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Sea Salt vs Kosher Salt

i
itryalot May 8, 2011 06:55 AM

What are the major differences and should they be used for different purposes? I keep going back and forth between buying and using them.

  1. b
    Bryan Pepperseed Oct 17, 2011 06:14 AM

    Personally, I don't know too much about salt - not yet anyway.
    For those interested in salt, here are some links:

    An audio clip (about 5 min long) from The Splendid Table of Lynne interviewing the author of a book about salt -

    http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/www_publicradio/tools/media_player/popup.php?name=splendid_table/2011/10/08/splendidtable_20111008_64&starttime=00:15:35&endtime=00:23:01

    The book on amazon -
    http://www.amazon.com/Salted-Manifest...

    EDIT - Apparently the audio link might not automatically go to the 15:35 min mark for the start of the interview. It did for me the first time I went there, but the second time I had to "fast forward" using the slider.

    1. k
      kaleokahu Oct 10, 2011 08:58 PM

      I dug up this thread by search seeking to find out if sea salt is "saltier" than kosher salt. I know there are multiple sources, e.g., Wiki, etc. that say no, that the only difference is grain size and therefore weight-per-volume. However...

      Last night I made brine per Thomas Keller's Bouchon. He calls therein for a cup of kosher salt in 1 gallon of water. This I did, except the only coarse-grained salt I had was sea salt. Keller also says the pork should be brined for 24 hours. This I also did.

      It grilled up fine, looked great, but was inedibly salty. I even trimmed down to the center and tasted, because I couldn't bear throwing the pork out unused.

      What happened? The sea salt *was* coarse. Keller's a genius, and detail oriented. Was it a misprint (at p. 224)--did he *mean* "2-4 hours" and it got printed "24 hours"?

      Anyone have any explanation?

      Mahalo,
      Kaleo

      24 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu
        d
        darrentran87 Oct 11, 2011 02:09 AM

        Is this a pork loin or tenderloin? Or are you talking about a pork chop?

        24 hours does seem like an excessive amount of time...

        1. re: darrentran87
          k
          kaleokahu Oct 11, 2011 02:42 PM

          Hi, darrentran87:

          These were chops, 1.5 inches thick.

          Kaleo

          1. re: kaleokahu
            bushwickgirl Oct 11, 2011 03:21 PM

            Oh no, in that case, it very well may have been a editing error; sucks. I would never, ever brine a 1.5 inch pork chop for 24 hours, sorry to say. Two to four (2-4) hours sounds just about perfect. Chef Keller should send you some good California pork chops, just to assuage your ire.

            Keller is a genius, yes, but obviously the book's copyeditor is not.

        2. re: kaleokahu
          paulj Oct 11, 2011 09:31 AM

          This blogger didn't have problems:
          http://cookingbouchon.blogspot.com/2008/07/brine.html
          http://cookingbouchon.blogspot.com/20...

          1. re: paulj
            k
            kaleokahu Oct 11, 2011 02:47 PM

            Hi, paulj:

            Yes, well, that blogger didn't say what kind of salt or how much he used, so who knows? And he left out a few things.

            Aloha,
            Kaleo

          2. re: kaleokahu
            f
            ferret Oct 11, 2011 03:38 PM

            There is no difference, on a molecular level or otherwise between "kosher" and "sea" salt. It is, as you noted, purely a difference in weight/volume. Adding to the confusion, not all kosher salts are the same. Morton's is denser than Diamond, so you'd substitute 1/2 cup table salt for 1 cup Diamond or roughly 4/5 of a cup of table salt for Morton.

            As for your sea salt, I can't even guess what a conversion would be.

            Keep in mind, all salt is identical in taste and function, it's just the size that differs. As for "gourmet" salts, they're just plain salt with indigenous dirt included - some of which has detectable taste and some of which is just dirt.

            1. re: ferret
              m
              MazDee Oct 11, 2011 07:35 PM

              I live in a part of México where there is no "kosher salt" for sale, but I can buy coarse sea salt from Colima for less than a dollar a kilo! (Of course, when it gets to the gourmet shop, the price goes up considerably.) I use the sea salt for everything, including pickling and brining. You do have to understand the difference in volume and weight when you convert a recipe, but I haven't had any problems guessing. I have a salt grinder, but almost always use the salt in its course crystal form when cooking or seasoning food.

            2. re: kaleokahu
              paulj Oct 12, 2011 09:29 AM

              http://www.cooksillustrated.com/images/document/howto/ND01_ISBriningbasics.pdf
              is a pdf from cooks illustrated about brining, with some guidelines as to time (per pound of meat) and ratios. They discuss the differences in salt density, but they really should give ratios by weight .

              http://books.google.com/books?id=zGaR...
              Ruhlman's Ratios specifies 1 part salt, 20 parts water (by weight
              )'tast like soup that has too much salt in it'
              4-6 hrs for chops, 12-24 for loins

              Regarding time they say 1 hr/lb, no more than 8hrs, and use the size of individual pieces (e.g. if using chops). The ratio of surface area to thickness is an important variable. Your use of chops is quite a different case from the blogger who brined a 4lb roast.

