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Is sea salt 'saltier' than normal salt?

Hey guys, I just got this bag of flakey sea salt I've been coveting for a couple of weeks, and seasoned two ribeyes with it.

Usually I'll use rock salt, ground or not, but although I think I used a similar amount of sea salt, the steaks were slightly over-seasoned for my taste. They were really good, but it put a crimp on my enjoyment.

but is it somehow "saltier"? I can't imagine how it could be, because salt is comprised of salt and trace amounts of anything else. Maybe it was absorbed in a different way? Or maybe I mis-judged?

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  1. Sea salt is more savory, thus you need less to season your food. I use it as a finishing salt. I use course kosher salt to cook with. Common table salt is bland and has a chemical taste.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cstr

      So you would season a steak with kosher, and (for instance) sprinkle sea salt over some roast potatoes?

      1. re: Soop

        I would season, while cooking, with kosher and gently finish the steak with sea before serving. Potatoes season with kosher and then roast, sea will not stick as well. About the only thing I use common salt for is seasonong H2O for boiling pasta or blanching veggies.

    2. Sea salt is not saltier in that it contains more sodium chloride, however its crystals are usually larger than those of table salt. What you are perceiving as salinity is an effect of these larger crystals and its differing rate of dissolution compared to table salt.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JungMann

        If you want to prove JungMann right, all you have to do is dissolve equal masses of salt in the same amount of water. You won't be able to taste the difference. But if you salt the surface of your food, the larger crystal salt will taste saltier -simply because it hasn't completely dissolved, and you get blasts of salt crystals on your tongue.

        For soup and liquids, all salts are the same. For dry salting, larger crystal salts taste saltier.

      2. All forms of salt contain about the same amount of sodium by weight.

        However, sea salts are usually lower in sodium by volume because the shape of the crystals make them less compact than the fine crystals in table salt. The coarser the grind, the more space it takes up and the less sodium by volume.

        I think the effect you are tasting is due to the different shape of sea salt vis-a-vis table salt as JungMann noted above.

        1. Ok, thanks guys. I paid attention last night and used a bit less, and it still tasted fine.
          Who'd have thought eh? Looks like it's actually going to be better for me?

          10 Replies
          1. re: Soop

            I wouldn't say that's necessarily true either. If you want the same salinity in a sea salted steak versus a table salted steak, you are still using the same amount of sodium. You may get trace minerals from sea salt that are absent in table salt, but they are present only in insignificant amounts. And certainly the amount of iodine is greatly increased in enriched table salts.

            1. re: JungMann

              Ah, ok. I remember starting a thread ages ago about sea salt and the difference between salts. I still maintain that table salt tastes worse - kind of... duller? Flat profile?

              1. re: Soop

                I am a sea salt believer after trying it once in graduate school. It simply has more favor than just saltiness. There are other favors to it which makes it more interesting. The problem is this. All table salt tastes pretty much the same because all are made with NaCl. Not all sea salt tastes the same because the impurities are different from one sea salt to another.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Dissolve equal masses of salt in water. Taste the water. If you can tell the difference, then those differences are real and the result of other molecules in the salt. Otherwise, it's the crystal shape and size hitting your tongue.

                  (I've done the experiment - they're all the same when dissolved).

                  1. re: Indirect Heat

                    Unforunately, I cannot do that experiement anymore. There was a sea salt (the first oneI tried) and it tastes distinctively different than normal table salt. It isn't saltier, it has some other tastes which I cannot describe. Ever since then, I have never gotten sea salt which tastes quiet like that. This is why I wrote "not all sea salts are the same".

                    I have fine, coarse salts and all. I understand coarser salt can give a burst of saltiness because of the crystal size, but the first sea salt I tried was not like that. First, it is of similar size. Second, it wasn't saltier. It just has more favors.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Most likely your "first sea salt" experience was one that was flavored.

                      Maybe something like this: http://www.saltworks.us/fusion-flavor...

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Maybe favored, but definitely not those, because the extra favor wasn't that strong. I bought it at Whole Foods when I were a graduate student.

                        Now, I do like to add that I am buying inexpensive sea salts these days and they have similar appearance as standard table salt. White as snow -- rather whiter than snow. The first sea salt I bought at Whole Foods was ever slightly yellowish and it had some black particles in them. Probably a hundred white particles to one black one.

                        Maybe I need to buy those funny colored sea salt next time.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I don't know about "that", and I still don't know what those black particles were.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Black or dark colored particulates occur naturally in sea salts.

          2. I have been cooking and eating with mostly sea salt for years -- I get it in a huge bag and do not see a reason for using anything else even to salt the pasta water. And in the last two weeks I have the unique opportunity to have to live with only table salt, or more accurately, iodized salt.

            I cannot say whether one is saltier than the other because the granularity is a bit different -- super fine/fine ground versus coarse ground, but one thing is apparent. The table salt definitely leaves a bitter and, dare I say, metallic aftertaste. To such an extent that I am actually avoiding the habitual finishing of salt on my food -- boiled eggs, meat dishes -- and I am a salt lover. It is impressive that long after eating, the bitter taste remains.