Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Mar 31, 2007 03:21 PM

Salt, salt, salt

SO many kinds of salt. When do you know when to use a specific kind of salt over another. i.e. When do you use sea salt, over kosher salt?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Whenever the heck you want!
    All salts, whether it's 3 cents a pound or 37.38 a pound is 97.5% NaCl- for general seasoning purposes (and for baking) the cheaper the better. Chefs like Kosher and other coarse salts because it's easier to pick up by the pinch and if it is added at the end of the food prep, the coarser crystals hit the tongue like fireworks instead of a blanket the way fine or tablesalt does.
    As for the artisnal salts (murray river, sel gris, fleur de sel, Alean, etc...), they can be treated like a garnish- only added just before service on things like fresh produce, salads, and sliced meats like carpaccio.
    All salts are "salty"- it's just a matter of what other qualites you desire to enhance the dish. Morton's sea salt in the canister is basically the same as their regular EZPour table salt, just without the Iodine. A french Fleur de Sel is almost exactly the same thing, chemically, but has a much more exciting texture. The best way to learn the "best" way to use an ingredient is to keep using it until you find your favorite!

    18 Replies
    1. re: lunchbox

      Very well said...all the "artisanal" salts are fine for general use (if you don't mind paying for the pleasure) or with specific dishes but the bottom line is always "salty". One things that gets on my nerves is the insistence by all the TV chefs and authors on using "kosher" salt....can someone explain to me what the difference is between coarse salt and "kosher" salt?....

      1. re: Pollo

        Well, coarse salt covers a range of salts so salinity per unit of volume is more variable; kosher salt is a specific kind. Kosher salt dissolves well.

        When you need a specific level of salinity (for brining or pickling, for example), then knowing the salinity level of the salt is imperative.

        Normally, btw, in recipes you should assume that Kosher salt means Diamond Crystal, which is half as saline per unit of volume as table salt. (That means you could substitute half the amount of table salt if you didn't have kosher salt on hand.) Morton's is 2/3 as saline as table salt per unit of volume, so you'd use less Morton's than the recipe would indicate. Diamond Crystal is the standard in American cookery because Morton's salt is more processed and has anti-caking agents.

        1. re: Karl S

          Brilliant as always, KarlS!
          I just wanted to emphasize something you said: Salinity by VOLUME.
          Professional bakers and many home cookbooks these days list ingredients by WEIGHT.
          When making say, a batch of cookies and the recipe calls for 1/4teaspoon of salt, the recipe probably assumes that the cook is using table salt. If all you have is Diamond Kosher, then you would have to double the volume. If the recipe, however, read "12 grams of salt," then the cook could quickly weigh out that measure out of kosher, table, or even popcorn salt.
          For savory purposes, salt is almost always added "to taste" and the recipes that suggest 1Tablespoon of salt for a 4 lb. chicken re estimating how much salt as used to evenly coat the meat.

          1. re: lunchbox

            That is great to know about the salinity by volume. I usually only have kosher salt on hand so I have been using that in my baking. Now I know better.

            1. re: alex8alot

              I read somewhere - and it made perfect sense - that baking recipes are written for table salt. Since you add the salt to dry ingredients, the salt doesn't dissolve as it would in liquid. The much smaller particles of table salt can disperse more evenly throughout the dry ingredients than the larger Kosher crystals so you don't bite into a chunk of salt in a cookie or pastry. Other than that, I use Kosher salt for regular cooking.
              Of course, with salt in sweet desserts being trendy now...

              1. re: MakingSense

                Unless a recipe states otherwise, you should measure as for table salt. I get a fine-grained sea salt from my local co-op and also keep Kosher salt for savory recipes.

                I have always used 2/3rds the same measure when I translate from Kosher salt to table salt.

                I tend to use Morton's Kosher salt, as it is made locally.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  Two things you say are interesting. I use Morton's Kosher salt for baking and have never tasted a chunk of salt. Do you use Diamond? I'm wondering if it's the anti-caking of Morton's that keeps it from clumping in chunks in baked goods.

