Salt – Does Kill Yeast?

September 23, 2009 5 Comments

Does Salt Kill Yeast?

I get all sorts of questions asked of me by you guys and I try my best to give you a meaningful response but if I don’t know the answer, I reach out to experts in their field for their responses.  Here’s an example.

I received the following email from Grace R. asking,

Hi, I make pizza for a living; I have been told that salt kills yeast. I use salt & sugar with the dry yeast, eggs, oil and water, which is about 135-140 degrees. Was I misinformed? Is it a combination of elements or has the restaurant just been lucky for the past 26 years? Just curious. Thanks….

So I asked two of my favorite experts, Chef Jennifer Field and Chef Ruth Gresser. Jenni is a graduate of the Orlando Culinary Academy in Florida and Ruth is a graduate of Madelein Kamman’s Classical and Modern French Cooking School in Glen, New Hampshire and owner of the top pizza restaurant in Washington, DC.

Here’s what they had to say:

Chef Jennifer Field – It’s a matter of balance.  Salt does retard yeast growth, and in concentrations that are too high, it can indeed kill the yeast.  In judicious amounts, salt is what brings out the flavor in the bread and controls yeast growth so that the resulting crumb is nice and even.

If you ever make a dough without salt, you’ll notice a lot more, and faster, rise and after baking, you’ll see large, irregular holes in the bread where the yeast just got carried away.  So, it’s not that the restaurant has been lucky; it’s just that their pizza dough recipe is balanced so the yeast can do their thing while the salt keeps them in check.

Chef Ruth Gresser
– In response to Grace’s yeast question, she heard correctly that salt and/or too much sugar can kill yeast.  However yeast has become much less perishable and more reliable over the years and the likelihood of that happening is less than it used to be.  Nonetheless I believe that Grace’s success is not luck, but due to the kind of yeast she uses.

We use regular dry yeast here at Pizzeria Paradiso and so proof it without salt or sugar in water that is 100 to 105 degrees F.  It sounds to me as if Grace uses instant yeast that is used by mixing it into the dry ingredients that are then combined with the liquid ingredients, including water, at a much higher temperature of 120 to 130 degrees F.  Grace says her water is at 135 to 140 but perhaps after it is mixed with the other liquid ingredients the combined temperature is in the range of 120 to 130 degree F.

Thanks chefs for your responses.

Last modified on Tue 17 December 2013 9:42 pm

Comments (5)

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  1. bobo says:

    salt does kill the yeast. But if you have 1 tbsp. or less in a recipe that calls for 2 1/2 tbsp of yeast, it just adds flavor.

  2. bobo the monkey says:

    It still lets the yeast rise, but also adds flavour.

  3. mary says:

    you cannot taste th sugar in my yeast rolls. i used 2 pks of active yeast, 2 cups sugar to 6 cups of unbleached flour. my rolls rose but kinda of bland. is there anything i can do. these are refrigerated rolls and i have about two doz more to cook. can they can be refrigerated for 7days?

    hi Mary, not sure but let me ask Chef Jenni for an answer to your question. – RG

  4. anna says:

    i have a science project to do about the best living condition for yeast. i wrote warm water with sugar. if yeast prefers warm water would it be a benefit to boil the water when making bread? i need an answer ASAP!

  5. Jason says:

    Anna,

    Yeast does like warm water, but boiling water would kill them. I have always heard that 100 degrees is the ideal temperature for yeast growth. I could be wrong. If you did boil water to add to flour you would need to let it sit and cool. I imagine boiling water would partially cook the flour! Many recipes use milk, and steamed milk bread might be a cool little experiment! Just don’t use too hot of milk.

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