One of the greatest joys I love about my cooking classes is all the questions that come up. Of course, I always hope that I can impress and quickly spit out the answer however every now and again a question arises that requires follow up…and if you know me, you know I love to conduct research when it comes to food or ingredients! So that being said, salt, a workhorse in the kitchen, is a topic that gets a lot of attention.Simply stated, the better the ingredients used the better the outcome. However a subsequent question is when to use which type of ingredient? This is a question I am often asked when it comes to salt. I hope to simplify this as many of us have fallen to the excitement of a spontaneous purchase in specialty shop either as a gift or a splurge only to get home and have to ask ourselves …now what am I going to do with this Black Hawaiian Sea Salt?Salt 101 (Sodium Chloride)Salt either comes from salt mines or from the sea. Salt is nonorganic therefore keeps indefinitely.Table Salt (aka common salt) is a mined salt. It is a fine grain salt with non caking additives that make it free flowing and most often has iodine added. A good choice for everyday uses of sweet and savory dishes as it dissolves easily, however some believe the iodine added can alter the taste slightly.Kosher Salt is raked during the evaporation process and yields a more coarsely grained product. Unlike table salt, kosher salt contains no additives or non caking agents. Coarse kosher salt is the preferred choice of most cooks for the pure flavor and texture.Sea Salt comes from the evaporation of seawater. A more expensive process than the salt mining mentioned above. Sea salt tends to be irregular in shape and varies in mineral content depending on the region it comes from. Due to the high amount of minerals it can have a grayish color. Sea salt is more expensive and should be used as a finishing salt as there is no distinction when used in regular cooking. When purchasing sea salt, look for large flaky crystals and color instead of exotic regions.Rock Salt is even less refined which results in very large crystals and a higher mineral content. Routinely used as a bedding for seafood or for making ice cream.
Pickling Salt is a very fine additive free salt that is used in brines, pickling and sauerkraut as it dissolves easily.
Seasoned Salt is typically regular salt that has been enhanced with other flavors; examples include garlic, onion, celery and truffles.
Pink Salt (aka Himalayan Salt) is an unrefined rock salt that typically comes from Pakistan and contains many different minerals. It has a pink hue due to the amount of iron and copper it contains. Due to its high mineral content there have been many debates over its possible health benefits.
Black Hawaiian Sea Salt is also a sea salt but one that has gone through an additional step of being bathed in charcoal which results in a deeper more flavorful product. This salt should not be used during the cooking process as it will give off a grey residue. It should be used a finishing salt where a deeper flavor is desired.
Fluer de Sel (flower of salt) is a specialty salt that comes from the sel gris marshes off the coast of Normandy, France. It is gathered from the rocks and has not had contact with the earth which results in a clear crystal color and delicate texture. Fleur de Sel is a great finishing salt.
As I am fully aware that there are many more salt options available, the ones I have listed are the most common I have encountered recently.
For everyday use, I prefer to use the coarse kosher salt as I prefer the texture and pure flavor. However for baking, I prefer a finer kosher salt as I find that it disperses more evenly into my recipes.
Keep in mind: 1 tsp of table salt = 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
Skip the salt grinder…. Grinding the salt does not alter the flavor. Save your money and invest in a reliable pepper grinder.
Use salt sparingly as it can be added to a dish but not removed. When tasting, remember cold temperatures diminish flavors and warm temperatures enhance them. Season at the appropriate temperature for the dish.
LET’S GET COOKING!