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Different types of salt and their uses


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for cooking I only use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, a kitchen standard and I love it's texture and "feel", I salt a lot by pinch. I never use "table salt".

"finishing salts" are to me all the fancy salts you can get, from fleur de sel over pink Hawaiian to black salt (in all it's varieties) and rock salt mined from some mountains. I like black salt for the looks of it, but all of these are great. And yes, I can taste a difference between my Kosher salt and these. I doubt I could tell them apart individually all that well, but they do provide more texture and/or color, which is fun. I'm pretty sure I could tell fleur de sel from some rock salt in a blind tasting but have never tried it. A fun project I'll have to try soon!

I never cook with these though, would be a waste I think, since you're going for salty in initial seasoning, not for some subtle flavor difference. Or I do at least. But fire roasted potatoes with a bit of black salt on them look a lot nicer than the same dish with just some table salt on it IMO. I like large crunchy salt crystals for finishing, something that doesn't just melt away immediately, but provides a crunchy salty taste sensation.

Of course, I also think that many of these are a bit of salt snobbery, but hey, so are many other fancy things in the kitchen, and it's all part of the fun :cool:

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Salt is salt to many people and they use whatever they can easily purchase in their locality and more power to them.

I have posted in other threads, ad infinitum, about how much I like salt in as many of its manifestations as I have been able to purchase - so far.

It's true that many tasters can't tell the difference between types of salts - even when not diluted or mixed with other things - but some people can, me among them.

I certainly can't tell if a roasted chicken has been salted with one type of salt or another - the chicken is the predominate flavor and the salt only enhances it.

However, if I spread some unsalted butter on a few pieces of plain white bread and then sprinkle different types of salt flakes on the butter, I can tell, without looking, most of the salt types. Not all, my tastes buds are elderly and no longer have the finer senses that I had forty or fifty years ago.

It's fun trying. And I will continue to "collect" salts because I enjoy it, without making it a science project.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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The crispy-crunch and mini-salty explosion that you get with a final sprinkle of fleur de sel on a piece of food (be it a slice of fresh tomato or a more involved plated dish) is what finishing salt is all about.

If the food has a bit of oil(i.e. nice olive oil on a tomato or other fat from the saute pan or BBQ on a nice steak) on its surface the salt won't dissolve and the crunch stays around til you eat it. If the food is too liquid or wet the expensive fleur de sel crystals just melt before you can crunch it and all you get is, well.... salt!

I am not as fond of the larger size crystals of some of the fancy finishing salts - some of them feel like they would break fillings out of my teeth. But Maldon salt and the other flaky crunchy crystals of the fleur de sels are great. Can't say I can 'taste' a flavour difference, it is a mouth-feel thing and that little spark of salinity.

Llyn Strelau

Calgary, Alberta


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Smaller the size, easier to dissolve, right?

McGee on Food & Cooking p.641: It says table salt is the most dense salt, and it takes the longest to dissolve.

p.643: Physical Properties of salt: Flake salts dissolve 4 to 5 times faster than granulated salt, and finely ground salt nearly 20 times faster.

I thought, the smaller the size is, the faster it dissolve, no?

Salt size and volume

Very curious, those relatively more coarse size salt such as rock salt, sea salt ... when we pick up one individual salt and look at it, is this actually packed with many many smaller salts inside?

Now, with the table salt too, is it that one salt we see actually is packed with lots of smaller salt particles?


Let's say a dish required a handful of granulated salt, if coarse size salt is to be used (e.g. rock salt), to get the similar saltiness level, use less than a handful of rock salt?

2 other findings from McGee's book:

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.

I don't think this is the main reason but still has some contribution. McGee p.641 about table salt: ... as much as 2% of additives and anti-caking agents. These anti-caking agents dont dissolve readily as salt, therefore, it may cloud the brines for pickled vegetables. I guess in a way, since so much salt is used in this curing process, the 2% of additives and anti-caking agent is a lot here.

p.643 on salt physical properties:

Solid salt crystals melt at 1600'F / 800'C, evaporates at around 3000'F / 500'C.... no wonder I see some recipes or on cooking shows where people wrap and pack some food in lots salt and bake them in oven for long time.


Edited by skyhskyh (log)
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I can def tell the difference using grey salt vs. kosher salt in things like braises and soups. Unless you are looking for it's easy to miss, it is def a background note. I don't want it to taste 'salty' just make the dish 10% better, ideally the guest wouldn't know. I love grey salt to season steaks as well.

I think it's a matter of finding the right spot to use your salt. Specialty salts aren't great ll purpose in the way kosher is. Some of the japanese salts are nice for finishing raw fish with some yuzu zest. Its fun to play with but it's not a big deal to use diamond crystal for everything.

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TRhe speed at which anything dissolves is its effective surface area. To compare the speed at which different salts dissolve requires that they be constantly suspended in water by mixing. If salt clumps, then the effective surface area is reduced. Once the clumping is removed, then actual surface area is the controlling factor. I am unfamiliar with the structure of flake salt. Since single salt crystals are perfect cubes. controlled by the arrangement of the Sodium and Chlorine atoms in the crystal, one can conclude that flake salt is an example of small crystals clumped together.

As to "smaller salts" inside larger sized peaces... Unless crushed, salt consists of single crystals. Thus, there is no way a single crystal of salt can be composed of smaller crystals.

Anti clumping agents and trace minerals are separate chemical compounds which dissolve at different rates than salt. As such, their solubility (the amount that can be dissolved) varies with their content. These different compounds react differently than pure salt. They may contribute to the formation of different compounds while cooking or picketing.

It's all chemistry and physics.

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