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skyhskyh

Different types of salt and their uses

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Greetings all =)

I have many many many many cooking questions I would like to ask..here's two to start of with =)

Type of salt and their level of saltiness. and their differences

There are different types of salt, sea salt, table salt, rock salt, river salt, ... and in different sizes.

What are their differences in terms of salty level? I heard some chefs say sea salt and table salt are same saltyness, then I heard also from other that different salt has different saltyness. For example, river salt is quite mild, less salty than saw salt, and table salt being the most salty.

So... I always like to tell myself, some chefs prefer this kind of salt over the other probably because:

* That particular salt is very mild -> therefore easy to control and adjust than salt that are very strong

* more Minerals and other natural substances which are beneficial to our health...

So.... if we compare the same weight of each salt, are they different in terms of saltyness?

Seasoning salt during or just before cooking vs Marinated:

Season the food (e.g. a piece of meat or fish) while coooking or just before it's place on a pan to be cooked

VS

Marinate the same amount of salt in this same piece of meat or fish prior to cooking (maybe 1/2 hour before, or 1hr or 5hrs or overnight)

What would be the differences? In terms of taste, texture, ... etc??

I'd imagine if I marinade a piece of meat or fish prior, the salt will draw out the moisture, the longer I marinade, more moisture come out? Then taking this piece of meat / fish to be cooked, more moisture will be taken away. at the end, it would be a very firm, relative dry piece of meat / fish. Hmm... cant think of any advantages with marinating salt before hand... umm.... not sure

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Welcome, skyhskyh!

So.... if we compare the same weight of each salt, are they different in terms of saltyness?

When measured by weight, all salt has the same salinity. People who say that one type is more or less salty are describing either a volumetric phenomenon (i.e., fewer salt crystals per teaspoon, therefore less salt); or the effect of crystal shape on the tongue -- big fluffy fleur de sel melts in a different pattern than Morton's table salt.

Seasoning salt during or just before cooking vs Marinated:

Season the food (e.g. a piece of meat or fish) while coooking or just before it's place on a pan to be cooked

VS

Marinate the same amount of salt in this same piece of meat or fish prior to cooking (maybe 1/2 hour before, or 1hr or 5hrs or overnight)

What would be the differences? In terms of taste, texture, ... etc??

I'd imagine if I marinade a piece of meat or fish prior, the salt will draw out the moisture, the longer I marinade, more moisture come out? Then taking this piece of meat / fish to be cooked, more moisture will be taken away. at the end, it would be a very firm, relative dry piece of meat / fish. Hmm... cant think of any advantages with marinating salt before hand... umm.... not sure

I'm not sure what you mean by "marinate." If you're marinating in a solution of salt and water, that's brining, and it has two principal effects: thoroughly seasoning the meat with salt (assuming you leave the meat in the brine long enough), and tenderizing the protein. Not everyone cares for the latter -- it's often a distinct textural change. In any case, the water that's drawn our of the meat is replaced by brine, so there's no net moisture loss; in fact, it's the opposite: proteins gain weight when brined.

Salting ahead of time will draw some moisture out of the meat, but it's not much. More importantly, along with that water come water-soluble proteins that enhance the Maillard effect. The tiny bit of moisture loss is more than compensated for by the salivary response that occurs when you drop a piece of nicely-browned meat in your mouth.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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There is a new book out about salt. It is called: Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral by Mark Bittman. It outlines history, varieties, methods of manufacture and proper use.

In the book he mentions 5 rules for using salt in cooking. They are:

1. Eat all the salt you want as long as you are the one doing the salting” Eliminate processed foods and salt drops dramatically.

2. skew the salt toward the end of food preparation

3. Use only natural, unrefined salts” These salts provide better flavor and greater nutritional value

4. Make salting a deliberate act.” Break out of the salting habit-”think of salt as an opportunity rather than routine.

5. Use the right salt at the right time...Finishing with salt alters the surface of ingredients chemically. Salt added during cooking affects the flavor or food and stimulates taste buds.


