So Many Salts! Which to Use???

Salt Varieties

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

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

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

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

Seasoned salt is a mixture of table salt and various herbs, spices and flavorings.

 Onion Salt

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

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.

Salt samples

Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Table Salt

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?

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Sources for this article:
http://www.saltinstitute.org/About-salt/Salt-FAQs#What-is-salt
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-kosher-salt.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_salt
http://www.mortonsalt.com/salt_guide/index.html
http://southernfood.about.com/od/seasoningrecipes/r/bl40311h.htm
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-seasoned-salt.htm
http://www.saltinstitute.org/content/download/9458/51295

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Comments

  1. Deb Strout says:

    I vote for Kosher too! I just went to a store in old Overland Park and they had a variety of different salts, balsamic vinegars and olive oils, so this article on salt was timely for me! Thanks for the information.

    • You’re welcome. I actually enjoyed researching it. Everytime I make a recipe that has salt, I wonder what the difference is. So now I know.

      It’s interesting how many different kinds of salts, vinegars and olive oils there are. David and I went to Dean and Deluca in Overland Park and were floored by the different varieties. Didn’t realize there were so many. I LOVE those cooking stores!

  2. This was so helpful! I just started using kosher salt for cooking a couple of years ago, but had not idea I wasn’t supposed to use it in baking. Now I know! Thanks for all the info and the research!

  3. love kosher salt for cooking. i also love a smoked salt in VERY tiny quantities added to cooked foods that come off the grill. if you get some, keep it in a sealed glass jar to keep the whole cabinet from smelling like a fire pit.

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