Forget the olive oil or cast iron skillet—salt is the most popular ingredient in your kitchen. It gives oomph to dishes, can transform something mediocre into something amazing and is essential for flavoring food. But with so many different types of salt on the market, how do you know which one to use when? Enter our handy guide to the most popular varieties.
What’s the Difference Between Kosher, Table and Sea Salt, Anyway?
This is your standard, find-it-in-every-kitchen-cupboard and on-every-restaurant-table type of salt. It’s a fine-ground, refined rock variety with anti-caking agents to keep it free-flowing. Iodine is frequently added as well to help prevent iodine deficiency (which can cause hypothyroidism). Use this guy for the everyday stuff like salting pasta water or seasoning a finished dish.
According to Kosher dietary laws, as much blood as possible should be removed from meat before cooking. Because of this salt’s coarse, irregular structure, it’s great at doing exactly that. This one’s also a favorite among professional chefs who like the craggy texture (it’s great for tossing on food with dramatic flare). Tip: When subbing for regular table salt, you may need more since it can taste slightly less salty.
Distilled from the ocean, sea salt can be coarse or finely ground. This variety also varies in color, depending on what minerals are present (Pink Himalayan sea salt, for example, gets its color from trace minerals like iron and magnesium). Because the process of mining it is more complex (flakes are collected from evaporated seawater), the price of sea salt is usually higher than your regular table salt. For that reason, you might want to use this one to sprinkle on top of a finished dish rather than seasoning while cooking.
Fleur De Sel
Have your in-laws coming over and want to impress? Sprinkle this special occasion variety (“flower of salt” in french) on top of your dish right before serving. This one is considered to be one of the more delicate and complex types of salt—and most expensive. (Psst… it’s especially good on caramel and chocolate.)
Reach for this fine-grained salt when you want to brine pickles or make some sauerkraut. With no additives, this is one of the purest salts out there (it’s virtually 100 percent sodium chloride).