Edited by Norm Matthews (log)

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The author of Salted is Mark Bitterman, not Mark Bittman.

He's never going to get credit for his book. I have to admit that even I thought Bittman wrote the book for a month after I bought it. It was only after I started reading it did I notice a considerable difference in the voice and writing style and look more carefully at the cover.

As to the salt thing, didn't McGee determine that only people with hyper-developed palates could even discern the difference in salts and then there were only like 10 different tastes associated with them?

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Salt is NaCl (Sodium Chloride). To a great extent, the type of salt and when you use it is governed as much by chemistry and, to a lessor extent, physics. As Dave mentioned, by weight the amount of all forms of salt are the same. The differences between different "forms" of salt are primarily crystal size, crystal form (how larger pieces of salt are made smaller since the crystal structure of all forms of salt is the same) and trace elements, such as Iodine compounds and other minerals that might be present in different types of salt mixtures. The size of the crystals determines how quickly the salt dissolves in a liquid. The smaller the size the faster it dissolves because of the greater surface area for each gram of NaCl. A pickling salt is finer than rock salt. In the end, the same weight of salt will result in the same concentration, saltiness, since that is a function of the solubility of NaCl. The particle size and shape also determines its ability to cling to different foods. So, kosher salt will cling to meats better than, a fine salt such as popcorn salt.

When you salt depends upon what you are making. For example salting a piece of meat is usually done before cooking, whereas salting soup should be done after it has reduced, which would have resulted in a more concentrated solution if salted at the beginning. In the case of brineing, the concentration of the brine determines the rate of the water equilibrium and exchange in the meat and brine.

I could go on, but I suspect others will have more cooking (comments. Just remember, whatever you do, you can't change nature.

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Interesting...

Saltiness level with different types of salt of the same weight:

So....

* 20g of Table salt = 20g of rock salt = 20g of sea salt = 20g of Murray River Salt? (in terms of their saltiness)

Now not sure whether this is true or not, but aren't other salt such as sea salt, river salt has more minerals and other vitamins, etc....

* If so, accordingly, shouldn't 20g of sea salt or other salt be "less" salty than table salt since in the same amount?, since sea salt contains more non-salt things such as minerals,....

marinate with salt vs season just before cooking or during vs Marinated in Brine:

Water / Moisture lost or gain:

So.... in comparison, lets use 2% salt as this is probably the most we should add before we feel too "salty", so let's say 500g meat or fish and 10g salt.

(1) 5hrs (I dont know why I use 5hrs....) duration of just seasoned on a piece of 500g meat / fish. Then cook.

(2) Just before putting the meat on the pan, season with 10g salt. Cook.

(3) In a brine: 200g water, 10g salt (5% salt concentration), 5hrs, meat in this brine, then cook.

At the end: (1) lost the most moisture? and (3) is the "juiciest" because of weight gain before the pan-cooking process?

Salty level from these cooked meat / fish:

(3) is least salty because already diluted in the brine? while (1) and (2) same because same amount of salt used?

Texture: How tender / How firm / how loose the meat is at the end:

At the end: (1) is the most firm because lost the most moisture? While (3) is the most tender because again gained water before the pan-cooking process?

...

... If you're marinating in a solution of salt and water, that's brining, and it has two principal effects: thoroughly seasoning the meat with salt (assuming you leave the meat in the brine long enough), and tenderizing the protein. Not everyone cares for the latter -- it's often a distinct textural change. In any case, the water that's drawn our of the meat is replaced by brine, so there's no net moisture loss; in fact, it's the opposite: proteins gain weight when brined.

Interesting,... I thought salt actually makes the meat "not-so-tender", that's why some people say when stewing meat in a pot (well, at least in asian cooking anyway), they say season salt last as the salt will draw the moisture out of the meat, leaving it not-so-tender if done too early. Now of course, this is also a myth or their passed-on tradition or only they do it.... but it makes a bit of sense....

gees...complicated lol.

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As to the salt thing, didn't McGee determine that only people with hyper-developed palates could even discern the difference in salts and then there were only like 10 different tastes associated with them?

More or less. I'm betting even those people will not be able to discern any difference in a stew or a roasted chicken unless the salt is just sprinkled on top after the food is done cooking.

I read some of Bitterman's book and he strikes me as a bit...obnoxious honestly. We can romanticize salt as much as we want, but in the end it is 99%, if not more, NaCl and in 99% of applications Kosher salt is perfectly fine (Oh that horrible industrial product according to Bitterman). Other salts (I have black salt, pink salt, and fleur de sel) are finishing salts. The only time they make a difference is when sprinkled on a finished dish to add an interesting textural contrast to it, a hit of mineral taste and maybe a neat visual counterpoint. Don't get me started on "sea salt"...(as opposed to what exactly? Land Salt?)

So, I would not worry about the kind of salt to use skyhskyh. Just use Kosher salt in most everything and a couple of finishing salts when plating if you want to.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Interesting...

Saltiness level with different types of salt of the same weight:

So....

* 20g of Table salt = 20g of rock salt = 20g of sea salt = 20g of Murray River Salt? (in terms of their saltiness)

Now not sure whether this is true or not, but aren't other salt such as sea salt, river salt has more minerals and other vitamins, etc....

* If so, accordingly, shouldn't 20g of sea salt or other salt be "less" salty than table salt since in the same amount?, since sea salt contains more non-salt things such as minerals,....

The other minerals in non-table\kosher salts are in such minute amounts that the delta in saltiness would be far below what would be discernable by even the most developed palates. The difference in perceived saltiness is strictly due to the way salts dissolve in the mouth. In a dish where they are dissolved before hitting the mouth, there would be no difference.

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To summarize Robert Wolke: The FDA requires that food-grade salt me a minimum of 97.5% sodium chloride, and in practice it is always much more than that. For example, sea salt that is harvested from seawater by "natural solar evaporation" is around 99% pure sodium chloride without any processing at all. This is because of the way the salt is harvested (evaporated until crystals form, which are then scooped up and washed in a saturated saline solution) and because when a solution contains mostly one dissolved chemical (sodium chloride in the case of seawater) that chemical crystallizes out first. The remaining 1% is mostly calcium and magnesium, which leaves very little room for all the other compounds that supposedly give different salts their "unique taste." The example that Wolke uses is that, in order to get the amount of iron contained in a single grape, you would have to eat a quarter-pound of sea salt.

But wait! That's not all you get! Now consider the fact that, when you dissolve the salt into food, you are massively diluting it. If we are supposed to believe that the maximum of 1% of "other minerals" in sea salt is detectable and makes the salt taste different, then let's consider what happens when the salt is put into food. Again, Wolke's example is instructive: Let's say you add a teaspoon of sea salt to a 3-quart/3,000 gram stew. The teaspoon of sea salt weighs 6 grams, which means that it's 5.94 grams of sodium chloride and 0.06 grams of the all-important "other stuff that makes it taste different." Okay, well, when we dilute 0.06 grams into 3,000 grams it's a 50,000-fold dilution. The reality, of course, is that it's much more than a 50,000-fold dilution, because the sea salt is likely more than 99% pure sodium chloride. Does this strike you as something that will make the food taste different? Me neither.

All of which is to say that sea salts should only be used as a finishing salt, because the difference is in the texture, and it should never be allowed to dissolve. Granulated and fine sea salt is a hoax, because there is nothing special about the texture. Oh, and all salt is sea salt anyway... first because even mined salt is simply sea salt from prehistoric seas, and second because plenty of table salt is obtained from evaporation of sea water anyway.


