Culinary SaltAs we browse recipes it is common to see other types of salts besides common table salt in the ingredient list. The most common variations are Kosher and Sea Salt. This is a pictorial guide to the types of salts and their suggested application in a recipe.
Article by: Barbara Bowman
How Salt Is Made
All culinary salts are derived by evaporation. Table salt is made by driving water into a salt deposit (in a mine). This process forms a brine which is then evaporated leaving dried "cube-like crystals that look like granulated sugar". The salt is then refined. Kosher salt is made in a similar fashion except the brine is raked continually during the evaporation process. The resulting product has a light and flaky texture. Sea salt is evaporated sea water. All salts are nutritionally the same. Sea salt has trace amounts of minerals not found in mined salt.
named Kala Namak in
India, is really a blend of minerals characterized by a strong sulfur odor. It
is commonly used in snack foods in North India.
Fleur de Sel de
the premier quality of Grey Sea Salt from France. Before the evaporation
process is complete a light film of salt forms. This is harvested and sold as
Fleur de Sel. (See more about Grey salt below).
g r e y s e a s a l t
Grey salt (sometimes sold as "gray" salt)
gris is organic
sea salt from the coastal area of Guérande, Brittany, France. The salt is
"moist" and unrefined. It remains a light grey, almost light purple color
because of the clay from the salt flats where it is collected. The salt
is not collected by machine but by hand using traditional Celtic methods. It is
available in coarse or stoneground fine grain. It is considered by many to be
the best quality salt available. This salt has really gained fame in the main
stream culinary world in the last few of years.
Hawaiian sea salt is produced from the Hawaiian waters. A natural
mineral called "Alaea" (a red clay from Kauai rich in iron oxide) is added to
the salt to add beneficial trace elements to the product. This natural additive
is what gives the salt it's distinctive pink color. It is said to have a more
mellow flavor than regular sea salt.
k o s h e r s a l t
salt is an additive-free
coarse-grained salt. It is used in the production of
Kosher meats to draw blood out of the meat. (Read more
about the Koshering
process) The salt is also preferred by some chefs
because it disperses more readily. By nature of it's "flake" texture it
melts easily and is lighter (less dense) than table salt.
Lite salt is a mixture of salt and another substance such
as potassium chloride. Read the label. Don't bother using these products unless
you have a medical reason to do so.
Pickling Salt -
Pickling salt is fine-grained salt that does not contain iodine or anti-caking
preservatives which cause darkened pickles and cloudy
Popcorn Salt - This is just a superfine, flakier
crystal version of table salt. We can't think of any real good reason to use
Pretzel Salt - A
large-grained salt that does not melt quickly. The preferred salt for pretzels,
salted bread sticks.
Rock Salt - Is a large
crystal salt that is a slightly grayish color. It is less refined and still
contains minerals that are removed from normal table salt. Rock salt is has a
few culinary uses such as in mechanical ice cream makers and is sometimes used a
a bed for serving certain types of shellfish.
Salt substitutes, are available
for people on low-salt diets. They contain little or no sodium normally made of
f i n e s e a s a l t
Sea salt is produced by evaporating sea water.
This process is more expensive than salt produced from mines. Sea salt comes in
fine-grained or larger crystals. Many of these salts are refined and use some of
the same additives as table salt. Read labels carefully. The crystal variety
can be crushed in a mortar and pestle or a salt grinder.
c o a r s e s e a s a l t
Seasoned salt is regular table
salt blended with other herbs such as celery, onion, and garlic.
Smoked Salt has become very popular in
the culinary scene. High quality smoked salt has actually been smoked with
specialty woods such as Alder Smoked
Salt or Fume de Sel -
Chardonnay Smoked Salt which is smoked in old wine barrels. Lower
grade salts just have artificially smoked flavoring added. Smoked salt can be
used on meats, fish or vegetables.
Sour salt is not salt at all
but it is citric acid. It is used to add an extra tart flavor to sour dough and
rye breads. It may be used in canning to prevent fruit from turning
Table salt is the most commonly
used salt. It is a fine-grained and looks the same in appearance as fine
grained sea salt. Iodized salt is just table salt with Iodine added.
We did a (non-scientific) blind taste test of Kosher, Fine Sea Salt, Grey Salt, and ordinary Table Salt. We found that the Kosher salt always tasted 'less' salty--probably because the flakes are larger and and less dense than the fine grained salt giving us less salt on our tongue. We also found that Sea Salt had a slightly different, less bitter aftertaste than the iodized table salt. Both Sea and Table salts used an anti-caking agent. The only real ingredient difference was iodine. The best tasting salt was the French Grey Salt. While there was a slight flavor difference we feel it would not be distinguishable "in" food. However, for special dishes that benefit from a sprinkling of salt prior to serving, the Grey Salt is a superior ingredient. We did not feel the normal processed Sea Salt had sufficient flavor difference to warrant a lot of extra cost.
However we should note that the authors of The New Cooks Catalogue disagree with our assessment. They state;
"These days, natural sea salt, fine or coarse, has become widely available in supermarkets, and most people who use it find that it distinctly enhances the flavor of food. We agree and believe that if sea salt is available, there is no reason to use regular table salt...or kosher salt is a good alternative."
If your primary use for salt is for cooking we recommend Kosher Salt and the use of Grey Salt for "special" preparations and presentations. We liked the lighter texture of the Kosher salt and find the fact that it has no additives or iodine to be a plus. If you add salt at the table on occasion then you can keep some in a salt grinder ready for use.You may also use the larger crystal sea salt in your grinder if you prefer.
Kosher Salt - Use coarse pickling salt which contains no additives and is roughly the same texture. You can also use non-iodized table salt but use half as much as the recipe calls for (table salt is more dense). Kosher salt adheres to the food better than table salt.
Pickling Salt - Use Kosher salt as a substitute because it does not contain any anti-caking additives which will cause your pickling brine to cloud. Pickling salt is fine-grained so you can double the amount of Kosher salt, or use a salt grinder and grid the Kosher salt before you measure it.
Grey Sea Salt - Kosher salt or coarse Sea salt is the best substitute for recipes requiring coarse Grey salt. If a recipe calls for fine sea salt you can substitute regular table salt.
Pretzel Salt - Kosher salt is a good substitute or coarse sea salt.
Table Salt - If a recipe calls for table salt you can use roughly 2 X's the amount of Kosher salt or substitute the exact amount of sea salt.
Cocktail Glass Salt - Cocktails such as Margaritas and Bloody Mary's are traditionally served in a glass with a salted rim.
Sprinkle Kosher salt on a plate. Moisten the rim of the glass with lime or lemon and dip the glass rim into the salt using a slight twisting motion. Lightly shake off excess salt.