              1. re: kaleokahu
                paulj Oct 12, 2011 09:31 AM

                Another pork chop brining thread
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/529362

                1. re: kaleokahu
                  i
                  itryalot Oct 16, 2011 06:24 AM

                  That does seem like a very long time for pork to be brining when cut in chops.

                  1. re: itryalot
                    k
                    kaleokahu Oct 16, 2011 07:11 PM

                    Hi, itryalot:

                    Yes, it [24 hours] seems like a long time now to me as well. Assuming Keller's brine is a good salinity level 1C/gal, my 2 pounds of chops were half of the recipe's 4 pounds, and taking the silverskin of the latter into account, probably about the same surface area.

                    So..., 12 hours? If it's 1 hour/pound, who's gonna let Keller know his roast is in the brine 6x too long? ;)

                    Aloha,
                    Kaleo

                    1. re: kaleokahu
                      scubadoo97 Oct 16, 2011 09:44 PM

                      Never assume with Keller. It would be important to know the exact % of salt in his brine.

                      1. re: kaleokahu
                        paulj Oct 17, 2011 10:41 AM

                        Where the 2 pounds of chops in piece?

                        1. re: paulj
                          k
                          kaleokahu Oct 17, 2011 10:47 AM

                          Yes, two 1.5" chops.

                    2. re: kaleokahu
                      cowboyardee Oct 16, 2011 10:31 PM

                      Salts vary not only by grain size/coarseness, but also by grain shape and how compact the crystals are.

                      I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that a cup of your coarse sea salt would still weigh a good deal more than a cup of most coarse kosher salts.

                      1. re: cowboyardee
                        scubadoo97 Oct 17, 2011 05:26 AM

                        That's why you should use weights not volume of salt when making a brine.

                        1. re: scubadoo97
                          k
                          kaleokahu Oct 17, 2011 09:44 AM

                          Hi, scubadoo97: "...you should use weights not volume..."

                          Good advice. Now tell Keller and other authors to give the salt measures by weight, and brine by salinity.

                          My chops were *so incredibly* salty, it makes me wonder: Are mini- and micro-measures (e.g., 1t or 1 pinch) of different salt grinds similarly skewing results and recipes?

                          Is there a generalizable rule, expressed as a %, how much more fine tablesalt weighs than coarse kosher salt? Someone with an accurate digital scale, why don't you weigh a cup of each? Remember to tare...

                          Aloha,

                          Kaleo

                          1. re: kaleokahu
                            f
                            ferret Oct 17, 2011 10:29 AM

                            As I noted above, Diamond Kosher is roughly half as dense as table salt while Morton Kosher is about 80% as dense.

                            1. re: ferret
                              k
                              kaleokahu Oct 17, 2011 10:50 AM

                              Thanks for doing the math.

                              Since salt is salt, and the coarseness of my sea salt is indistinguishable from the kosher salt I just bought, I'm right back where I started. I need a gram scale, I guess.

                            2. re: kaleokahu
                              paulj Oct 17, 2011 10:50 AM

                              http://bbq.about.com/od/spicesseasonings/a/aa102007a.htm
                              This 'about bbq' claims a 'traditional brine' is 1cup table salt per gallon of water, which they explain is 10 oz of salt. On the other hand if I use Ruhlman's 20:1 ratio, I get 6 oz of salt, which is between a cup of Morton's Kosher and Diamond Kosher. Keller is probably using one of the Kosher salts.

                              How much does a cup of your salt weigh?

                              http://bbq.about.com/od/pork/a/aa1206...
                              recommends brining thick cut chops 2-4 hrs.

                              1. re: paulj
                                k
                                kaleokahu Oct 17, 2011 11:09 AM

                                Hi, paulj:

                                My gram scale I use for my winemaking chemicals is at the winery, so I'll have to retreive it and measure.

                                LOL, now I AM full-circle, wondering again if it should have been "2-4" rather than "24" in the recipe. Yes, Keller calls for kosher salt, but doesn't say what kind/grind/density, etc.

                                Aloha,
                                Kaleo

                              2. re: kaleokahu
                                scubadoo97 Oct 17, 2011 12:14 PM

                                Here is a table to calculate the % of salt in a brine
                                http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/sgpubs/onlinepubs/h99002.pdf

                                Look at Table 1, column (3) and (4

                                )

                                And another site with an easy to read table and recommendations for different proteins.

                                http://www.wedlinydomowe.com/sausage-...