--

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Most of the sodium chloride produced around the world os use for industrial purposes; culinary salt is a small fraction. Industrial users want more pure salt, and so the culinary salt also ends up about 99% sodium chloride. As slkinsey points out, even sea salt harvested using evaporation can be very pure since the producers remove the crystals when the sodium chloride fraction is at its peak, dumping any remaining brine.

But small producers of culinary salt can let the evaporative process continue until the salt crystal begin to precipitate out of solution, and the resulting salt is usually only about 96% sodium chloride, the rest a mix of the trace elements found in sea water. While the difference in sodium chloride content is very small, it is perceptible.

Disclosure: I import and sell flor de sal from Necton.

Jim


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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. . . small producers of culinary salt can let the evaporative process continue until the salt crystal begin to precipitate out of solution, and the resulting salt is usually only about 96% sodium chloride, the rest a mix of the trace elements found in sea water.

I think this should read: "a minimum of 97.5% sodium chloride if sold in the United States." That appears to be the regulation here.

While the difference in sodium chloride content is very small, it is perceptible.

I have my doubts as to whether any such tastes can be detected once the salts are dissolved/diluted into other ingredients at culinarily-appropriate salinity levels. The 2001 Leatherhead Food Research study suggests that it can't be. In pure-undiluted form (i.e., undisolved and used as a "finishing salt") it's clear that different sea salts make a different taste sensation. The extent to which this is due to the mineral content as opposed to the shape and size of the crystal is an open question, but the fact that differences are extremely difficult to detect when the salts are dissolved into water suggests that shape and size are the most important.


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While the difference in sodium chloride content is very small, it is perceptible.

I have my doubts as to whether any such tastes can be detected once the salts are dissolved/diluted into other ingredients at culinarily-appropriate salinity levels. The 2001 Leatherhead Food Research study suggests that it can't be. In pure-undiluted form (i.e., undisolved and used as a "finishing salt") it's clear that different sea salts make a different taste sensation. The extent to which this is due to the mineral content as opposed to the shape and size of the crystal is an open question, but the fact that differences are extremely difficult to detect when the salts are dissolved into water suggests that shape and size are the most important.

Makes sense to me. I am sure the difference is perceptible if it is used as a finishing salt, but when used in a pot of pasta sauce or soup, I do not think so.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Great stuff!! Thanks peeps :rolleyes:

"Finishing Salt"

What do you mean by "finishing salt"? Can you give examples? Do you mean like those salt and pepper seasoned on top on fried fish and chips?

Diluted vs able to tell the difference:

In your description, I tend to agree. I tend to believe that the very small percentage of other compounds (in the salt) dissolved in a dish can make a difference since salt level of a dish is usually already at a maximum of 2% of the cooked dish. Therefore, we are basically talking about a small percentage of this 2%.

And just a quick thought in mind, I dont think this small percentage of minerals or other compounds (in the salt) are an important agent to make any particular cooking reaction necessary.

Good stuff.

For chefs who use sea salt, or on menus where dishes are ... e.g. salmon cured with Murray River salt

Just marketing thing? Only for "peace of mind" thinking they are using "pure" "natural" salt but in reality, all SALT is NaCl? Any salt is NaCl + something?

So... When do we use sea salt? When rock salt? When river salt? ...

So when do we use a particular type of salt?

And

Why the chinese use / suggest to use rock salt over table salt for making cured Kumquat, i.e. Kumquats in big glass jug, lots of rock salt -> cure for many many months to years.

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In pure-undiluted form (i.e., undisolved and used as a "finishing salt") it's clear that different sea salts make a different taste sensation.

I agree, this is where you can taste the difference.

Jim


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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"Finishing Salt"

What do you mean by "finishing salt"? Can you give examples? Do you mean like those salt and pepper seasoned on top on fried fish and chips?

Any salt with some texture and some "other" mineral content to it rather than pure NaCl. These are the slightly more costly salts. like:

- Grey Maldon

- Pink Salt

- Black Lava

- Fleur de Sel

- Flor de Sal

This is by no means and exhaustive list, but should give you an idea what we are trying to say.

