Have you ever wondered exactly what salt does in your recipes? You probably already know that it gives your food flavor, but maybe you didn’t know about all the other things salt does:
Makes foods taste salty.
- Brings out natural flavors.
- Gives food flavor.
- Protects food safety by slowing the growth of spoilage microorganisms.
- Gives proper texture to processed foods.
- Serves as a control agent to regulate the rate of fermentation.
- Strengthens gluten in bread.
- Creates the gel necessary to process meats and sausages.
Salt comes in many different forms including table, kosher, sea, seasoned, garlic, and onion salt. But do you know the difference between them? I didn’t and I’ve always wondered so I went on a quest to find the answer. In case you wondered, too, here’s what I found out:
Table salt is designed for use in cooking and at the table. This form of salt is refined and may include some additives. It has a very fine texture and dissolves quickly, making this a great salt for baking.
Kosher salt, also sold as rock salt, is a type of coarse salt which is usually made without additives. It has large, irregular crystals and is a favorite with professional and gourmet cooks who prefer its texture and brighter flavor. When substituting for table salt, you may need more since it seems less salty.
Sea salt is obtained by the evaporation of seawater and is used in cooking and cosmetics. It is more expensive than table salt and commonly used in gourmet cooking and specialty potato chips, particularly the kettle cooked variety. It has a stronger and more interesting flavor. This salt needs to be processed in a salt grinder before use.
Seasoned salt is a mixture of table salt and various herbs, spices and flavorings.
Onion salt is made with a combination of dehydrated powdered onions and salt, and usually a preservative ingredient that keeps the powder and salt from adhering to each other. Two teaspoons of onion salt is about equivalent to one small to medium yellow or white onion. Using the salt instead of raw onions imparts a milder and less sharp flavor than raw onions and eliminates chunks of onion.
Garlic salt is a mixture of dried ground garlic and table salt with an anti-caking agent (calcium silicate). In its most basic form it is made by combining 3 parts salt and 1 part garlic powder. It is used as a substitute for fresh garlic.
So Which Salt Should You Use?
Most recipes will specify, and if they don’t, you can default to table salt or use whichever salt you prefer. However, just to be safe, I went through five Food Network magazines and checked each recipe to see which kind of salt was used. The overwhelming result was:
- kosher salt in all non-baked goods
- table salt in all baked goods.
- garlic, onion and seasoned salts were used where appropriate but never in baked goods
Who knew there were so many different kinds of salt and so many different ways to use them! After trying table salt, kosher salt and sea salt, I’m partial to kosher salt. Which is your favorite?
Sources for this article: