I’m bursting with information today. Now, we’re gonna get our sodium on and discuss the different types of salt. The complexities of salt varieties can be confounding to say the least, so allow me to elaborate on several different types.
First, KOSHER SALT
Kosher salt is my go-to for seasoning dishes while I’m cooking savory foods. I usually keep it nearby in a little dish, so it’s easy to just grab a pinch and sprinkle it on. It has large crystals, which dissolve in the food when it is hot, and give an even season. As with any salt, it’s best to start with a little and then build from there. Always undersalt at the beginning of the cooking process, particularly if you are making sauce or soup or anything that will reduce (lose liquid) as it cooks. It’s easy to oversalt, but impossible to come back from such a tragedy.
Why is it called kosher? This type of salt, with its large crystals, can be used in a process called “koshering,” or drawing the blood out of meat so that it is safe to eat according to Jewish law. Even if you don’t follow Kosher guidelines, kosher salt can make for a great salt crust (check out the recipe on the side of the Morton’s box.) Or, if you’re feeling Swedish, make some delicious gravlax with kosher salt.
It is important to note that Diamond and Morton kosher salts are not equal in how much salt flavor and sodium they impart on your food. Check out this blog for more information on that. She has covered it better than I can/will.
Sea salt comes from evaporated sea water. It can be found in higher end grocery stores, specialty markets, etc. Sometimes you will see it in flake form, sometimes in a rock (like with Himalayan pink sea salt), and sometimes in big chunks. I usually use this as a finishing salt, or I’ll throw some on veggies or meat when they are going to roast. It can have a more delicate flavor than other salts, depending on the mineral content of the particular salt, but it’s just too darn expensive to be throwing into any old dish to dissolve. Save this for a sparkling finish.
FLEUR DE SEL
Fleur de sel literally translates to “flower of salt” in French. It is a hand harvested salt that is pretty much only from four towns in France: Guerande, Il de Re, Camargue, and Noirmoutier. I love this salt, and find it to be maybe even a better finisher than regular sea salt. The name, despite some silly comments I have read online, does NOT exist because the salt tastes “floral.” It tastes salty. Like salt. Because it is salt from the ocean. Apparently, when the salt crystals dry during harvesting, the aroma of violets is said to waft off of them. How French! The crystals are actually very strong in fleur de sel, so they don’t dissolve quickly, making this salt ideal for baking and dessert work. Have you tried chocolate or caramel with fleur de sel? I don’t even like chocolate that much, but I’ll eat anything with this on top. Yum. Additionally, like both kosher and sea salt, fleur de sel is naturally derived. No iodine here, which brings me to…
Good ol’ NaCl. I have to say, I cannot remember the last time I used table salt. I don’t buy the stuff, especially because I tend to spill it everywhere and I am nothing if not superstitious, so I just wind up walking around in salt since I keep throwing it over my left shoulder. Something like 70% of table salt in the US is iodized, to bring me back to my earlier segue, because back in the day (1920’s), folks were getting goiters due to iodine deficiency. So, in stunningly executed act of genius/public health, Morton started sneaking iodine into the salt, because people may not have cared enough to take iodine supplements, but no way would they cut down on their sodium intake. We don’t have a goiter problem in the US anymore, but unfortunately there are parts of the world where iodine deficiency is still a problem.
Back to cooking: I don’t use table salt because honestly, I find it harder to control how much I put into the food. Kosher salt pinches easily and is bigger, so I can add a bit here and there, taste, and be satisfied. With table salt, one tends to just shake and shake and shake (it like a salt shaker) with no idea how much is actually going into your food. It’s a slippery slope, so salt it wisely.