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Potentially embarassing question: Kosher salt versus sea salt?

Are there uses where one is appropriate and the other is not and why? I usually buy the canisters of the non-iodized Baleine sea salt, but have read references here and in recipes that certain tasks -- like brining -- should only be done with kosher salt. Is this really true? What would happen if I used sea salt? Could this possibly be the reason why my Zuni Chicken is always so salty?

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  1. Don't know, but:

    Kosher is refined and purified rock salt. Sea salt is refined from tidal pools.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Invariably? Diamond Crystals Kosher is I believe an evaporated salt, unlike Morton's, which is crushed rock salt. Much less harsh in the flavor department.

    2. The main difference in various salts is the shape of the crystals. The shape of the crystals can affect the measuring of the salt: there will be more fine salt in a tablespoon than coarse salt. So using one instead of the other could change the salt content of your dish. But once salt is dissolved in water, it's all pretty much the same -- I'm sure some people will claim they can taste the difference in the trace minerals, but I'd love to see them try it in a blind tasting at concentrations people would actually use.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        The magnesium in unrefined salt provides a bitter aftertaste.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          That's an extreme generalization. "Salt" has different mineral "impurities" depending on its source and will not necessarily contain significant amounts of magnesium. Furthermore, most people can't taste the slight bitter aftertaste of some salts. Actually, it's refined salt that's had iodine added that most people seem to find bitter.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Rock salts normally have traces of other minerals most commonly including calcium, magnesium, sulphur, and phosphorus. Among these, magnesium gives a particularly bitter aftertaste tasted by just about anyone. Is that an "extreme generalization"?

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              SInce you said "salt" not "rock salt" then yes. How about sea salt? How about sea salt from different locations?

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Sea salt as well in regards to magnesium.

                Yes, sea salts from different locations taste a bit different, although I'm with you re: your previous statement that many peoplle wouldn't be able to tell the difference among salts sold for use with/as food.

                My previous point had to with unrefined salt--both rock and sea. Both need magnesium removed because of the bitter flavor.

                Hate to use the Wikipedia entry for "salt" but it includes:

                "Completely raw sea salt is bitter due to magnesium and calcium compounds, and thus is rarely eaten…. Salt is also obtained by evaporation of sea water, usually in shallow basins warmed by sunlight; salt so obtained was formerly called bay salt, and is now often called sea salt or solar salt."...

                "Today, most refined salt is prepared from rock salt: mineral deposits high in salt…. After the raw salt is obtained, it is refined to purify it and improve its storage and handling characteristics. Purification usually involves recrystallization. In recrystallization, a brine solution is treated with chemicals that precipitate most impurities (largely magnesium and calcium salts). Multiple stages of evaporation are then used to collect pure sodium chloride crystals, which are kiln-dried."

                Magnesium needs to be removed from both sea salt and salt from rock salt.

        2. As Ruth points out, kosher salt takes up more space than an equal weight of table salt. Roughly twice as much, depending on brand of kosher. So if your brine recipe calls for 1 cup of kosher salt, you'd use 1/2 cup of table (sea) salt in its place.

          Kosher salt is recommended for brining because of its purity. Iodized salt can cause discoloration of the meat being brined, or so I'm told. I have no personal experience of this, I've never tried it. If you haven't noticed this with sea salt, I'd say go ahead and use it.

          1. We can discuss all day long the merits of the various salts but for a brine it comes down to expense IMO. I would not use sea salt in a brine because even cheap sea salts are too expensive for that job. I use Kosher for brining mostly because I don't keep iodized table salt in the house and I won't waste the sea salt on it. As someone said already, generally speaking kosher salt is about half as salty as table or sea salts by volume (1 cup of table salt is almost twice as salty as 1 cup of Kosher.)

            1. I have a potentially dumb question. If regular salt is iodized and kosher salt is not, does that mean that if you use kosher salt exclusively, you are in danger of developing goiter (at least I think that's what added iodine prevents).

              4 Replies
                1. re: PDXpat

                  Didn't see it addressed in the article, so my question is: is the sea salt I am using just naturally iodized, given its briny origins?

                  (I hope so...I personally loathe the taste of iodized table salt...)

                  So curious,

                  1. re: cayjohan

                    You'd have to ask the supplier/manufacturer that question. Sea salts from different parts of the world have different compositions and different production processes, so there's really no other practical way for a consumer to know.

                2. re: katnat

                  Katnat & Cayjohn: 5 years late, but to Cayjohn, the answer is that sea salt doesn't have a significant amount of iodine in it, but there are some 'iodized' sea salts available.

                  To both of you: unless you don't eat commercially packaged/prepared foods, you don't have to worry about iodine. There is salt in nearly everything that you eat that is commercially packaged, usually a shockingly high amount, and that's pretty much all made with iodiized salt.

                  Check the label of nearly anything you eat to see how much salt is actually present. A typical slice of bread has close to 150mg of sodium. Check your butter, cheeses, ketchup, mayo, salad dressings, for example. Heck, even raw beef, chicken, pork, milk, and even raw eggs contain sodium due to animal feed being suplemented with salt, usually iodized.

                  Unless you're Amish or an uber-strict naturalist, you don't have to worry about iodine deficiency. Enjoy your kosher & sea salts.

