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Dec 5, 2007 01:38 PM

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.