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sea salt vs. kosher salt

Is there any real difference between sea salt and kosher salt from a culinary perspective? My understanding was that chefs always recommended kosher salt because of its flake size and texture. If I were to grind sea salt to the same flake size as kosher salt, would there be any real difference between the two?

I have also read that sea salt contains trace minerals that are not present in kosher salt. Is this true? Does this affect the flavor of the sea salt in any noticeable way?

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  1. Salt Weight Equivalents - Table vs Kosher vs Sea

    (as weighed on my kitchen scale)

    I weighed 1 level Tablespoon of each.

    Morton Non-Iodized Table salt 18.3 gm per tablespoon.
    Morton Kosher salt 14.3 gm per tablespoon.
    Diamond Kosher salt 12.4 gm per tablespoon.
    La Baleine Sel de Mer (sea salt) 18.5 gm per tablespoon.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Antilope

      Due to the different grain sizes salt should measured by weight. Avoids needing to convert to different measurements. There are just too many different salts out there to do it any other way

      1. re: scubadoo97

        So when a pancake recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of salt, what weight you use? How about a pinch (of kosher)?

        1. re: paulj

          Personally I don't measure salt by weight or volume for general cooking. I usually can eye it for my tastes

          For larger amounts like in making brines I do weigh

          I don't bake much but have tried to use metric units instead when I do. So what would that be 7g?

    2. To me the taste is pretty much the same, but kosher is way easier to pinch from a salt pig. That said, I am talking Morton's to Morton's. However, other types of salt have very if fernet tastes to me. I am especially fond of wet grey salt and of halen mon. The former on a slice of fresh tomato...OMG.

      4 Replies
      1. re: tim irvine

        Agree Tim. I find the specialty salts add a different texture more than flavor.

        I would love to see the results of blind taste tests of different salts if the were ground to the same level to equalize the texture. I have an okay palate but really can't taste all the mineral nuances some detect in specialty sea salts

        1. re: tim irvine

          I've always just used sea salt, but recently got some flaked salt - which I am becoming much more of a fan of. It's great for cooking as well as finishing things, so you're not biting into hard rocks.

          1. re: tim irvine

            Cooks Illustrated did a taste test of fancy salts and ordinary ones. The results were that whatever minerality/flavor exists in the more expensive salts, their flavor is lost completely when dissolved in a stew or soup, for example.

            Expensive salts are best used as a final finishing garnish, primarily for the texture (like Maldon sea salt, which has these great, big crunchy flakes- I love adding to the top of fresh buttered crusty bread)- and to a lesser degree, for the flavor. Diamond kosher salt is the kind they recommend and the kind I use, because it is easiest to control in pinched fingers. Maldon kosher salt grains are bigger and rounder, and are thus more cumbersome and slips out of my fingers more easily.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              So true.

              Sea salt is a waste of money as a cooking salt.

          2. I cook with kosher and use sea salt to finish before serving.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                Perhaps millions of years ago, but most is dug out of the ground now.

                1. re: Joebob

                  Does that change its origin or composition?

                  1. re: Joebob

                    Actually, its not dug -- its dissolved in water & pumped to the surface.

                    1. re: rjbh20

                      Actually, there's a reason that the saying "Off to the salt mines" exists.

                      Vast quantities of salt is mined - as in blasted and dug out of the ground.

                2. It's my understanding that Kosher salt is the "purest" salt....NaCl, nothing added. The Morton's table salt may have added iodine, and the sea salt should have other salts other than sodium chloride.

                  The "complexity" of flavor of sea salt depends on the brand, and how your tastebuds react.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: pinehurst

                    Morton's kosher salt has anti caking agents so its not pure NaCl

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      Interesting. Morton's Kosher is harder to find in my area than the Diamond, and the Diamond doesn't have the YPS. Interestingly, in terms of plain ole table salt, the Morton is everryyyywhere.

                  2. I get a kick out of the idea that "sea salt" is somehow better for you (all natural!) than "regular" salt. First, all salt is (or was) sea salt, i.e., NACL dissolved in water. Yeah, yeah -- table salt has some anticaking agents, but most kosher salt is pure NACL. Second, common culinary salt is extracted from salt domes formed millions of years ago, way before any industrial water pollution -- fancy "sea salts" are created from evaporation of coastal seawater, likely subject to agricultural runoff & other pollutants. Great stuff (particularly Fleur de Sel from Bretagne) but (like with most such claims) the "All Natural" tag is marketing BS.

