In 2017, videos in which Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe flamboyantly sprinkled salt onto some expectant slabs of meat went viral. Gökçe quickly gained a global fanbase and an unshakeable nickname: “Salt Bae.”

The internet’s infatuation with Gökçe’s stylish seasoning technique suggests that there’s something inherently satisfying about watching salt and other spices rain down on food from a distance. It does add a certain elegance to the process, and it also gives you an extra moment to appreciate the art of cooking. But chefs don’t only season food from on high when there’s an audience to impress—so it seems like the method must serve another purpose.

As The Kitchn explains, they do it because the height makes it easier to sprinkle herbs and spices more evenly over a dish. If you’re cooking something that requires lots of stirring, you can reallocate a clump of ground cumin without too much trouble. But if whatever’s in your pan is supposed to be mostly stationary, like meat or fragile vegetables, you want seasonings to land as evenly as possible from the get-go.

While the hack makes sense in theory, you may be wondering how well it actually works in real-life kitchens. Researchers at Cook’s Illustrated conducted an experiment where they sprinkled ground black pepper on chicken breasts from three heights: 4 inches, 8 inches, and 12 inches. The 12-inch one was the most evenly seasoned by far. And a foot is probably all the distance you need—if you go much higher than that, there’s a good chance some seasoning will end up landing outside your plate or pan.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.