What sits on just about every restaurant table and can be found in even the simplest kitchen, salt. Salt is fundamental to all good cooking. It is the most essential and versatile product to have stocked up in the kitchen. It is necessary for cooking, baking, and seasoning. Salt is what brings food to life.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALT
Our pantry is stocked with most of the ones listed below. The two exceptions are black salt and smoked salt. When cooking a recipe that requires smoked salt I buy it right before I make it and only enough for that recipe to I smoke it myself. In our recipes, I try to be specific about which type of salt is suggested but you can always switch them out to your preference. Let’s go ahead and look at the Different types of salt and when to use each one.
Table salt is the most common kind of salt found in most kitchen. It usually comes from salt mines. After mining, it is refined and most minerals are removed until it is pure sodium chloride. A common sentiment is that this process creates a more bland and bitter salt than unprocessed varieties, not to mention the removal of the potential benefits of its trace minerals.
Most table salt is also available in either plain or iodized forms, where the salt is artificially spray-coated with iodine. American salt manufacturers began iodizing salt in the 1920s during The Great Depression, in cooperation with the government, after people in some parts of the country were found to be suffering from goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by an easily-preventable iodine deficiency. Today we know that most people require less than 225 micrograms of iodine daily. Seafood and many dark greens, as well as sea salt, contain iodine naturally, and the supplement is unnecessary if there are sufficient quantities of either in one’s diet. Natural sea salt is a healthy replacement for ordinary table salt.
Sea salt is a broad term that generally refers to unrefined salt derived directly from a living ocean or sea. It is harvested through channeling ocean water into large clay trays and allowing the sun and wind to evaporate it naturally. Manufacturers of sea salt typically do not refine sea salt as much as other kinds of processed salt, so it still contains natural traces of other minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and iodine.
Proponents of sea salt rave about its bright, pure, clean flavor, and about the subtleties left by trace minerals. Some of the most common sources for sea salt include the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean (particularly in France, on the coast of Brittany). Available in coarse, fine, and extra-fine grain size, and many sizes in between!
Kosher salt can refer to two types of salt—one is a specifically shaped flake salt that is so named for its use in the preparation of meat according to the requirements of Jewish dietary guidelines. It contains fewer additives, and has a cleaner and more even taste than ordinary table salt. The flakes dissolve easily and have a less pungent flavor than processed table salt. Due to the shape of the granules, there is simply less salt in a pinch of kosher salt than in a pinch of table salt. It is important to note that all kosher salt is not necessarily sea salt.
The second type of kosher salt is a salt that has been certified as kosher by a prestigious organization or certifying bodies such as the Orthodox Union, or OU. This means that the salt has met the guidelines of kosher outlined by Jewish law and upheld by kosher certification agencies and members of the Jewish faith.
Finishing salts are the premier varieties of specialty salts. Harvested generally by hand in specific regions of the world, finishing salts are most admired for their unique textures—either moist crystals or delicate flakes. Both varieties provide a strong crunch and dissolve quickly, resulting in a burst of clean, mild flavor with each bite. These salts enhance the depth of natural flavors in any dish and enrich a table setting with a beautiful, shimmering presentation. The various colors and flakes of finishing salts make gorgeous garnishes for every meal.
Pickling salt doesn’t contain anti-caking ingredients, which can turn pickling liquid cloudy. It also does not contain or additives like iodine, which can make pickles dark. In addition, pickling salt has fine granules that make it easy to dissolve in a brine. Morton and Ball are two common brands available at grocery stores, usually in the salt section or next to the canning jars. I usually can find it priced better on Amazon.
Smoked sea salts are a relatively new and exciting gourmet salt in the U.S.! They add a unique flavor to a wide range of dishes and are delicious for grilling or oven roasting.
Sprinkle on for toasty color and a rich smoky flavor. Deep Alderwood smoke flavor and a mottled mahogany color define our Natural Smoked Sea Salt. Utilize its remarkably savory flavor on chicken, pork, potatoes, burgers, and add real depth to foods cooked on gas-fired grills. Its sparkling hazel color makes our Natural Smoked Sea Salt a beautiful finishing salt: sprinkle on foods just before serving for full-bodied flavor and a dappled luster.
BLACK AND RED HAWAIIAN SALT
Alaea sea salt is a traditional Hawaiian table salt used to season and preserve. The natural mineral called “Alae” (volcanic, baked red clay) is added to enrich the salt with iron oxide. This natural additive gives the salt its distinctive red color. The clay imparts a subtle flavor that is more mellow and earthy than regular sea salt.
Black Hawaiian sea salt contains activated charcoal, giving it a unique black color, silky texture, and salient flavor-enhancing properties. Charcoal has also become popular for use in detox diets. The activated charcoal adds a pop of color and tasty flavor to your dishes.
When substituting salt in a recipe make sure you take into consideration the crystal size of the salt. Not converting it correctly could result in an under or overly salted dish. Morton Salt Company has this handy chart.
HOW TO MEASURE SALT
The best way to measure salt is to do it over something other than the intended pot or bowl. I use a clean measuring spoon, scoop it into the container and then add it to the dish. That way if there are any issues you won’t pour too much into your dish.
HOW TO USE SALT
- Contamination: I store my kosher salt in a small glass mason jar because I use it so frequently. Never allow the measuring spoon to touch food and then the salt container again. When cooking meats, especially you want to put a small amount of the salt into a separate dish and scoop from that. Keep salt covered when not in use to prevent moisture pick up.
- Amounts: When baking always use the recommended amount of salt and never let salt and yeast touch. For other dishes start with the suggested amount of salt and adjust from there. I always adjust slowly, too little is better than too much.
- Applying: When adding salt to food before cooking, it’s best to sprinkle it on at about 10-12″ above the ingredient. This will ensure even distribution of the salt and prevent areas that become over salted.
As with most things in the kitchen, don’t be afraid to experiment with salt. Do you have a favorite type of salt?