This easy roast chicken highlights beauty of cooking with salt

Salt is one of the most important elements of good cooking.

It enhances flavours, tamps down bitterness, rounds out sweetness, releases odour compounds (adding to the flavour experience) and generally makes everything taste better and more like itself.

Yet not all salts are created equal.

Although they are all made up of mostly sodium chloride and originally came from the sea, the size and shape of the grain or crystal determines texture and salinity.

The most common fine table salt, which often has added iodine and anti-caking agents, is among the saltiest salt. Kosher salt has larger, lighter and more irregularly shaped grains, making it not as salty as other salts. If you were to substitute kosher salt for table salt, you’d need 1½ to twice as much to achieve the same level of saltiness.

Kosher salt is ideal for the koshering process but also for use as an all-purpose kitchen salt. It’s fine enough to use in baked goods, will dissolve in batters and doughs and is easily pinched and sprinkled. Its rough texture adheres to the surface of meat and vegetables well.

Then there are coarse salts, which take longer to dissolve but can be crushed in a salt mill.

Fancy flaky salts, such as the famous Maldon salt harvested in Essex, England, have delicate, pyramid-shaped crystals, but they’re pricey and best used as a finishing salt. Toss a dash on top of sliced tomatoes, meats and fish or chocolate chunk cookies when you want a tiny jolt of salt and a light crunch.

There are many options for salt on store shelves, from Himalalyan pink salt to Hawaiian red salt. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Pickling salt can come fine or coarse. It has no additives to make your preserves cloudy, but most kosher salt is additive-free, too.

Of course, there’s Himalayan pink salt, Hawaiian red salt, fleur de sel, and salts that vary in colour from grey to chocolate brown to black, depending on the region they’re from and the trace minerals they contain.

While it’s fine to have a palate of salts in your kitchen, it’s nice to know which salts work best for salting pasta water, making cookie dough, seasoning a steak or finishing your avocado toast.

By tasting as you go, and seasoning early in the process and again at the end, you’ll get a feel for how much you need and how much you like.

Easy roasted chicken

Seasoning a chicken for an hour or even a day ahead of time allows the salt to penetrate into the bird, seasoning the meat itself, rather than just the surface.

There’s no need to brine; a shower of your salt of choice will do the trick.

Seasoning the chicken a day ahead of cooking allows the salt to penetrate the bird and season the meat. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients:

1-2 whole chickens

Salt

Canola or olive oil

Preparation:

A day before you plan to roast your chicken — if you think that far ahead — shower your bird generously with salt.

You can put it on a plate or in a baking dish, or leave it wrapped in its butcher paper or packaging. Return it to the fridge overnight. (Some like to leave their chickens uncovered in the fridge overnight. That allows the skin to dry out, which helps make it extra crispy.)

If you don’t plan that far ahead, sprinkle it with salt in the morning or as soon as you get home from the grocery store.

When you’re ready to roast, preheat your oven to 425 F (218 C).

Place your bird(s) in a baking dish or cast iron skillet or on a rimmed baking sheet.

Pat it dry with a paper towel, drizzle with oil and, if you like, sprinkle with a bit more salt.

Some like to leave their chickens uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry out the skin. That makes it extra crispy. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

You could dice potatoes and/or root veggies. Toss them with oil and salt, and arrange them around the chicken, if you like.

Roast for about an hour or until the juices run clear when you tip the bird and the joints wiggle in their sockets.

If you have a thermometer, the internal temperature should read about 165 F (74 C).