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Dec 2, 2010 10:00 AM

Does the type of salt make a difference in a brine solution?

Another post got me thinking why recipes for brining call for different types of salts -- e.g. coarse, Kosher, table, etc.

Yes, I know that different types of salts have different volumes (and weights) as well as texture.

But when it comes to a brine, texture is immaterial once the salt is dissolved, right?

And as far as volume, this can be controlled and adjusted for so that no matter what kind of salt you are using you can achieve the same level of "saltiness".

In other words, ceteris peribus, is there any reason to use one type of salt over another when making a brine?

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  1. The only real factor is the volume, which as you mention, as long as you're measuring by weight won't be an issue. But if the recipe calls for 1 cup kosher salt and they used Diamond Crystal as the standard, then if you use Mortons you'll need to use less than a cup (probably about 3/4 cup) to get the same saltiness by volume.

    The upshot, as I understand it, is just to always measure salt by weight, and then it doesn't matter what you use.

    6 Replies
    1. re: monopod


      So why do you think recipes call for different types of salt? Isn't it always better just to use the least expensive salt -- i.e., table salt? Again, everything else being equal ...

      1. re: ipsedixit

        So why do you think recipes call for different types of salt?

        Brings to mind a Martha Stewart program I saw once where she said to clean copper pots using fresh lemon juice and sea salt. As if the pots will taste better than if you use vinegar and table salt. But I digress.

        The type of salt might make a difference if you are sprinkling it on top of something, but for brines or any dish where the salt is dissolved the main difference is how fast the salt will dissolve (so rock salt would be a bad choice). Pickling salt has is very fine and dissolves in room temperature water, but that doesn't mean it's the only you can use for pickling. Iodized salt does taste slightly different to me, but would it make a noticeable difference in a brine? Probably not, but I don't use the stuff so can't say for sure.

        And there is kosher salt and salt that is kosher. Kosher salt is for koshering meat, which involves cleaning with salt. I'm no rabbi, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the jewish dietary laws that says anything about the grain shape of salt. Any kind of salt, including table salt, can be kosher.

        1. re: Zeldog

          Why would the rate of dissolution matter? Most people dissolve their salt (and other ingredients) in boiling water before letting it cool to brine their chicken, turkey, etc.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Because if you use a fine grained salt like pickling salt you save 30 minutes to an hour because you don't need to heat the water and then wait for it to cool down. Just dissolve in room temp water (takes about 30 seconds of vigorous stirring) and you're good to go.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              I think that heating or boiling brine water is only meaningful when you're infusing spices or other aromatics into the brine. I find that even coarse kosher salt dissolves readily when you you put your salt and a good proportion of the water into a gallon ziplock back. Then, using your hands, you can agitate the bag effectively by gathering the salt into corners and pushing and sloshing the bag wherever salt remains undissolved. Kids have a good time with this. Hell, I like it, too! Takes 60 seconds or less.

              1. re: Bada Bing

                Yeah, I don't see how different textured salts will have significantly different rates of dissolution in a warm liquid.

      2. If you're using bulk measurements (as monopod pointed out) the type/brand of salt will make a difference. If the recipe specifies a particular type/brand of salt, measure that as the recipe recommends and weigh the result. Errase the bulk (volume) quantity in your copy of the recipe and replace it with the weight you identified. Your recipe is now ready for anyone and everyone to use.
        Oh how I look forward to the glorious day when everyone throws away their measuring cups and weighs ingredients. I suspect that's what it will take for those who write recipes using bulk mesurements to mend their ways.

        9 Replies
        1. re: todao

          Totally agree, but again that's not my question.

          My question is, ceteris peribus, is there any reason to use one type of salt over another when making a brine solution?

          If there isn't, then why do recipes specify one type of salt over another?

          1. re: ipsedixit

            If you were keeping Kosher and preparing a Kosher turkey, you'd most likely use Kosher salt.

            1. re: monku

              Like I said, ceteris peribus ...

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Ceteris paribus or tell my adopted Jewish grandmother there is no difference.

                1. re: monku

                  True as it may be, ipsedixit does not appear to a Jew and you are answering ipsedixit's question, not your grandmother's


            2. re: ipsedixit

              I suppose that using iodized table salt might affect flavor. I've never used that.

              But for those recipes that specify salt brands, I bet the issue is most often either Morton Kosher or Diamond Kosher. Diamond is flakier, hence airier. Measuring by volume, you need to say something like "1 cup Diamond Kosher Salt or 3/4 cup Morton Kosher Salt."

              For recipe writers that don't want to spell out both brands, they give one volume and one specific brand.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                "My question is, ceteris peribus, is there any reason to use one type of salt over another when making a brine solution?"


                1. re: ipsedixit

                  "If there isn't, then why do recipes specify one type of salt over another?"

                  Quid quaeris. I suspect that the author of the recipe either didn't know much about the specific simple basic chemistry of salt and/or simply wrote down the type/brand of salt they had on hand when they prepared the recipe or that the original recipe was published by the maker of a particular brand of salt or that they wanted to make the novice cook feel more comfortable - realizing that the novice cook might feel the type of salt was critical. I don't usually spend time trying to figure out the motives behind why certain folks write recipes the way they do. Many of them don't seem to understand how to sequence their list of ingredients (I'm sure you've already noticed that) so rest your mind and get back to cooking something. It's a lot more fun.

                  1. re: todao

                    Good to know I'm not the only one going crazy ...

              2. If you are bringing the brine or brined food into contact with any reactive metals (e.g., aluminum pan or foil, or cast iron, or carbon steel, or steel grates), you want to omit the iodized salts. I would also omit it if you shake your iodized salt on other food even every other day--that's enough iodine.

                7 Replies
                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Whoa .. really???

                  Is there really enough iodine in iodized salt to actually affect, much less harm, pots and pans? If so, can you point me to a link. This would be rather interesting. I understand iodine is reactive, but in such minute amounts?

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    There isn't enough iodine in iodized salt to harm people (who might even have an iodine allergy) or pots and pans.

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      OK, I just started to brine a piece of aluminum foil using iodized salt. Let you know tomorrow what it looks like.

                      1. re: paulj

                        Shouldn't you also brine a piece of aluminum foil using un-iodized salt as a control?

                        1. re: monku

                          I'll try that later if anything interesting happens with this step.

                          1. re: paulj

                            I'm rushing out to buy all new pots and pans even as I type this.

                        2. re: paulj

                          I did not see any pitting or other obvious corrosion on the aluminum foil.

                          I used a large enough piece of foil that I had to crumple it up to fit in the small container with the brine. Next time (if ever) I would use small squares that can fit without folding. It would be easier to examine the smooth uncrinkled surface.