                    23 Replies
                    1. re: rjbh20

                      I understand what you're saying, and I get the chemistry of it, but after years of using sea salts, Morton's table salt tastes very "chemically" to me.

                      Also, I understand that using sea salt is more expensive than table salt to cook with, but we're talking about the difference between a fraction of a cent and two fractions of a cent.

                      There hasn't been any Morton's in my kitchen in a decade or more.

                      Oh, and I have about ten or twelve different salts altogether. I LOVE salt.

                      1. re: DoobieWah

                        Are you saying that your taste buds are sensitive enough to detect chemical flavors from Morton's when dissolved in a stew, soup or braise?

                        Mr Taster

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Of course not.

                          But why bother to even keep it around? Because using it instead of sea salt when I'm cooking might save me a quarter of a penny?

                          I'm not that poor yet!

                          1. re: DoobieWah

                            >> But why bother to even keep it around?

                            OK, since you asked....!

                            I don't necessarily want to have 12 different salts taking up my limited cabinet space-- as it stands now, I have just 3 but I use each one for a very specific purpose.

                            I use Morton's (non-iodized) because it is a great multi-purpose salt. I can use it equally as well for soups and stews as I can for baking (Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats/Americas Test Kitchen explains that the granules are tiny enough so that they dissolve evenly in the low-moisture environment of cookie dough, for example, preventing salty pockets from forming-- which is what can happen with a chunkier, less "dissolvable" salt). The recipes I use (many from cooks illustrated) are calibrated to be measured in volume by the Morton salt standard, and after making enough recipes over the years I've basically learned the "Morton's salt" proportions when I'm winging it with my own recipes.

                            Salt #2 is Diamond Kosher salt, for salting a steak or cutlet where I need better finger-sprinking control (Morton's tiny granules are like little ball bearings and they slip out of my fingers way too easily) Diamond kosher are small flakes, and are much easier to pinch and sprinkle in a measured fashion-- much more so than the Morton's kosher salt, which are more like round chunks than flakes-- both less dissolvable and harder to control when sprinkling than Diamond.

                            Lastly is the Maldon Sea Salt, big, beautiful, chunky flakes used for sprinkling on top of, oh, well anything. The downside is that it's pricey. But this is a salt meant to be used sparingly, so it lasts a long time. It's a gorgeous finishing salt. It not only adds saltiness (which any salt can do) but also adds a great crunch and added texture.

                            Three different salts, each fulfilling a specific function that the other salts cannot do.

                            So what are your 12 salts and how do you use them?

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              OK, since you asked...!

                              Let's see,

                              Sel Gris
                              Fleur de Sel
                              Pickling (I use it to make brines for my olives and feta and homemade fridge pickles)
                              Salt Island Sea Salt, (BVI)
                              Alaea, (Hawaii)
                              Himalaya Pink
                              Murray River Pink
                              Lior Sea Salt Coarse (for the thumb grinder)
                              Lior Sea Salt Fine (for the Salt cellar and what I cook with)
                              Smoked (forget the brand)
                              Maldon (Just love those little pyramids)

                              That's thirteen but there may be a couple more; (I'm at work and going off of the top of my head).

                              And there's the blends and rubs and seasoning salts, including my Mom's proprietary blend.

                              Other than the uses noted above, I salt my food with them.

                              Ask me about my vinegars, oils, and hot sauces.

                              I'm incorrigible!

                              1. re: DoobieWah

                                Sure, pickling salt is a good one. If I did pickling, I'd have some of that too-- again, because it has a practical function in being able to readily dissolve that is not performed as well by other salts.

                                Smoked salts are another thing too, as I addressed with mike0989. Again, a smoked salt is something that another salt cannot accomplish.

                                As for salt grinders, I always saw this as a pointless endeavor. We grind peppercorns of course because their are a spice, and when you crush the seed the oils evaporate, go rancid, become less flavorful. Grinding peppercorns to order maximises freshness and flavor. Salt is not a spice. It lasts forever. So unless you have some practical need to precisely control the grind size/shape of your salt (most of us do not) then I do not see the need to spend money and take up cabinet space for such a thing.

                                But I've noticed that most of the salts you've listed here you have not associated with a specific purpose. What do you use them for? What function do they serve that accomplishes your needs better than anything else, or do you simply just like having a cabinet full of fancy jars of expensive crystals? That's a valid reason too (if not a practical or economically sound one.)

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  I understand that YOU don't want a bunch of salts crowding your cabinet space. I get that, I do.

                                  But I fail to understand why it offends you so much that I do.