So... When do we use sea salt? When rock salt? When river salt? ...

So when do we use a particular type of salt?

Again, I would not worry about the kind of salt to use. Just use Kosher salt in most everything and a couple of finishing salts when plating if you want to.

Just avoid "Table Salt" the one that has iodine added to it and is very finely ground.

For chefs who use sea salt, or on menus where dishes are ... e.g. salmon cured with Murray River salt

Just marketing thing? Only for "peace of mind" thinking they are using "pure" "natural" salt but in reality, all SALT is NaCl? Any salt is NaCl + something?

Mostly marketing

Why the chinese use / suggest to use rock salt over table salt for making cured Kumquat, i.e. Kumquats in big glass jug, lots of rock salt -> cure for many many months to years.

Rock salt has larger crystals and dissolves slower, so that is a possible reason to use it in the cure where you do not want all the salt to be dissolved. I am sure you can use Kosher salt here as well with slightly different results.


Edited by FoodMan (log)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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"Finishing Salt"

What do you mean by "finishing salt"? Can you give examples? Do you mean like those salt and pepper seasoned on top on fried fish and chips?

Right. In other words, it's salt crystals that are sprinkled over the dish as a "finishing touch." These salt crystals (hopefully) do not dissolve and therefore create unique taste sensations based on their shape and size.

Diluted vs able to tell the difference:

In your description, I tend to agree. I tend to believe that the very small percentage of other compounds (in the salt) dissolved in a dish can make a difference since salt level of a dish is usually already at a maximum of 2% of the cooked dish. Therefore, we are basically talking about a small percentage of this 2%.

I'm not sure what you're saying here. And I'm not sure where your figure of 2% salt by weight in a dish comes from -- that seems way too salty. But even if we assume that the dish is 2% sea salt by weight and that the sea salt is 2% minerals other than sodium chloride, we're still talking about a 2,500 times dilution of these minerals. This is way above the taste threshold even when diluted into plain water, never mind something else that has strong flavors of its own.

For chefs who use sea salt, or on menus where dishes are ... e.g. salmon cured with Murray River salt

Just marketing thing? Only for "peace of mind" thinking they are using "pure" "natural" salt but in reality, all SALT is NaCl? Any salt is NaCl + something?

Yes, this is just marketing.

So... When do we use sea salt? When rock salt? When river salt? ...

So when do we use a particular type of salt?

And

Why the chinese use / suggest to use rock salt over table salt for making cured Kumquat, i.e. Kumquats in big glass jug, lots of rock salt -> cure for many many months to years.

What is your definition of "rock salt"? And how is this different from "sea salt"?

As for when/how to use one particular kind of salt over another, common sense tells us to use cheap salt to add salinity to the food as it is being prepared, because this salt will dissolve and you won't be able to taste the difference. Then, if you like, sprinkle on fancy/expensive salt according to your preferences and goals after the food is prepared as a "finishing touch." The point is to use cheap stuff if it will dissolve and only use expensive stuff when it won't dissolve. Any salt that doesn't have an interesting structure/texture is not worth spending more money on (e.g., finely milled sea salt).


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This debate seems to reoccur with regularity.

There seem to be a lot of opinions about human capacity to perceive very small amounts of diluted elements. Before you make any assumptions, however, consider that the liminal threshold for sucrose is 10 millimoles per litre. That's what you would potentially consider a trace amount.

We perceive many things that we cannot consciously sense or report but time and again they have been shown to have measurable effects on behaviour. Just because someone is not confident enough to report a sensation doesn't mean that they haven't perceived it.

I've not seen any studies of this issue done by perceptual psychologists so for me the whole question of whether it is shape or content of the salt that makes for different sensations is still open, despite what well-intentioned amateur experimenters have written or the what the personal opinions are of chemists (I defer to them on matters physical not psychological).

