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“Where Would We Be Without Salt?” James Beard
We have written many articles on salt over the years and the ‘saltscape’ continues to expand.
Salt is so integral to our eating and cooking lives that we forget how important it is. Our bodies need it in moderation, and I can’t think of anything I’ve ever cooked that didn’t call for at least a dash of salt. We use salt when cooking to enhance the flavor of the food.
The most commonly used types of salt are Kosher salt, Table salt, Sea Salt and Coarse salt. There are benefits to using one instead of another when cooking – the differences matter!
Kosher salt is a coarse-grained flaky salt and I find many of the recipes I cook call for it. Chefs love it because it has no additives, dissolves easily and is easy to pinch. It is not interchangeable with table salt which has finer grains and is more pungent. Kosher salt is often used as a finishing salt, sprinkled on dishes as a last-minute seasoning. It is also called for when you are brining, curing or pickling foods as it has no iodine.
Table salt is the most used salt in home kitchens. It comes from salt mines, is refined and most of the minerals are taken out. There is iodine-free salt but it’s not easy to find. Most table salt has iodine and anti-caking agents added. The positives are that it has a consistent taste – you know what you’re getting. It is easy to measure, and it dissolves quickly. It’s a great salt for baking. Other salts should not be substituted for table salt in baking recipes.
Table salt is not without its critics. It is a less natural variety of salt, some feel it has a metallic taste, and others complain that it’s just bland.
Sea salt is unrefined salt that comes from the ocean after water has evaporated. If you find refined sea salt, stay away because it doesn’t have the flavor of unrefined. Table salt and sea salt can be used interchangeably if you have fine grain sea salt. If it’s coarse you can put it in a salt grinder and use as a finishing salt. I happen to love Malden Sea Salt and over the past 10 years it has become much easier to find in the U.S. It is a gourmet sea salt company that has been harvested in the English town of Maldon since 1882. 8.5 oz. $6.99.
Coarse salt refers to large-grained crystal salt. It has no anti-caking agents and absorbs less moisture, so it doesn’t cake. Coarse can be either a sea salt or a mined salt. Coarse salt is usually kept in a grinder and used as a finishing salt. It dissolves more slowly than the other types of salt.
Cooking with salt
Salt makes food taste more balanced by reducing any bitterness and enhancing complex flavors. In some cases, it can change the texture of food through chemical reactions to the salt. Salt strengthens gluten by increasing the elasticity of breads. A great resource to learn about cooking with salt is Samin Nosrat’s book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. $39.81
Many home cooks like me, keep two types of salt readily available – a kosher salt or fine grain sea salt that dissolves and measures easily and can be used in recipes, and a coarser salt that can be used as a finishing salt to add texture and a pop of flavor. Have you developed a liking for salted caramels? That same principle can be applied to many foods where you don’t expect salt but love the POP when you are surprised by a pinch on your chocolate ice cream, your pancake, sliced melon, toast with butter and many more options!
It is easy to oversalt, and many chefs only use salt pinch pots rather than saltshakers, so they know exactly how much they have added to the food. Remember to taste, then salt, not the other way around.
When a recipe asks you to ‘salt to taste’ here is a general guide to help you translate that into a specific measurement:
- 1 teaspoon per quart for soups and sauces
- 2 teaspoons per pound for boneless raw meat
- 1 teaspoon per 4 cups flour for dough
- 1 teaspoon per 2 cups liquid for cooked cereal
- 1 teaspoon per 3 cups water for boiled vegetables
- 1 tablespoon per 2 quarts water for pasta
From The Spruce Eats
ASE previous articles about salt: