It’s one of the few ingredients that we have with almost every single meal. Personally I can’t imagine cooking without it, nor would I want to, considering its role in making our meals delicious.
Health wise, the general recommendations are consuming no more than 2.000mg of sodium a day, which translates into 5g/1tsp. of regular table salt. However not all kinds of salt are the same in their content, which means they have different flavor and health properties. That’s the reason why it’s worth learning a thing or two for the most popular salt varieties in the world.
Table salt. It’s the most commonly used variety worldwide. Most table salt is mined from salt deposits underground, then put in water, purified of other trace minerals and re-dehydrated again. At this point anti-caking agents and iodide are added to the table salt, resulting in the uniform product we are all familiar with.
The key reason why table salt is so commonly used is the low price. However, the iodide in it gives the food a slightly metallic flavor, and the purifying process strips the salt from the healthy minerals present in the unrefined salt, which is why many celebrity chefs and home cooks use other kinds of salt instead.
Kosher salt, unlike the table salt does not contain any added iodine, and rarely any anti-caking agents. It is refined salt with larger crystals and it’s widely used in many countries.
Kosher salt was originally used for Jewish religious purposes, mainly to remove blood from the surface of the meat, making the meat Kosher. However, despite the name, only some brands are certified as having met the kosher requirements.
Himalayan salt is the purest form of salt in the world, harvested from the Himalayan Mountains in Pakistan. It’s considered healthier option for two reasons. First, it’s mined from areas which are considered uncontaminated with modern day toxins and pollutants, and second it is consisted of 84% sodium chloride and 16% other natural minerals important for the human body. Just for comparison, the table salt is consisted of 98% sodium chloride and 2% anti-caking agents and iodine.
The trace amounts of iron oxide gives the Himalayan salt its beautiful pink color.
In terms of cooking, Himalayan salt has bolder flavor than other salts, hence a little Himalayan salt goas a long way.
Sea salt is usually unrefined salt harvested from evaporated sea water, which is why it contains some minerals like zinc, potassium and iron. Sea salt is pretty broad term, including both regular and specialty salts. It is considered much more flavorful than table salt.
Fleur de sel, also known as “flower of salt” is a sea salt which is harvested from the top layer of the tidal pools. The paper thin salt crystals are carefully drawn from the water’s surface using traditional wooden rakes. This can only be done by hand and on sunny, dry days with a slight breeze, which makes it scarce.
Fleur de sel is the most expensive salt of all; therefore it’s mostly used as a finishing salt in prominent restaurants. In terms of its content, fleur de sel has lower sodium and higher mineral content than table salt. Varieties of this salt are produced in France, UK, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Sel gris, also known as Celtic salt or gray salt, is harvested from the bottom of the tidal ponds off the coast of the Celtic sea. Its salt crystals are raked out after sinking to the bottom of the salt pan, giving it a higher mineral content and gray color. Considering its content, Celtic sel gris contains a variety of trace minerals and has the least amount of sodium chloride than any of the popular salts.
Sel gris has chunky grains which are moist to the touch regardless of how you store it. Its distinct texture and flavor are great on fish and meat.
Black lava salt is made from evaporating sea water in pools situated on hardened lava flows. Once the salt crystals are harvested they are mixed with activated charcoal, which gives the salt its distinct black color. Black lava salt is mostly produced in the volcanic islands of Hawaii and also in Cyprus.
This salt is coarsely grained and crunchy with a very mild salt flavor, which makes it great for finishing dishes.
Hawaiian red alaea salt is an unrefined low sodium sea salt, containing only 80% sodium chloride. The rest 20% are trace minerals coming from the red volcanic clay alaea, which is reach in iron and is known for its detoxifying properties.
For centuries, this salt has been used in religious ceremonies and in traditional Hawaiian dishes.
Aside from these salt varieties, there are many more artisan and smoked unique varieties, which are great for culinary adventure, but are not as easily available and certainly not as affordable.
Whichever salt you prefer to season your dishes with, remember to enjoy cooking!