From an everyday salt shaker to pricey imported rock salt, there’s a dizzying array of salts on the market now. Some claim health benefits, while others are touted by chefs and fetch a grand price per pinch. So what type of salt should you use? Every type of salt can have a place in your kitchen, each offering a unique flavor and texture – but, it’s important to know what the differences are among them.
We’ve got you covered with this easy guide to the common types of salt that you’ll come across and how to use them.
1. Table salt
Mined from underground quarries, table salt is the highly refined sodium chloride most commonly seen in salt shakers. Trace minerals are removed during processing while anti-caking agents and iodine are added. The iodine additive was part of a successful health initiative to prevent iodine deficiency in the 1920s, though some brands now omit it. Table salt is popular with bakers because it has a fine texture that dissolves easily and has a consistent volume.
2. Sea salt
Sea salt is made from evaporated sea water. It contains varying amounts of trace minerals which can contribute to the flavor, though they’re of no significant health benefit in such small amounts. Sea salts vary in texture from very finely milled to coarser types that add a pleasing crunch to food.
Try granular fleur de sel or moist sel gris as a finishing salt after cooking meat, seafood or veggies. Since most sea salts tend to be moister than regular table salt, they are slightly lower in sodium. Generally coarser, most sea salt doesn’t instantly dissolve on foods, so you get little flavor pops as you chew, thus a little goes a long way.
3. Kosher salt
Named for the process of seasoning meat with salt during the koshering process required by Jewish law, kosher salt is now commonly used in kitchens everywhere. Kosher salt doesn’t contain iodine, and is raked to create tiny flakes that stick to foods well and are easy to pinch and spread evenly. Many chefs prefer kosher salt due to the size of the crystals – they are a little larger, making it easier to control than the tiny crystals of table salt. You can use it the same way you would table salt in soups, in pasta, to roast a chicken or in snacks where you want larger salt crystals such as popcorn. Keep in mind that 1 teaspoon of kosher salt is equivalent to about 1 1/4 teaspoon table salt by volume in recipes.
4. Himalayan pink salt
Mined in Pakistan in the second largest salt mine in the world, trace amounts of rust give this rock salt its pink-peach hue. It’s hard, dry texture makes it a good choice for those that like to use salt grinders or cook on salt blocks. Himalayan salt is 98% sodium chloride with just 2% made up of trace minerals including rust. It’s nominally less refined and definitely more expensive. Use it as you would sea salt in salads, burgers or sauces.
5. Maldon sea salt
Made from boiling purified sea water from Essex, England, Maldon salt is favored by chefs thanks to its flakey pyramid structure that crumbles the moment it hits your palate. Sprinkle this salt on foods as a finishing salt right before serving. Try it on grilled mixed vegetables, salads, and even desserts to add a hint of texture and a burst of flavor. As with other large-grained salts, a little goes a long way.
6. Infused and smoked salts
Sea salt combined with spices, herbs and even wine have appeared in recent years in gourmet markets and grocery stores. Popular combinations include truffle salt (sea salt infused with the underground fungus makes for next-level popcorn), black garlic salt (sea salt infused with funky fermented black garlic is stir-fry gold), and pinot noir salt (sea salt mixed with dehydrated wine dresses up a steak). Smoked salts are cold-smoked with hardwood to infuse salt with woodsy flavor that works with everything from chocolate chip cookies to grilled salmon.
Make sure to read Salt at a Glance and 4 Global Spice Blends You Should Have in Your Pantry.