                                  I love to pick up new ingredients, even if I don't know what to do with them, and salt, even expensive salt, is pretty darned cheap. So when I see something new or unusual, I buy it.

                                  It's not like it will go bad...

                                  1. re: DoobieWah

                                    It doesn't offend me. I'm just trying to find out if there is a logical, practical reason for having these exotic salts, and I think I now have my answer! :)

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      Ah, well then.

                                      No. No logical reason. I just love salt.

                                      And I love trying new things.

                                      All of the salts taste a bit different. No. I can't identify them blindfolded. But if I gave you a sample of each, you would detect differences. And to me, Morton's iodized tastes like it has chemicals in it. AND that's because it does.

                                      Yeah, I'm a salt-aholic. Let me know if you hear of any meetings.

                                2. re: DoobieWah

                                  Mantiz maybe on the smoked salt. That's the one I get.

                                  1. re: DoobieWah

                                    I understand the disorder
                                    My pantry speaks volumes

                            2. re: DoobieWah

                              Got to agree with you. Try Fleur de Sel, Maldon and Baleine and you will get three distinct flavor profiles. I only use the first for finishing, the last I refuse to buy having tried it. Maldon is my goto salt for most things. I keep kosher on hand to salt boiling water and such (why spend extra doing this).

                              As to salinity. I stock a smoked sea salt from Spain for a few dishes. I definately have to use it with a light hand as it adds a blast of salinity.

                              1. re: mike0989

                                mike0989, what I don't understand is what are you using these various expensive salts in that you can actually taste the difference between them? Most of us (I hope) are not just eating spoonfuls of salt out of the box for anything more than just a taste.

                                As I said in my last reply to DoobieWah, using something like Maldon as a finishing salt makes complete sense to me. You're maximizing the flavor and texture of the crystal, and maximizing the value of that expensive little box you've purchased. You're actually *tasting* the minerality, the texture, which is the reason you paid so much for that salt to begin with.

                                But perhaps 90% of the time when I use salt, it's not to finish an item. It's part of the cooking process, part of the recipe. Using Maldon to salt 4 quarts of pasta water, or to mix in a soup or stew, or in a braise-- unless you're saying that your palate is delicate enough to sense the difference (after the pasta is cooked and topped with sauce, and drunk with wine and a salad) then whatever trace amounts of unique flavors each salt has is utterly lost, like pouring a pint of milk into the ocean. Sure, it's there. But for all practical considerations, it's gone.

                                Let's consider a real life situation. You're sitting down to that nice pasta dinner with some friends. Are you really going to be focusing on trying to taste the unique minerality of your salt when you're eating linguine with garlic, clams and a glass of white wine, or are you instead going to focus on the fact that the salt level is right, and that the actual flavors of the clams, garlic and wine blend and compliment each other? Are you really going to say "Pfft, I can tell this pasta was boiled with Maldon salt!" Of course not. It's a preposterous notion.

                                What comes through, for all practical considerations, is the *salinity*... NOT the minerality. All it seems you've accomplished in using expensive salts for mundane cooking applications is that you've spent $8-$15+ for a tiny box of salt to do something that a $0.75 box of Maldon could have accomplished just as well.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  That's not what I said. If you look at my post, I use kosher for things like salting a pot of water. I will use Maldon to season a piece of meat or making a frittata. And yes you can taste the difference. The smoked salt I use for things like BBQ corn on the cob would overwhelm you if used the same as a Maldon or kosher salt.

                                  1. re: mike0989

                                    I don't remember reading the part initially about not spending extra money, so if you modified your post I understand (I revised and resubmitted my own several times as well- I've added a lot of extra detail since you replied.)

                                    Smoked salt of course is another thing entirely. A heavy smoke flavor is going to cut through a strong flavored sauce, for example, in a way that trace mineral elements would not.

                                    >> And yes you can taste the difference.

                                    Well, speak for yourself, not for me! I can't tell the difference, and I suspect neither can most people, unless they're ultra supertasters. But if it works for you and you've got the bucks to spend, go for it. It makes no sense for me, and for many others however.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      It's not just the smoke or nuances. The amount of salinity you taste with the various salts is all over the map as well. The smoked salt I use will blow you away with an over seasoned flavor if you use it like Maldon or kosher. Fleur de Sel has a light delicate flavor and salinity. This makes it ideal for a finishing salt, or to use in some derserts where you just want a touch.

                                      1. re: mike0989

                                        The point I was trying to make is that every salt tastes salty. If we're talking about straight salinity levels, you can make the argument that X quantity of Morton's will eventually equal Y quantity of Fleur de Sel.

