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May 8, 2011 06:55 AM

Sea Salt vs Kosher Salt

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

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  1. 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

      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

        "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

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

          1. re: itryalot

            Well, it was hundreds of million years ago.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                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

                  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

                    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

                      Salt can absorb thngsthat make for a different kind nuaNCE.

          2. re: Hank Hanover

            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

              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

                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

                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.

                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

            2. 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

                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

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

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

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

              2. 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. 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. 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

                      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.