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Jun 16, 2009 04:03 PM

those little wooden boxes for salt

I am always browsing for cooking stuff; arent' we all! Many times I have seen those little wooden boxes for salt. Most recently I saw a beautiful one made of olive wood. But I have several question that I'm hoping all you knowledgeable CHers can help me with.

1) what purpose does a salt box serve? is it just for convenience to have the salt on the counter or something more important having to do with the salt itself?
2) does it matter what kind of wood it is? (I guess not if the answer to above is "convenience".)
3) can one put any kind of salt (kosher, sea, etc.) into any box?
4) this one is especially for fellow New Yorkers or other residents with small kitchens: is this something that I won't mind using up precious counter-top space for? Does any cook with a small nyc kitchen use one? And if so, have you had any problems with bugs?

I am really fascinated by these little boxes. (Can't you tell?) They seem like something some old world cook would have on the counter near the hearth while cooking. I sound a little nuts. Anyway, I like them but hesitate to buy one.



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  1. LNG,

    1) A salt box just makes it easier when cooking so you don't have to dig in your cupboard for a pinch of salt.
    2) I don't think it matters what kind of wood it is.
    3) Any kind of salt is fine in a box as long as you would need it on the fly.
    4) I can't answer the first part to that one but as for the bugs there will be no problems with them. After all, the reason for curing meats with salt was to keep germs from growing in the meat and I don't know of any bugs that like to crawl on pure salt.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulc1978

      Thanks so much. I think I would like to get one. And you're right, it definitely would make adding a pinch of salt much more easily accomplished without fishing for the box. The bugs I was worried about are roaches - the scourge of us ny-ers; but I totally see your point now.

    2. A salt cellar (or salt pig) and a good pepper grinder are indispensable. I recommend something with a lid like Alton Brown's version:


      2 Replies
      1. re: sobriquet

        I use the salt cellar in the link. It lives next to my cooktop and I can't recommend it highly enough. I find it more ergonomic (although less attractive) than the traditional salt boxes I've used, since it has a "trigger" that you use to open the lid with your non-pinching hand.

        1. re: sobriquet

          I used one of these styles for years. Inexpensive(I think I paid $15 in a kitchen store) and functional, easy to clean.

          I replaced it last year with an Emile Henry salt cellar. The new one doesn't function any better or worse but I loved the new fig color they came out with so splurged.

        2. Between you and me, I suffer from the same browsing/shopping obsession when it comes to kitchen gear. Last year, I bought one of those little olive wood boxes with a swing lid, thinking it would be cool to keep on the counter. I was just being silly and throwing my money away.

          For one thing, my fingernails are too long to make the "pinch" method of salting while cooking efficient or even hygienic. The salt stays under my nails and grosses me out. I am used to working with the manufacturers original box packaging, pouring a little into the palm of my hand so that I can eyeball the amount, and adding it to the food. The salt box does not allow me to do that. In the case of kosher salt, I add it to small jars that pour. Second, I am not comfortable continuing to reintroduce my hands (which are clean and frequently washed during cooking) to the salt supply. It can't possibly be as hygienic to touch the salt over and over.

          So, it is now in my closet in a spice rack. Unfortunately, it is not a great spice container, as it does not close well (it is meant to have a prominent place in your mise en place), so I often find myself cleaning salt off the shelf because it was inadvertently tipped and spilled.

          No, unless you are used to adding salt using the pinch method, a la TV chef, don't bother. But it really is cute...

          3 Replies
          1. re: RGC1982

            If you can find me an example of a kitchen bacterium that can live on pure salt rocks, then I will stop reaching into my salt cellar with my grimy hands.

            I wouldn't use one for fine salt (my pinches are way too erratic to be trusted with regular table salt - coarse salt is much more forgiving in that regard), but my mom gave me a salt cellar for Christmas a couple of years ago and it has quickly become one of my favorite things in my kitchen. The one I have is ceramic with a wooden lid and designed to be wall-mounted, but since the most convenient/logical wall is ceramic tile, I keep it perched on the back of my stove and loaded with kosher salt. I have a very small kitchen (albeit in Toronto, not NYC), and wouldn't dream of putting my salt away.

            1. re: Wahooty

              My comment had to do with the salt under my nails, not the bacteria that might live in salt. I agree that nothing is likely to live in the salt itself.

              However, with long fingernails, other food stuff and grime can be introduced. If I had just been breading cutlets, for example, even after using a brush, some egg/flour/breadcrumb goo is under there if you look carefully, so the possibility of introducing some foreign item to the salt definitely exists. This, however, is my complaint because I choose to have long nails. This is probably not a problem for many others.

              1. re: RGC1982

                Or there are surgical gloves. I always wear them when working with meats, fish or poultry, then take them off as soon as I'm done. No problem with clean hands in salt!

          2. I am usually hesitant about adding new doodads to my kitchen, but after seeing a photo of a salt pig once, I knew I wanted one. A a few years later (this was not an impulse buy!) I bought one in a kitchen store.

            I love my little salt pig! It's made of a ceramic material, comes with a matching little ceramic spoon (I'd estimate it holds about 1/4/teaspoon), and unlike the box in question, has no lid, but an oval opening in the front. This doesn't seem to be a problem: As previous posters mentioned, no bug has ever seemed to have an interest in taking up residence inside.

            The salt pig takes up very little real estate on the kitchen counter; sometimes it lives on the top of the instrument panel of the stove. I have kept both kosher and regular salt in it.

            Whenever I need to measure out salt, I reach right into the salt pig with a measuring spoon. (I do use it for pinching salt with my fingertips, but only occasionally .) I find this much neater, easier and more convenient than trying to aim the pouring spout of a carton of salt at a bitty little measuring spoon and pouring salt onto the counter beneath as well as into the spoon.

            1. I have used a small, antique, unlidded, box for kosher salt for more than twenty years. It holds about 2 C of salt. When I have fingernails, I keep a spoon in it to help with the pinching problem. There has never been a bug in my salt that I know of and cannot imagine any bug making a bee-line for salt.

              When I lived in a tiny (read: 900 sq ft) house in oldtown Alexandria VA and had a Ken & Barbie kitchen, I nailed the box to a wall.

              I wouldn't be without my salt box if I can help it. Actually, now I have two. I keep a French olive lidded canister on the island for prep, etc there to save a couple of steps over to the cooktop each time I need salt. Ditto for peppermills.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sherri

                I did a similar thing for measuring. I keep two little scoops in the salt, one is wood and measures 1/2 tsp, the other is metal and measures 1 tbsp. I keep my nails short so a pinch is a pinch of my fingers. The only time I've ever found anything other than salt in my saltbox (vintage 1960's) is when I left the lid up and as I moved the pepper grinder from it's perch on the counter over to the dish I was making a tiny bit pf pepper fell from the bottom of the grinder into the salt, easily removed with the little scoop.