Did you know there are thousands of types of salt in the world? Or, that certain types of salt are saltier than others? Are you aware that some types of salt are better for cooking while others are better for garnishing? Knowing what’s what will help you control the way you use salt—consider this your primer.
This tiny, refined salt has uniform granules and is often used for everyday cooking, baking and as a table condiment. A teaspoon of table salt will be saltier than a teaspoon of coarse kosher salt. This is because the granules of table salt are smaller and denser, so you wind up with more of them in a teaspoon. Morton’s is probably the most recognizable brand of table salt. It may or may not have iodine added. Iodine is a mineral that helps prevent hypothyroidism, but some dislike the faintly metallic taste it adds. And luckily, our diets in the United States are rich enough in natural iodine that we don’t need it added to our salt anymore, so you can buy the type without.
Coarse Kosher Salt
With bigger granules that vary in size and texture, coarse kosher salt is often used for seasoning meat, brining solutions, topping pretzels and breads, rimming cocktail glasses and salting pasta water. It’s great for cooking because it dissolves quickly, and it has lower salinity than table salt. Kosher salt is used for koshering meat in accordance with Jewish dietary laws, so it’s additive free and has a clean taste. Diamond Crystal and Morton’s kosher are the brands you’re most likely to find at your local grocery. Keep in mind that even the same kind of salt can vary by brand. For example, Morton’s kosher salt is actually saltier than Diamond due to the production method.
From flaky to coarse, this type of salt varies in granule size, texture and color, depending on where it’s from and how it’s processed. Flaky sea salt is typically used as a flavor finisher due to its delicate, crunchy texture (and high price). Maldon is perhaps the most widely available brand of flaky sea salt or look for salts labeled “fleur de sel” or “sel gris.” (Note, sel gris is processed a little differently from Maldon and fleur de sel but can be used in the same way, i.e. as a finisher.) Try adding it on salads or as a finishing flourish on indulgent chocolate and caramel desserts for a perfect balance of salty and sweet. Refined sea salt can be used the way you’d use coarse kosher salt in everyday cooking and baking. It’s granules range in size from medium to fine. This type of sea salt is also relatively inexpensive because it’s easier to produce (sea water is boiled down) than labor-intensive flaky sea salt (harvested from saltwater beds near the ocean).
Counter-intuitively, you might find yourself buying more salt—or rather, a different kind of salt—when you embark on lower-sodium diet. If you don’t already keep either kosher or a refined sea salt on hand, we’d highly recommend picking up one of these less-salty salts for cooking and baking. And salt is not the only way to flavor your food, which brings us to our next point.