                                I would have never have thought Keller would not list by weight. He is such a detailed guy

                                1. re: scubadoo97
                                  paulj Oct 17, 2011 12:31 PM

                                  Same topic from Jan 2010
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/660227#5302546
                                  This poster claims he use Diamond

                                  http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/01/21/b...
                                  lists an Adhoc chicken brine with '2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt' for 2 gallons. That's consistent with using Diamond.

                                  1. re: paulj
                                    f
                                    ferret Oct 17, 2011 12:33 PM

                                    Diamond is usually preferred in cooking because of its dramatically different density. Morton's is pretty close to table salt so it doesn't give you any unique benefits.

                                    This article conducts its own comparison of the density of different salts (about halfway down the page):

                                    http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                        2. Hank Hanover May 9, 2011 01:54 PM

                          I have grocery store sea salt and I have Morton's kosher salt in my pantry. I have never cooked anything where I wanted the crunch of salt. I haven't noticed any real difference in taste.

                          I know that a teaspoon of the grocery sea salt has more salt than kosher. Unless I am concerned about over salting, I use the one that is convenient. If I am concerned about over salting, I use the kosher.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Hank Hanover
                            p
                            pine time Oct 16, 2011 08:19 AM

                            I love a slight crunch of salt topping my foccacia recipe. Have tried various types, and settled on flaked salt. Adds a nice textural element to the bread and olive oil.

                          2. paulj May 9, 2011 12:53 PM

                            Since you apparently have tried both, do you notice any difference?

                            There are two potential differences:
                            density - there are 2 main brands of kosher salt, with different densities (due to different crystal shapes). Both are less dense than fine table salt. Sea salt comes in different grain sizes, and presumably different densities.

                            taste - setting aside the difference due to grain size (large ones have a crunch and dissolve slower), the only taste difference will be due to minor mineral variations in the sea salt. I don't taste any difference.

                            1. twyst May 8, 2011 10:48 PM

                              As for your question about the different purposes for them, I think you are best off using kosher salt to cook with, and using sea salt as a finishing salt.

                              1. Delucacheesemonger May 8, 2011 10:43 PM

                                One of the sillier things l collect from my travels is salt. While l admit my palate is unable to tell much flavor variation between the many l have, l can usually tell which one l am using by the texture. For example the above mentioned Malden and a similar product from Scotland Halen Mon are flaked salt, thus a very small flattish bit of salt is unmistakable when used a finishing salt as the texture is that of a shaved piece of salt. Besides the panache of the various salts they add a gentle crunch to a food that is totally different than mined salt. The example here is France is currently a 'hot' flavor of ice cream is caramel with teeny chips of sea salt in it, wonderful. My current favorite salt is fleur de sel from Slovenia, very gentle crunch from impossibly small crystals yet almost fluffy .Fleur de sel is the evaporated salt at the top of the pile and has less clay and impurities, thus usually whiter and flakier than the stuff on the bottom. l had been taught that kosher salt is the same as mined normal table salt except kosher. Also unless you do not eat seafoo3 or 4 times a year, iodized is not necessary and really tastes terrible.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                  h
                                  Harters May 9, 2011 01:07 AM

                                  Actually Halen Mon is Welsh, not Scottish.

                                  It's produced on the island of Ynys Mon and the name means, simply, "salt from Mon".

                                  Superior to Maldon, IMO.

                                  1. re: Harters
                                    Delucacheesemonger May 9, 2011 01:53 AM

                                    Damn, not with my Halen, so guessed, obviously incorrect, thanks. l also like it better than Malden

                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                      h
                                      Harters May 9, 2011 02:41 AM

                                      FWIW, Ynys Mon in English is the "Island of Anglesey" (off the North Wales coast, about 90 minutes from me)

                                2. Hank Hanover May 8, 2011 07:04 AM

                                  The biggest difference between the two is the size of the grain. Usually but not always, sea salt is fine grained. For most cooking purposes, it doesn't make much difference in flavor.

                                  The reason chefs like kosher salt is that it is easier to administer with your hand. Because it has a larger grain, it isn't as easy to over salt.

                                  By the way, most salt, including kosher is sea salt.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: Hank Hanover
                                    m
                                    melo7 May 8, 2011 07:33 AM

                                    Along with the size of the grain the big difference is the flavor. Kosher salt is just NaCl, salt. Sea salt is salt with additional minerals from the region it was cultivated. So Kosher salt tastes like salt and sea salt taste salty with other flavors.

                                    1. re: Hank Hanover
                                      h
                                      Harters May 8, 2011 07:35 AM

                                      "By the way, most salt, including kosher is sea salt"

                                      That may the case where you are. But in many parts of the world, including here in the UK, most salt is mined and sea salt is regarded as a specialist commodity. FWIW, as far as I know, "kosher salt" seems to be a specifically north American product

                                      1. re: Harters
                                        i
                                        itryalot May 8, 2011 05:45 PM

                                        The salt mined a few hrs from me is definitely not sea salt.