Oh and by the way if anyone wants to conduct such trials scientifically, there is also a time of day effect in perception of salt that could potentially contaminate results.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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* What's Kosher salt? I've only seen pink salt, sea salt, rock salt, and table salt.

Why the chinese use / suggest to use rock salt over table salt for making cured Kumquat, i.e. Kumquats in big glass jug, lots of rock salt -> cure for many many months to years.

What is your definition of "rock salt"? And how is this different from "sea salt"?

* rock salt is slightly bigger than sea salt.... and they are little bit more cube-shaped sizes (I think, I dont have any sea salts here to compare...)

Again, I would not worry about the kind of salt to use. Just use Kosher salt in most everything and a couple of finishing salts when plating if you want to.

Just avoid "Table Salt" the one that has iodine added to it and is very finely ground.

Why avoid table salt?

"Finishing" Salt on dishes:

What dishes or when you see salt being used as finishing salt without grinding them?

I have seen chefs grinded sea salt and used during cooking and as a "finishing" seasoning (like seasoning on fish and chips). And I have only seen once where rock salt (not grinded) is being used as a "finishing salt". Well, not exaclty on the food, it's a tempura dish, tempura on a bed of rock salt.

"finishing" salt texture and taste AND its saltiness level

In pure-undiluted form (i.e., undisolved and used as a "finishing salt") it's clear that different sea salts make a different taste sensation.

...

I agree, this is where you can taste the difference.

So if undiluted....that is...IF we just pick up and taste the different salt (given if we could get the same amount of each), are their taste, texture, and saltiness different?

---

My two very small experiment today:

1. Pick one cube of rock salt and tasted it... mild saltiness.

2. Tried to pick about 8 table salt that might equate to the same size of the rock salt and tasted ... quite salty but very similar.

(Obviously very difficult to know whether I have the equal amount to compare)

1. Electronic scale

2. Bowl (A): drop approx. 2grams of table salt, pour in 30g hot water (now it has gentle steaming)

3. Bowl (B): drop approx. 2 grams of rock salt (ungrinded), pour in 30g hot water.

5 minutes later.

4. Stir and checked if salt all dissolved. Started taste test.

5. 1 teaspoon of rock salt solution, Taste. Same size teaspoon of table salt solution, taste. Again go back to rock solution and taste and then back to table salt solution.

I was quite surprised to find that the rock salt solution is less salty. If the saltiness level of the rock salt solution is 7 out of 10. The table salt solution saltiness level is around 8-10 out of 10 in my opinion.

Obviously this is not very accurate because I poured hot water into the table salt bowl first, meaning the water at that bowl started to evaporate first making it more salt concentrated.

The other is measuring the weight of salt accurately can be quite difficult.

---

more Links / Sources

Any more good links and resources I could read about except wikipedia?

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Why avoid table salt?

I avoid table salt because it often has anti caking agents in it and stuff like that and I'd rather avoid unecessary additives - it's so easy to grind salt fresh I don't see a problem.

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Why avoid table salt?

I avoid table salt because it often has anti caking agents in it and stuff like that and I'd rather avoid unecessary additives - it's so easy to grind salt fresh I don't see a problem.

Morton's table salt, to make an obvious example, contains something like 0.2% calcium silicate as an anti-caking agent. Others anti-caking agents include magnesium or calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, etc. All are odorless, tasteless and present in minute quantities. Considering what's floating around in the oceans of the world, I'd hardly think that someone who likes to use sea salt should be worried about these "additives.

Personally, I don't like using table salt much because I think the grain size is too small, and kosher salt is easier to use by the pinch, etc.


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The other is measuring the weight of salt accurately can be quite difficult.

Considering that fine granulated table salt can weigh twice as much as kosher salt (a medium-coarse salt) by volume, I'd say this is a significant issue if your scale doesn't have good resolution below a gram and you are using amounts this small for your testing.


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