Salts: What’s the Difference?
Growing up on one salt container, which read one of my favorite taglines, “When it rains, it pours,” I was shocked and delighted to learn about the endless variety of salts that are readily available today. The varying sizes, shapes, colors, hues, origins and purposes can be a bit perplexing, so when I somehow acquired a whole slew of sodiums, I did my research to learn how they work best.
Salt is divided into three categories: refined (table salt), unrefined (sea salt) and iodized. Salt comes from either the sea or from mineral deposits; the varying colors are a product of minerals and algae from its region. Table salt, usually from the sea, is your standard, small grain salt. While this is best for baking because of its uniform size, larger sea salts are best for their mineral flavors and added mouth feel.
Sea salt: Can be either kept whole, or unrefined, or refined to make table salt. It may vary in color and taste (as we’ll see below) according to region of origin. The larger flakes are best used for finishing a dish, as they can cause unpleasant and uneven cooking.
Kosher salt: Larger grain than table salt; not only kosher, but also called “koshering salt” meaning it is often used to make meats kosher.
Pink Himalayan salt: This rock salt is typically processed in Pakistan or Nepal and is believed to be the purest form of salt, therefore loaded with health benefits. Use this for finishing dishes.
Black lava salt: Sea salt that has been blended with charcoal, often sourced from Hawaii. Use this for finishing dishes or leaving on your table — it adds a strong flavor and a beautiful presentation.
Red Alaea salt: Sea salt that has been blended with red lava clay, typically produced in Hawaii or California. Strong flavor, so best used for topping finished dishes.
Smoked salt: Check to make sure that your smoked salt is actually smoked and not just combined with a smoked-flavored chemical. Smoked salt will add a distinct bar-b-que flavor to anything, perfect for summertime veggies or roasted potatoes.