Salt is important when you’re cooking as I mentioned in last week’s blog of tips for cooking with salt. But there are so many different types of salt, it can be confusing to figure out which one to use. But have no fear! There aren’t too many rules to using salt and one you understand the basics, it’s fun!
Types of Salt
Salt is not just an important part of cooking, is essential in creating certain types of reactions when baking, and it’s even an important part of our diet (too little salt can actually harm your health). Using the right salt at the right time can also change the taste and even texture of your dish. So here’s a small guide to the common types of salt you’ll find in my kitchen:
Kosher salt is a wonderful all-around salt. As the name suggests, this salt is used in koshering meat, which is to sprinkle the salt on meat to draw the blood out. If you do keep kosher, be sure to check the packaging for the correct labeling because not all kosher salt is actually kosher.
When to use it: Kosher salt dissolves easily, so it’s a great salt to use in every-day cooking and baking. I usually use the small-grained kosher salt, however. Large grained salt be problematic, especially if you’re baking and the larger crystals don’t dissolve completely You’ll end up with chunks of salt in your baked goods, and that’s usually not so great (I’ve learned from experience…).
Sea Salt/Flaked Sea Salt
Sea salt is made by the simple process of seawater evaporation. Because it’s a more natural process than, say, table salt, it tends to hang on to more beneficial minerals that are stripped from table salt during processing. It’s also supposed to be more flavorful.
When to use it: Use it as you would kosher or table salt.
Fleur de Sel
Fleur de sel, or “flower of salt”, is salt harvested through a special process of funneling salty water into a pond and letting it evaporate. This leaves a fine layer of salt which is then collected (usually by hand) using special rakes. Much of fleur de sel is harvested in Guérande in Brittany, France and has been since the year 868, although there are several other places in France and Spain where it is harvested as well. Fleur de sel comes in large crystals and has a delicate taste.
When to use it: Fleur de sel is usually used as a finishing salt, especially because it can be super expensive. Finishing salts are sprinkled on a dish just before serving to add an extra, delicate flavor to dishes like fish or vegetables or sprinkled on top of chocolates, chocolate sauce, or caramel.
Gray Salt/Sel Gris
Gray salt, also known as Sel Gris or Celtic sea salt, is harvested much the same way as fleur de sel. When you take it out of the bag or jar, you can actually feel a bit of the moisture the salt holds on to. It’s also full of minerals.
When to use it: Gray salt has a heavier flavor than fleur de sel, and the crystals are larger. It’s best to use it as a finishing salt for heavier and fattier meats than fleur de sel as well as roasted root vegetables like beets and rutabaga.
Himalayan salt is harvested from a specific mine in Pakistan. It is believed to be a very pure salt, full of minerals, which is why you see it so often in health food recipes and used in spa treatments. You can find it in grinders or shakers, but you can also fine entire hand-cut slabs of Himalayan sea salt.
When to use it: Himalayan salt can be used both as a recipe salt and as a finishing salt. The slabs are used to cook and serve delicate foods like seafood, vegetables, and cheeses to help enhance flavors by gently infusing the flavor of the salt.
Smoked salt is created by smoking salt over a wood fire. The smoking imparts deep flavor.
When to use it: It’s perfect for sprinkling over roasted meats and potatoes.
This is just a small collection of salt types. You can also find pickling salts, rock salt, Hawaiian salts (red and black), and seasoned salt. But these are the salts I have in my kitchen/pantry and I use the most often. But, of course, you absolutely don’t need to have all of these salts in your kitchen.
The thing about salt is that it’s really fun to play with. The results are subtle, but different types of salt can really add to a dish. You can even take a few salts and taste them—it’s not as terrible as it may sound. If you take a small bit, it can be eye-opening to taste the different flavors and strengths.
So there you go—a small primer on the most common types of salt you’ll usually find in a kitchen. If you have any questions, of course, please leave them in the comments below!
‘Till next time!