Thanks, Nicko, for the great information!
I have to agree. It does take a lot of time and resources to prep the block for cooking and with cleaning. So, unless you have a lot of time, its not very practical. But, I have to admit, it was a bit fun, which I am sure had something to do with the novelty of the block.
I also agree that its not very practical to use for more than 2 or 3 adults. 2 adults is ideal. But, with three or four adults, the size of the block definitely restricts your choice of food.
The block is heavy so I would not recommend moving it around, especially when it is hot - I think Cerise asked about moving the block around. I would think the blocks would have to already be in place at the tables or on a portable platform of some sort equipped with a heat source in order to be used as a table side cooking method in a commercial establishment. I would think the use of salt blocks would add quite a bit to the overall operating costs since it takes a lot of heat to achieve and maintain temperature, not to mention the ridiculous amount of time it take for it to cool down - 3-4 hours to return to room temperature.
Another thing about the block is that the wetter the food, the more salt that is imparted into it. So, if you are cooking something like a ribeye, that has a high fat content, the block is going to give it more salt than a leaner cut. I cooked Strip Steaks on it and I think the amount of salt was perfect. I don't think it would be ideal for people who have a sensitivity to salt or those who like only a very mild salt flavor or no at all.
My experience with cleanup was identical to yours. In a word, it sucked. The block came with a scrub brush that has a metal edge for scraping. I had to wait at least a couple of hours for the block to cool to the point where it could be cleaned without melting the bristles. Even then, it did not come completely clean and left residue from the meat on its surface. That can't be good. I know salt is a natural deterrent to bacteria etc., but, the amount of stuff stuck to the surface that I was not able to remove no matter how hard I scrubbed or scraped makes me not want to use it again. I would never prepare food in a dirty pan or on a dirty grille, so, why would I do it on a dirty salt block?
Like I said, I think its a fun novelty, especially if you like to have a few glasses of wine while you're waiting for it to heat up. Other than that...........