                                        1. re: itryalot
                                          k
                                          kmcarr May 9, 2011 12:31 PM

                                          Well, it was hundreds of million years ago.

                                          1. re: kmcarr
                                            scubadoo97 Oct 11, 2011 07:10 PM

                                            Correct!

                                            1. re: scubadoo97
                                              i
                                              itryalot Oct 16, 2011 06:26 AM

                                              Does it have the same flavour intensity as salt that is mined from current sea? I would think that there would be some difference, although I admit I could be out to lunch on this!

                                              1. re: itryalot
                                                MikeG Oct 16, 2011 06:55 AM

                                                The mineral content of unrefined salt from different sources will vary, and they'll taste different from each other, but that's true of sea salt as well as mined salt. So while you could tell one salt was "different" from another in a blind tasting, I doubt anyone could distinguish sea salt from mined salt per se. If they're heavily refined, I doubt anyone could distinguish one from the other apart from grain shape and size.

                                                1. re: itryalot
                                                  f
                                                  ferret Oct 16, 2011 06:58 AM

                                                  There is no variation in salt "intensity." Unlike spices, which can have volatile oils that can lose flavor when exposed to air or changes in temperature, salt is a mineral that is unaltered by exposure to air. So while a pepper mill may serve a function by keeping peppercorns whole and unexposed until needed, a salt mill just breaks big pieces into little pieces. There's no "freshness" to be considered with salt.

                                                  And all salt is sea salt, it's just a matter of when it was last in the sea.

                                                  1. re: ferret
                                                    h
                                                    hetook Oct 16, 2011 10:01 PM

                                                    Salt can absorb thngsthat make for a different kind nuaNCE.

                                        2. re: Hank Hanover
                                          bushwickgirl May 8, 2011 08:22 AM

                                          Supermarket salt, either kosher or table, is not sea salt. Salt is mined in the US, grain size aside; otherwise it would be labeled as coarse or fine sea salt, not kosher or table.

                                          I also find that sea salt does have a different flavor aspect as compared to regular salt, as melo7 pointed out.

                                          For the OP, I prefer using kosher for general seasoning, but do have table salt for baking and fine sea salt for when I'm feeling it would be appropriate. Having all three basics in your kitchen to start with is just fine.

                                          1. re: bushwickgirl
                                            todao May 8, 2011 09:34 AM

                                            Well, technically speaking, all salt is "sea salt". Salt that is mined today was, at one time, a component of a sea. But there are differences, however subtle, between "sea" salt and mined salts. The differences are in the trace minerals that can be found in each, depending on the region from which they were harvested. Frankly, I seriously doubt that anyone has a pallet so sophisticated as to be able to distinguish one "sea" salt from another, but that's a matter of opinion that would require a double blind study. The major difference in salt is its granular size and shape and whether or not is has additives (i.e. iodized salt). Very fine salts (pickling salts, etc.) dissolve more quickly and are preferred when a salty solution is desired. The medium grain salts (e.g table salt) are general use products that work well for nearly all applications. Recipes that list amounts of salt by their mass (tsp. tbsp. etc.) typically refer to table salt unless otherwise stipulated. Kosher salt can be used as an ingredient in recipe preparation or as a finishing salt. I use it both ways and I like to use it as a finishing salt to offer the diner that slight crunch of the salt when enjoying certain foods. Of course, there are coarser salts available but I don't personally use them (except perhaps to make ice cream - rock salt) in cooking.

                                            1. re: todao
                                              m
                                              mateo21 May 8, 2011 09:46 AM

                                              If you like crunch in your salt, try Maldon! It's wonderfully crunchy (but too much so) and it has a pretty sweet pyramid structure that I always look at when I'm salting with it.

                                            2. re: bushwickgirl
                                              Hank Hanover May 8, 2011 10:24 PM

                                              The Leslie salt company harvests sea salt in Fremont, Newark and Alviso, California at the very south east part of San Francisco bay.

                                              I suppose it is possible they have shut down operations in the last few years. Here is a link to the Leslie Salt company. It shows some pictures of the mountain of salt I used to drive by every morning on the freeway. It also shows the evaporation ponds. Those things were interesting as they evaporated, they would turn all kinds of colors.
                                              http://www.allelementsdesign.com/schi...

                                              I believe they are associated with Morton Salt now but I am not sure on that.

                                              As far as flavor, I assume you are correct that minerals affect the taste of salt. I suspect the minerals depend on where the salt was harvested whether it is harvested from the sea or mined in Salzburg or the pink salt mined in the Himalayas

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