With all the conflicting information out there, you may be wondering “Should I even be cooking with salt?”
The answer is yes, YES, and YES.
Please, for the love of delicious food… don’t skip this vital step.
Salt is not only essential for your body to function, but when used in cooking, it helps bring out the natural flavors in your food.
Why do Some Recipes Yield Such Salty Results?
Have you ever followed a recipe exactly as written, tasted the dish, and nearly spit it out because it was so salty?
Was it a typo? Why could there possibly be that much salt in a recipe?
Here’s the deal… it probably wasn’t a typo. The key thing to know is that salt varies… A LOT.
How Cooking With Salt Varies
Some types of salt have a much saltier taste than others, while some are much more mild (hence the larger quantity required).
So, what happened when you were following that recipe where the dish was way too salty?
You most likely used a different type of salt than the person who created the recipe.
The salt aisle at the store can be a very overwhelming place – kosher salt, pink Himalayan salt, iodized salt, sea salt, table salt. Which one should you choose?
In this quick guide, I’m breaking down the different salt types, which are best at different times in the cooking process, and which type you can avoid cooking with altogether.
Different Types of Salt
Although kosher salt is commonly confused with table salt, it’s not the same thing. Kosher salt is pure salt with no additives. It has large crystals and a coarse texture.
Kosher salt characteristics:
- Its large crystals allow it to absorb (and draw out) more moisture than other salts
- Often used to cure and season meats as well as other animal proteins
- Emphasizes the natural flavors of food
- Not as easy to over-salt your food (since the crystals are larger than other salts)
- Provides a much more balanced flavor to your food
THE BRAND MATTERS
Not all brands are created equal though.
Unfortunately, different brands yield different sizes of crystals and textures yielding a different level of saltiness even though they all say kosher salt.
There are two popular brands of kosher salt: Diamond Crystal and Morton.
Morton has denser salt crystals making it nearly twice as salty as Diamond Crystal.
How to Have Success Cooking with Kosher Salt
If using Morton kosher salt in a recipe, make sure you cut the salt amount in half.
When cooking without recipes, if using Morton, use a smaller pinch than you would if using Diamond Crystal.
All of the recipes in my adaptable recipe template library use Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
Verdict: Use for seasoning meat, and any time during the cooking process. For avoiding overly-salted food, and having more control of the flavor in your cooking, use the Diamond Crystal brand.
Maldon Sea Salt
Maldon sea salt is a flaky salt with pyramid-shaped crystals.
It has a very clean and fresh taste making it the perfect accompaniment to a finished dish.
Maldon sea salt is what’s called a finishing salt, so you want to use it at the end of a dish – once it’s cooked, sprinkle some on top of the dish right before serving.
Great for adding to desserts like my dairy-free salted caramel sauce or my 3 ingredient snickers candy bites to balance the sweetness. It’s also amazing on popcorn, and roasted butternut squash or Brussels sprouts.
Verdict: Use on all cooked food as a finishing touch. Just pinch some between your thumb and fingers, rubbing them together to crush the salt a bit while sprinkling over food.
Fleur De Sel
Fleur de sel translates to flower of salt.
It’s known as the caviar of salts.
It’s a delicate salt with a slightly briny flavor. It has paper-thin crystals and is recommended as a finishing salt only.
Verdict: Use to top salads, cooked fish, fruit, cooked vegetables or dessert.
Table salt (also just labeled salt) contains additives and has a small grain size.
While sodium is beneficial for our bodies, it’s important that it comes from high-quality sources, and unfortunately table salt isn’t that.
A few notes on table salt:
- Often contains anti-caking agents to make it last longer
- No health benefits
- Commonly found in packaged foods
- Nearly all table salt is iodized (because you can get iodine through whole food sources, it’s unnecessary to get it from iodized table salt)
Verdict: The other salts in this guide are much better options.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Pink Himalayan salt is a type of sea salt that contains more than 80 health supporting minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
(Because of this salt’s many benefits, it also doubles as a beauty ingredient, like in my popular 3 ingredient Himalayan salt scrub.)
It has many different names, but they’re all the same thing: pink salt, Himalayan crystal salt, Himalayan sea salt, and rock salt.
Himalayan pink salt comes in different crystal sizes, so keep this in mind when cooking with it. The smaller crystals (or grains) are going to provide a saltier flavor than the larger/coarser crystals.
Verdict: Use freely and reap its many health benefits, but remember that it falls on the saltier side.
Other Quality Salts
When choosing a type of salt, just make sure there is one ingredient listed on the package.
Final Thoughts on Cooking With Salt
When adding a pinch of salt to your food:
If the crystals in your salt are smaller, it’s going to be easier to over-salt your food than if you’re pinching salt with larger crystals.
The small crystals dissolve quickly making your food very salty.
What you need to know about cooking with salt:
It’s easy to over-salt and quite difficult to recover a dish that is too salty.
If you’re just starting out and/or getting more comfortable in the kitchen, always put salt in your hand first before directly in the dish so you know exactly how much you’re adding.
Know how salty the salt you have in your pantry is and add to a dish accordingly.