If there was a seasoning parade, salt would be the grand marshal.
It makes bland foods taste better, brings balance to bitter or sweet foods, makes meat juicier, and can even preserve foods. At the same time, you can’t just keep layering salt on: too much can ruin a dish – it’s not sugar😊.
Salt has a long history of seasoning dominance. Ancient cultures so valued salt that they would use it as currency. The early Romans would salt their leafy greens. The word salad and salary are rooted in the word salt.
And, today, we have come to the point that we have more than just one salt option. We have table salt, kosher salt, red salt, blue salt …and the list goes on.
But what’s the best salt?
What kind of salt should we use when creating rubs for our steaks? Is there a different salt we should use when baking cookies? Is there a usability factor where salt is concerned? Does it always matter what salt we use?
The most common salt comes in that cylinder container that we all have in our pantry. This is a basic, highly-processed, and refined salt that is really about 97% salt and 3% anticaking agents. We have this in bulk for a reason. It’s cheap and predictable. The refining process takes out unknown elements that could skew the saltiness one way or the other. Also, all salt is just salt once it dissolves into a casserole or cookie batter, so it makes good sense to make it fine-grained and well-processed.
Sea Salt & Kosher Salt
The term “sea salt” is a little deceptive. A lot of salt comes from the ocean, as the ocean has an almost endless store. However, what we call sea salt undergoes a less refined process than a table salt. As a result, the salt flakes are larger, coarser, and often referred to as “less salty.” Kosher salt is very similar to sea salt. The process is different but results in roughly the same crystal sizes – which is what it really comes down to. Both are also used for the same 2 main reasons. One, you want larger grains of salt with more noticeable crunch when eating. Two, it’s easier to handle and spread the larger flakes of salt – it’s also easier to see what you missed.
If you’re looking for a finishing salt for steak, veggies, fish, etc., then these are the two salts to look for. On that note, the debatably best finishing salt in the world is a hand-gathered sea salt called fleur de sel. It has a naturally formed flakey texture that many swear by.
Himalayan Salt (the pink salt)
Himalayan salt, or the pink salt, has been marketed as having greater health benefits. This is a difficult claim to swallow – dare we say, the claim is over-seasoned. A little salt goes a long way and no matter what extra metals and nutrients might be in Himalayan salt, it’s hard to think the health benefits would be very significant. However, this salt comes from one of the largest salt mines in the world, and it has a lovely pink-to-red tint caused by a number of different minerals in the salt. So, if you like the look and taste, keep on using it.
Also, Himalayan salt is debatably another sea salt. The mine is believed to have been a part of ocean that was separated off and dried out an estimated 250 million years ago. So, yeah, it’s a sea salt…kind of. You could tell your friends and family it’s a finely aged sea salt believed to be discovered by Alexander the Great. That’s all true.
Well, steak lovers, that’s the dish on salt. So what salt will go on your dish?