                  And what do you mean by "salt in sweet desserts"? I assume not just a touch of salt like most everyone adds to sweets.

            2. re: Karl S

              Interesting. So, which is lower in Sodium, 1 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, or 1 tsp Mortons Kosher Salt? How would it compare to Course or Fine Sea Salt ?

              1. re: Fleur

                "coarse" or "fine" sea salt is generic and has no definite potency.

                2 tablespoons of Diamond kosher is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of table salt (2:1 ratio). 1.5 tablespoons of Morton's kosher is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of table salt (3:2 ratio).

                1. re: Fleur

                  Same amount of sodium.

                  Diamond has larger crystals than Morton's, so less fits into a dry measuring device.

                  "Morton Kosher Salt weighs about 7.7 ounces per cup, making it three-fourths as strong as table salt. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt weighs about 5 ounces per cup, making it half as strong as table salt."


                2. re: Karl S

                  I did a quick check of the salts that are available and the two Kosher salts (Diamond and Mortons) both had the same texture...coarsely ground...but I also found a couple of non-kosher salts that had the same texture. As far as dissolving goes I don't see Kosher disolving any better that non-kosher if the crystal size is more-or-less the same.

                  Your point about salt volume and salinity is well taken....there will be differences depending on salt cristal size, humidity, anti-caking agents, etc. However, as long as the recepie states the amount (weight) of salt that is required then it makes absolutely no difference is its "Kosher" or non kosher will bet the same amount of salinity...

                  1. re: Pollo

                    I have Mortons now, but have had Diamond in the past. If my memory is correct, Diamond crystals are flatter, more like flakes than grains.


                  2. re: Karl S

                    I finally thought to search "salt" and have questions. I aked them on another thread when the topic of salt came up but never got a reply.

                    I like coarse-ground salt. I have better control of the amt. when I sprinkle it w/my fingers and it's much more efficient than fine-ground for cleaning my cast iron pieces.

                    I've tried (in chron. order) sea salt of several different kinds, Diamond Crystal, and Morton's Kosher. Problem is that I live on the coast where it's always fairly humid, and only Morton's doesn't turn into a moist-to-soupy mass in either a shaker box (like most sea salt comes in) or the little open wood salt bowl by the stove.

                    Before I finally found Morton's with its blessed anti-caking agent, I tried every way I know to keep my sea/Diamond salt dry.

                    I bought the cutest terra cotta "Original Suffolk Salt Canister" ("Ideal for home or safari":o) w/gasketed lid. The gasket made the lid just hard enough to pull off that it would fly out of my hands every 3rd time I tried to open it with my wet or greasy hands, and in the short time it would be open there by the stove--as I was maybe browning a lot of meat in several batches--it absorbed enough moisture before I resealed it that it was a solid block the next day.

                    I threw away 3-4 boxes of sea salt and a huge box of Diamond and was ready to go back to good ol' "When it rains it pours" table salt (even though the holes in my shakers were usually packed solid and had to be cleaned every few minutes, even with more rice than salt in them). Then I learned about Morton's Kosher from a neighbor.

                    My two questions are, (1) What's wrong with an anti-caking agent? I've googled it and can't find anything detrimental to health about yellow prussiate of soda. Morton's (both the iodized and Kosher) always seems to place at or near the top in taste-tests.

                    (2) How do you who use sea salt or Diamond keep it from caking up/turning to soup/sprinkling in uneven clumps/sticking to your fingers? Even if you live in a low-humidity climate, doesn't just the normal moisture in the kitchen--esp. by the stovetop where you're always cooking something that's releasing moisture into the air--affect the salt you surely keep right next to it?

                    1. re: PhoebeB

                      Having jsut moved out of a saturated garden apartment to a welcomely drier second floor unit, I feel your pain about pervasive humidity!

                      I would suggest keeping your boxes of salt (and sugar and whatnot) in airtight plastic containers in the dryesp place in your kitchen- for me, it was a cabinet above my stove- the heat of the pilot lights created a slightly arid part of the kitchen. I would pour about a cup's worth into a rammekin and use that salt until I used it up or it started clumping, then jus toss it and pour myself some more- Like I said in my first post in this thread, I use the cheapest salt I can get for "saltiness"- finishing salts are a garnish.

                      To answer some of your other questions- Nothin's wrong with caking agents. I actually prefer Mortons' texture. I do find iodized salt a little metalic, but some of the inert anti caking stuff is just fine.
                      As for keeping salts from sticking to your fingers and getting better distribution- height! Sprinkling salt for even distribution should be treated like a spray can- hold your hand 8-12 inches away (or more) and use a somewhat vigourous finger dance to spray the crystals far and wide- My floors and counters can look like a snow storm, but a damp paper towel is worth having properly seasoned food! If your salt is always too damp- consider getting a bowl with a fliptop lid- (do you watch Good Eats on FN? Alton has a great salt dish!)

                      1. re: PhoebeB

                        I've always put rice kernals in with the salt in sealable containers. The rice extends the "life" of the salt.

                        1. re: hannaone

                          Thank both you and lunchbox. If there's no disadvantage to Morton's anti-caking agent I have no more problems. I love that salt and need no other.
                          It was the last sentence of Karl S's post than concerned me a little.

                          Speaking of salt: I was just cleaning the huge armoire in my BR, putting away all the winter clothes/blankets and unpacking the summer things into it. I keep extra bars of soap and lavender bags tucked between the sweaters, etc., and they went tumbling everywhere as I pulled things out. Among them I found a cute little round, cork-topped box of what-I'd-thought-was-bath salts my daughter brought me from France last year. I think I'd tried a pinch in the bathtub and thought it singularly unfragrant, but hated to throw it away for sentimental reasons and because the container was so cute.

                          Reading the label again today (it's all in French) I see that it is not bath salt but sea salt: "Fleur de sel de Camargue", 4.4 oz. Googling that I discover that is is VERY FINE sea salt. So I'll put it in the terra cotta "safari" canister and reserve it for special things.

                    2. re: Pollo

                      Most properly it's not really 'kosher' salt (although that's the common parlance), but 'koshering' salt. It's called that because the coarse crystals do a better job of drawing out the blood (which is a necessary part of making meats kosher), precisely because they _don't_ dissolve so quickly and so stay on the surface of the meat longer.

                      1. re: GVDub

                        What you said actually makes perfect sense....based on what I know of the process of certifying a product "Kosher" I could not see how it would apply to salt....

                  3. I've recently become a huge fan of smoked salt. The easiest way to add a dimension that's hard to find in many foods, just don't overdo it, of course.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: kindofabigdeal

                      I use Ballentines sea salt, and Diamond Kosher. I put the Kosher salt into a grinder, for some reason we really like the kosher ground fine, and prefer the sea salt in its coarser form. Being a salt lover, and before never seeming to get enough salt, I always had the shake close at hand. For some reason I get less salt, and my salt satisfaction is taken care of.

                        1. re: lollya

                          I got mine at a Texas only gourmet grocery store called "central market." I'd start there, and maybe it'll be in the bulk section so you can get a whiff first. At my store (just to make you jealous) there's about 15-20 different salts to choose from, and you can purchase as much or little as you'd like. You can find it online. I know that amazon has it. The two kinds I've tried are alderwood and a chardonnay cask. The latter is very unique and the former is amazing on most any savory food.

                      1. Different salts taste so different to me. Maybe not as an ingredient, but when I get some on my finger, and I LOVE to taste the flavors. Hawaiian sea salt tastes exactly like snorkeling in Hawaii and brings back a flood of memories. Spanish salt is like nothing else. La Baleine french sea salt is good and basic. Morton's Iodized tastes like chemicals to me and I don't want it in my food. If you eat seaweed regularly, you don't need to take extra iodine.

                        1. I only use Fleur de Sel from France..
                          It is outstanding and you can buy it at Trader Joe's or gourmet stores..