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The Ultimate Guide to Salt

There's more to this culinary workhorse than meets the eye!



Of all the ingredients we use in the kitchen, salt seems like it should be the simplest, but a quick look at the options at the gourmet food store will leave you breathless. No wonder I get asked about which one to use so often! Here's the 411 on the many faces of this unsung kitchen hero.



Table: This fine-grain salt is what's in most people's salt shakers. It works best in baking recipes, when you need a precise measurement, but it's too small and slippery to be used when seasoning by hand, as I like to do when I cook. Choose non-iodized to avoid the faintly bitter aftertaste of iodine, unless you're concerned about iodine deficiency, which can affect your thyroid.
Kosher salt: This is what I prefer to use for cooking (I like Diamond Crystal brand). The grains are big enough that you can feel them, but not so big that they take too long to dissolve, which can result in overseasoning your food. Fun fact: the name doesn't mean that it's certified kosher! It refers to the shape of the salt crystal, which is used in kosher butchering.
Maldon: This brand of finishing salt (to be applied to a dish after cooking, for a final pop of flavor) is beloved by chefs. Natural sea salt from the British coast is harvested by hand in a way that produces a unique pyramid-shaped crystal that breaks into large, airy flakes. The flakes lend great texture, while the salt itself is light and clean tasting. Try sprinkling Maldon over your next batch of chocolate chip cookies before they go into the oven!
Fleur de sel: Another finishing salt, this sea salt forms flower-shaped crystals as it dries (fleur is French for flower). Since it is directly harvested from salt marshes in coastal France, it tends to be moister and more prone to clumping than Maldon or other processed salt, and contains more minerals that give it a stronger, saltier flavor. It can sometimes be faintly grey or pale pink.

Himalayan salt: Mined from underground veins of rock salt in northern Pakistan, this unprocessed salt is fashionable thanks to its color (it can range from dusty pink to deep red) and potential health benefits, thanks to the minerals it contains. It's often sold in blocks or planks for cooking directly on, which are usually placed directly on the grill.

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