Salt is an essential component for a myriad of dishes. After all, just a pinch of the stuff can transform food from totally bland to exceptionally tasty. Before you start seasoning, though, you’d be wise to understand the difference between a couple of the most commonly used types of salt. Fortunately, we got a culinary expert, Executive Chef Steve Chiappetti of The Albert restaurant in downtown Chicago, to weigh in on kosher salt vs. sea salt. Here’s everything you need to know before you hit the kitchen.
Kosher Salt Vs. Sea Salt: What’s the Difference?
What Is Kosher Salt?
Kosher salt is a type of pure salt with a coarse, flat grain that is mined from deposits in the ground and named for the fact that it is used for koshering meat—drawing the blood out of the meat by dry brining—in accordance with Jewish religious law. That said, this type of salt has a wide range of culinary applications, namely because it has no additives (like iodine) and is usually just straight up sodium chloride, so it has a “clean, straightforward and very consistent taste,” says Chiappetti.
What Is Sea Salt?
As you might have guessed, sea salt is a type of salt extracted from sea water. The expert tells us that sea salt involves the most labor-intensive process—requiring the slow drying of sea water and the harvesting of the salt crystals, which is often done by hand—and is thus a pricier product than both kosher and ordinary table salt.
As for how it tastes, there are other nutrients and minerals naturally present in sea salt, giving it a bit of a nutritional edge and a slightly different, more complex flavor, as compared to the pure sodium chloride simplicity of its kosher cousin. (Hint: This is something you will want to consider when deciding which salt to reach for in the kitchen.)
Cooking with Kosher vs. Sea Salt
Chiappetti is one of many chefs who use kosher salt as the go-to cooking salt in his kitchen—primarily because its pure, consistent taste is well-suited to a wide range of recipes and its larger grain size means it’s slower to dissolve and less likely to result in an oversalted finished dish. Kosher salt can be used for baking, cooking and seasoning pretty much anything, from pasta water and salad dressings to uncooked cuts of meat. Psst: If you’re looking to score some of the stuff, the Diamond Crystal brand is basically the gold standard.
Sea salt, on the other hand, is not quite as versatile—though it does have plenty of culinary potential, too. The important thing to keep in mind when using sea salt is that its flavor profile is less neutral and can vary considerably depending on the water source from which it was harvested. (Fleur de sel is not the same as Baleine, which is not the same as Maldon.)
Still, sea salt in general is wonderful for garnishing dishes, says Chiappetti, adding that “its crunchy edge gives a pleasant mineral bite to any meat or fish, whether grilled or sauteed, and is also ideal when sprinkled on salads and grilled veggies for a finishing touch.”
When it comes to deciding which type of sea salt you want to finish your dish with, the chef says experimentation is key: “No two salts are ever the same so my advice is to explore them all—get into tasting to learn which salts you prefer.” One good rule of thumb? Cook with kosher salt, garnish with sea salt and let your palate be your guide.
Can You Substitute Kosher Salt for Sea Salt (and Vice Versa)?
Now you know the best use for both types of salt…but what to do when your recipe calls for one kind, but you only have the other on hand? Per the expert, “there is no equal substituting with these two salts, but if you want to convert recipes you’ll need to use fine sea salt in exchange for kosher salt. Because kosher salt is generally milder, you should use 1 part sea salt for every 1.25 parts kosher salt.” So there you have it—proceed with a 1:1.25 ratio of fine sea salt to kosher salt if you must, and save your flaky sea salt for use as a garnish that boasts complexity and plenty of textural appeal on the finish.