Guide to Salt

Cooking | November 22, 2016 | By

Nothing’s a more familiar sight at the dinner table than salt. A sprinkle of salt will bring out the flavor and taste of a dish while stimulating the appetite. Go to any supermarket today and you’ll find a dizzying number of different salts. But next time you’re buying salt, you don’t necessarily have to just reach for the regular table salt. Here are some descriptions of the commonly available salts and what you should use them for:

Table Salt
A fine grained, refined salt with additives to help prevent clumping, table salt is the most commonly used salt. Iodized salt is table salt which has had iodine added to it. Use table salt with caution as it can have a harsh flavor, with some brands have a strong chemical after-taste. Table salt is used predominantly when a fine salt is needed for baking or cooking.

What is Iodine and why is it added to table salt?
Iodine is an essential trace chemical element needed for healthy human nutrition. It can be found naturally in seawater, sea vegetables and other minerals. Soil naturally contains iodine and it passes trace amounts into fruit and vegetables. 

Back in the 1920’s there were a high number of recorded cases of goiters, a thyroid disease, in the Great Lakes and Northwestern US. It was discovered that these regions had depleted iodine levels in the soil, so iodine was added to table salt in order to ensure people got the levels of iodine they needed for healthy nutrition.

Kosher Salt
A generic term for a coarse grained, additive-free sea salt popular with chefs and cooks. The name kosher salt doesn’t reference being Kosher and produced in accordance specified by the Jewish food laws, it simply means that it’s a primary ingredient used in making meat kosher. It’s perfect for cooking with, and for using to salt water to cook pasta and vegetables. It’s important to note that Kosher salt is much milder than table salt – you would need to use 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt to every teaspoon of table salt.

Sea Salt
Is available in many varieties ranging from very fine to flakes to coarse. Harvested by evaporating sea water, sea salt has a fresh flavor that’s perfect as a finishing salt – a salt that is sprinkled over a prepared dish. Sea salt takes on the characteristics of the ocean or sea where it was produced, hence the many differing varieties and colors found on the market. Note that Sea salt does tend to lose much of it’s flavor when it’s cooked or dissolved.

Rock Salt
Grayish rock salt is only minimally refined. Harvested in crystallized form from the ground, usually at the sites of dried salt lakes or ancient oceans. The large crystals make a perfect bed for oysters and clams as well as being used with ice in old crank-style ice cream makers.

Pickling Salt
A fine grained, additive-free salt used in the making of brines for pickles and sauerkrauts.

Flavored or Seasoned Salt
Is generally coarse sea salt which has been mixed with herbs, spices, citrus zest or a mixture of all three. Flavored salts are perfect for rubbing on meat, poultry or fish before grilling.

Tips for using Salt:

  • When making a sauce, add the salt once the sauce has reduced otherwise the salt will be concentrated in the sauce, making it too salty.
  • Often recipes will have you add salt to the dish at several different times during the making of the dish, this gives the dish a more rounded flavor and stops it from tasting too salty when served.
  • Add a little salt at a time and taste as you go – you can always add more.
  • If you do accidentally over-salt a sauce, try adding a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar to compensate.