                3. I don't think Kosher salat tastes as salty...it's a softer flavor.

                  1. Sea salt is more of a "finishing" salt than kosher salt. You could use sea salt exclusively if it won't break your budget, but in many uses, kosher salt is just fine, for example: brinining, adding to pasta water, and in cooking generally.
                    Sea salt is at its best sprinkled on before serving -- think: cooked green beans sprinkled w/ sea salt.
                    I also use sea salt in my scrambled eggs, 'cause well, I like it.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: NYchowcook

                      hey! do you mean sea salt are much more expensive than kosher salt?

                      1. re: hae young

                        I think NYchowcook (who posted that almost two years ago) probably was thinking of sea salts like fleur de sel (or similar), which can be very expensive. Plain sea salt isn't necessarily more expensive than "regular" or Kosher salt (I buy it in bulk for about 29 cents a pound). The fancy sea salts are indeed for adding to finished dishes, where they retain their unique texture and where any subtle differences in flavor are more readily apparent. If you're going to cook salt into a dish or otherwise dissolve it, there's no reason to use a large-flaked sea salt.

                        1. re: hae young

                          Like Ruth, I buy bulk sea salt---large grained mostly--- at my coop and its really not that expensive. We use it for pretty much everything including dissolving it into pasta water.

                          personally I'm still confused by the iodine issue.

                          1. re: jenn

                            What's confusing about the iodine issue?

                      2. Thanks for asking this question, Megiac, I had been wondering about it, myself. And it looks as though you got your answer: this *is* the reason that your chicken is salty!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: vvvindaloo

                          I'm cooking up a Zuni chicken tonight with kosher salt, so I'll report back on the difference.

                        2. Morton's - not one single reason to waste money on anything else.

                          1. I took an all-day cooking workshop at the nearby restaurant school and was told that kosher salt is the best one to use for cooking b/c it melts fastest, and therefore distributes its flavor most evenly (and I assume it also won't harm your pots and pans as much).

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Aloo0628

                              Not true, if you are comparing it to table salt. Kosher salt's crystals are much larger than table salt's (see PDXpat's post, above) so it will dissolve more slowly than little table salt crystals. That's why many bakers prefer table salt. Also, case in point: pickling salt.

                              All salt is equally salty, because all salt is 99.9% NaCl.

                              The residual impurities are what differentiate the "tastes" of different salts. But it's been proven over and over and over again that many (some claim most) people cannot discern a difference between different types of culinary salts.

                              You can brine using any kind of salt. Table salt does not discolor foods. Sea salt is, IMO, too expensive to waste in a brine.

                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                I am with you on the "equally salty by chemical composition" aspect- but the question remains: by volume, will one type of salt result in a higher intensity of salt flavor than another? If it is true that one tablespoon will hold more fine sea salt/table salt than kosher/rock salt, then substituting one for the other in a recipe will alter the taste of food.

                                1. re: vvvindaloo

                                  Yes it will be different, by volume. By weight it will be the same.

                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    I agree. Not to belabor the point too much, but, with regard to your statement re: brining, it's important to note that in substituting one salt for the other, appropiate measurement calculations should be made.

                                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                                        Just to belabor the point a little more, I've seen "fine" kosher salt, which would have yet another different weight/volume ratio.

                                        A lot of serious bakers here swear by weighing ingredients rather than using volume measure, and I have to say, since I got a scale and started using it for recipes where the measurements were given in metric weight, I've come around to their point somewhat: 15 grams of salt would be 15 grams of salt, regardless of whether it's sea salt, rock salt, fine table salt, etc.

                              2. Report on the Zuni chicken dry brined with kosher salt instead of fine sea salt: It was noticeably less salty using the same dry measurement of kosher salt as sea salt. This makes sense given the weight/volume distinction somebody else posted about. This has previously been a big hit in my house, but definitely reached a whole new level now that the extreme saltiness was tempered.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Megiac

                                  I'm glad that, after all this discussion, you got the information you needed and that it was of help!

                                2. one thing i didn't see mentioned (maybe i missed it). another big difference between salts is grain size: even kosher salt varies: diamond weighs about 25% less by volume than Morton's. And Diamond is probably 33% lighter than fine salt. so if you're using diamond measurements with table salt, you'll wind up with a much saltier bird.

                                  1. For whatever it's worth, I was reading my Julia Child and Jaques Pepin cookbook, and Pepin says he only uses two salts: table salt for baking and kosher salt for every thing else. He finds keeping a collection of different sea salts unecessary and cluttering.

                                    Me? I agree, but I still love throwing a pinch of fleur de sel in olive oil for dipping french bread. Do whatever works.

                                    1. COARSE sea salt v. kosher salt:

                                      I get it that the shape of the salt crystals affects the quantity and, therefore, the saltiness. But this year I used COARSE sea salt instead of the usual kosher salt for making my pickles. The results were super salty pickles! (Compared to those from years past, made with the same recipe). In researching the question "Is sea salt saltier than kosher salt?" I ended up here. From my recent experience I think "yes", but of course a more definite answer would be nice. My question is "If the crystal size is the same (i.e. they are the same coarseness), is sea salt saltier than kosher salt?" It's been a year since the last post, but if some one reads this and has any input, it would be much appreciated!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: struts

                                        No. All salt is basically the same. 99% NaCl. Thus equally salty.

                                        1. re: struts

                                          The crystals may appear to be the same size, but if you used an amount of sea salt with greater weight than the weight of the kosher salt you usually use, that explains saltier pickles. This may have happened if you measured the salt in your recipe by volume rather than weight.