                                        I don't personally know what that ratio is-- all I know is that it's not going to measure the same in volume-- but there is going to be some point where Morton's $0.75 will accomplish exactly the same thing as a $20 Fleur de Sel. (Again, we're talking only about finding an equal salinity level)

                                        Therefore, in order to argue the virtues of one salt over another, talking about the saltiness itself is really not logically viable. You have to look at the other elements of the salt-- unique mineral flavors, seasonings, texture, and find a way to showcase each of those to their maximum ability.

                                        So, I have to say, it really *is* about "smoke or nuances" (as you say). Otherwise, I'm just braising a $20 bill alongside my pot roast.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          If you're using $20 of fleur de sel in a pot roast, you have bigger issues than trace minerals!

                                          I don't think anyone is putting fleur de sel in their pasta water.

                                          But you don't have to use Morton's nasty iodized crumbs, either.

                                          1. re: DoobieWah

                                            I don't use iodized salt. I use the regular non-iodized Mortons.

                                            Mr Taster

                                        2. re: mike0989

                                          There are no differences in salinity of equal (weight) measures of salt. There can't be. The amount of "stuff" adhering to the "designer" salts is miniscule and may be perceptible beyond the flavor of the salt itself, but sodium chloride is sodium chloride. The flavor doesn't fade or intensify based on where it's sourced.

                                          1. re: ferret

                                            I was speaking in volume, not mass. I don't know what the equivalent volume measure of 1 tbsp of Morton's is compared with Fleur de Sel. I do know that mineral salts often can feel wet, and I imagine that moisture (more than mineral deposits) may throw off weight measurements. How significant the difference would be, I have no idea.

                                            Edit: I see you were addressing mike0989. Whoops.

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: ferret

                                              I've never weighed it, but I always have a pretty good feel of what I'm using. The Spanish smoked salt (to me anyway) taste a lot saltier that any other I have in the cupboard. From a chemical standpoint, I can't argue with you. I suspect that if one were to do an anlysys of the vafied salts on the market. There is a lot more to them than just NaCl.

                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                        I use a variety of specialty salts as well. Daily. I always use kosher in soups or stews -or for salting water. However, I still might finish the dish with a specialty salt.

                                        There is a huge flavor/texture and appearance difference for finishing. Most of the salt I use is for finishing - vegetable dishes of all kinds, salads, crackers, spreads, tarts, crepes, meats, etc. I make many items daily where a specialty salt is used..... even in cocktails.

                                        Maybe some people cook differently than others daily and that explains it. I can't imagine not using these wonderful salts.

                                        It is difficult to switch between fine sea salt and kosher. I tend to oversalt when using sea salt when I am used to kosher, due to the flake size difference. Wow.

                                2. I use sea salt in my salt grinder at the table, kosher salt in my homemade bbq rubs and table salt in baking, because it's finer I want the salt to dissolve faster.

                                  Salt is so inexpensive, why restrict yourself to one kind?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Antilope

                                    Most salt is inexpensive but the sea salts on display at WF are not. In fact they are expensive and IMO its mostly all marketing. Pink salt, gray salt, yes they are pretty but in a blind taste test can you tell in difference in flavor? I think most people can not. My opinion which isn't worth much

                                  2. only grated hymliana pink salt for me( insert eye roll) Kosher salt is kosher because of its ability to draw certain property from the blood of meat for religous reasons.. that is the greatness of Kosher salt.. salt is basically salt and not since the crandberry decided to jump ito every juice has a marketing ploy worked so beautifully... gray, black , sea, mountain. morman plain, ... the size of the grind effects the texture.. you wouldnt want to bite into a cookie with chunks of salt in it. but if you were blind folded i bet all of the salts would taste the same to you... except maybe road salt

                                    1. I use Diamond for everything, since we've gotten out of the salt-shaker habit. I do all my salting from a jar that holds about half a box - one pound - and salt to my taste. If Mrs. O finds anything not salted enough, she just goes and gets a pinch. For dinner parties we put some out in a little pot with a salt spoon, la de da.

                                      The only variant I have right now is some smoked salt; I've had Maldon, and it's lovely, but I so seldom have anything that would call for it. The smoked is wonderful on tomatoes, which are just beginning to get good here in SoCal.

                                      1. Kosher to cook with, like in pasta water. Maldon alone as a "finishing" salt. Maldon flakes between the fingers, so no need for a salt-mill. Maldon really does make a difference; fabulous on a steak or a salad.