Salt — the only mineral we eat. Have you seen all of the varieties of salt in the marketplace? Which one should you choose? do you really need three kinds of salt in your kitchen? Yes:
- kosher salt for cooking and seasoning;
- coarse sea salt for topping servings of meat, fish and vegetables; and
- regular table salt, because it is the standard of measurement, especially in baking recipes.
HUH? Kosher salt is about as pure sodium chloride as you can get from Mother Nature. It’s larger crystals, which begin as rock salt, have been pressed through metal rollers to flatten them out, making the crystals flatter than other types of salt. So, they dissolve faster. Kosher salt has no iodine or anti-caking agents added. Chefs use it because its crystals make it easy to judge amounts by pinching it from a dish.
Table salt also began as rock salt. It is smaller, more uniform crystals, with an anti-caking agent and frequently iodine added. It is the cheapest and most commonly found salt.
Sea salt comes — wait for it — from the SEA! Crystallized from evaporating seawater, this kind of salt has larger, more complex crystals, with a coarser texture. It also contains the minerals and clay found in the sea unique to the area where it is produced. Because of this slow, laborious process, sea salt is much more expensive.
So, are they interchangeable in recipes? No….
If you weigh a tablespoon of each of these three salts, you will find that the table salt and the sea salt weigh nearly twice as much as the kosher salt — which translates into slightly more than half as much salt if you are switching from table salt to kosher salt. It may throw off the chemistry in a baking recipe. And cooking with sea salt is a foolish extravagance because the textural effect is gone as soon as the crystals dissolve. So when a recipe specifies “sea salt,” ignore it. Chefs have come to realize that it is best sprinkled on a dish just before serving.
One role of salt is flavor enhancement — a small amount of salt makes foods taste more like themselves. Salt also helps to balance acid, adds dimension to sweetness. Want to learn more about salt, and balancing other flavors in food? Take my class, The Taste Project! And watch our video!
My favorite finishing salt — rosemary citrus salt
- 1 cup coarse sea salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- zest of 2 large lemons
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Place 1/3 cup of the salt in food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add rosemary, zest and pepper flakes; pulse until rosemary is finely chopped. Add remaining salt and pulse just to combine.
Store in an airtight container, up to 4 months. Makes a great gift! I love to sprinkle this salt on my foccaccia just before baking, or on my just grilled asparagus!
- Mint and lime zest — fantastic on watermelon
- Lavender and thyme — on roast checken!
- Now, make up your own variations!