean. It’s really like Japanese cooks have figured out how to use every part of the ocean.” — Nosrat, tasting a bite of sashimi seasoned with mochio

“The single most important element to good cooking is salt. When you perfectly season something, it zings in your mouth.” — Nosrat, on the necessity of salt

“I don’t make the soy sauce. The microorganisms make it. I just create an environment where they can thrive. They live inside these barrels and on the surface. The wooden material has air pockets they can inhabit. I check on them every day, and I talk to them. My microorganisms work harder when someone is watching. … The harder they work, the tastier the sauce becomes.” — Yamamoto, on the science of making traditional soy sauce

“The more I travel and taste the different cuisines of the world, the more I realize that good cooking is universal. The ingredients may change, but the fundamentals are the same, and it all begins with salt.” — Nosrat, on salt being the universal ingredient of delicious food

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‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ Recap: Samin Nosrat Samples the Bounty of Olive Oil and Parmesan in Italy

The “fat” episode showcases the work of butchers, cheesemakers, and other food artisans across Italy

In the premiere episode of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, chef and author Samin Nosrat’s just-released Netflix series based on her book of the same name, Nosrat tackles fat, which adds both flavor and texture to a dish. She travels to Italy, a place where she lived early in her culinary career, and where locals “are masters at using fat to make their food absolutely, fantastically, almost impossibly delicious.”

What does Samin learn about fat in this episode?

Nosrat takes a crash course in extra virgin olive oil, which she believes is Italy’s greatest form of culinary fat. The olives that produce this elixir are never heated; instead, the oil is pressed out, similar to a cold-pressed juice. The good stuff should have three main flavor components: fruity, peppery, and bitter. If any of those are missing, or if one component overpowers the others, it isn’t the good stuff.

Nosrat learns how to make focaccia in the traditional way of Liguria, Italy, which means the bread must never be more than about two inches tall when it comes out of the oven. The dough is slathered in olive oil, which imparts a fruity flavor, a good crumb, and a crunchy crust. That’s followed by a tutorial in pesto, which uses fats from pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil, to form a sauce.

If olive oil is Italy’s greatest fat, parmesan may be a close second. Nosrat takes in the cheese-making process at an artisanal factory and concludes her tour with a tasting of rounds that have been aged for 24, 36, and 40 months. A first taste of the youngest cheese literally brings tears to her eyes, and the flavors only get more powerful from there.

Cooking with fat does not always mean cooking in fat. The fats that reside in animals, such as hogs, are responsible for providing flavor to meat.

Who teaches Samin about fat, and where does she visit?

Nosrat gets her lesson in olive oil from Paolo and Franco Roi, brothers and proprietors of the lauded Olio Roi company, at their olive orchard and factory. In Liguira, she visits with a chef named Lidia, who Nosrat simply calls la nonne, and her son Diego. These two share their wisdom in the arts of pesto and focaccia.

Lorenzo Chini, a Tuscan butcher who can traces his family’s business in the meat business to the 1600s, transforms a whole pig into a selection of salumi at his shop Macelleria Chini. And cheese-makers Mauro Montipo and Tania Barbieri, of the Consorzio Vacche Rosse, explain why parmesan made from the milk of rare red cows is so special.

Nosrat closes out the episode cooking ragù, which is built on olive oil, pork fat, beef fat, and fresh pasta with iconic Italian chef and author Benedetta Vitali.

What are some of the most quotable moments from this episode?

“A good olive oil must have three parameters: It’s fruity, spicy, and bitter. In your mouth, you must feel at least a bit of spiciness, because if it’s spicy, it’s alive. It’s a flavor that remains in your mouth. So, if you drink it and that’s all, it’s not a good olive oil. But if you drink it, and after a minute you still feel the oily sensation in your mouth, that’s a good olive oil.” — Paolo Roi, on what qualifies as olive oil

“In English, we have this saying: ‘high on the hog.’ So when you are wealthy or you just got a big paycheck, it’s the same. The idea of the noble fat, or the noble cuts, are the highest parts of the pig, literally. So these parts here are food for the rich people — the pancetta or the bacon, the tenderloin here, it’s under all this fat.” — Nosrat, on the cuts of pork traditionally reserved for the upper class

“Over the centuries, Italians have perfected the art of using fat to transform the simplest ingredients into a great meal.” — Nosrat, on the secret to Italian cuisine

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