What’s the big deal with salt, anyway?  I have to admit that before I started paying a little more attention to what I was doing, I was one of those people that on occasion would salt food without tasting it.  Now, I don’t think I would ever do that, but hey, you live and you learn.  If you go to the gourmet food shop or even your local grocery store, you’ll find several varieties of salt that are not interchangeable.  I dug through the pantry and found a few to offer for illustration.

From Drop Box

Clockwise from the top left these are:

  1. Kosher salt
  2. Fleur de Sel
  3. Grey salt from Colima, Mexico
  4. Regular iodized table salt
  5. Kona salt from Hawaii

    Close up pictures illustrate a few points.

    From Drop Box

    When you look at kosher salt up close, there is some irregularity to the size of the crystals. I’ve heard a lot of theories about why it is the preferred cooking salt of a lot of chefs, I think it has more to do with texture and the ability to better feel how much you’re putting in. Believe it or not, with very little practice, you can feel how much a tsp of kosher salt feels like.  It also seems to have a lower salinity which is a good thing because you want to use salt as a seasoning agent, being careful to not overpower the dish.  This is not a finishing salt. More on that, next….

    From Drop Box
    Fleur de sel

    Fleur de sel, on the other hand is fairly uniform in size, beautiful and clear, and works great as a finishing salt. When or why would you use finishing salt, you may ask? The beauty of finishing salt is having a nicely textured, fine crystal of salt explosion while you’re eating something. Beware that you’ll only be salting the outer surface, so don’t use this technique when you have something thick that needs uniform salinity. I use this on grilled bread, vegetable sautee that I have purposely left undersalted, thin meats and fish, citrus, etc.

    From Drop Box
    Grey salt

    The grey salt I have pictured here is nonuniform in size, but has a much more mineral flavor than regular kosher salt. The size differences make it a little less useful than fleur de sel for a finishing salt, but this one does have a similar flavor burst and delicate texture that the other has. Interesting one to try!

    From Drop Box
    Table salt

    Regular table salt. Fine, small crystals that add a uniform salinity to whatever you’re seasoning, fit nice in a shaker, and is easy to measure. This type of salt may be easier to use in baking, dissolves readily because of the small crystals. It doesn’t have the texture of kosher salt, so it may be a little trickier to take a pinch of it and know what you’re getting. Still useful, don’t throw it all away, but in my house, it took 20 minutes of scouring through the kitchen to find a salt shaker. I don’t set them out anymore. If you’re eating my food, you have to trust me that I seasoned it correctly.

    From Drop Box
    Kona salt

    Hawaiian Kona salt is fun because it’s black, from the effect of volcanic rock. This makes it a little trompe l’oeil, “fools the eye.” Use this as a fake out with white pepper. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out ways to use this, and haven’t really settled on anything. The salinity seems a little higher in this one than others, and it has a unique visual effect.

    There are tons of other options out there that I haven’t tried, feel free to experiment!


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