When most people think of salt, they probably just think about the white stuff that comes in a shaker, or in a cylindrical or rectangular package that they keep in their cupboard that they sometimes use to jazz up the taste of bland food. While salt is a ubiquitous and very important seasoning, the history and importance of salt is incredibly vast and interesting. Salt is mentioned prominently in the Bible (Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt), it can be found in many popular phrases and sayings (the salt mines, rub salt in the wound, salt of the earth, worth one’s salt, etc.), and it built large and wealthy empires before refrigeration was invented (the Austrian city Salzburg means “city of salt”).
There are many types of salt that are used in cooking, and two of the more popular types are our topics for today: sea salt and kosher salt. After learning about the differences between these two salts, you’ll want to put your knowledge to use, and this article on the basics of cooking, along with this course on healthy cooking fundamentals will have you preparing a healthy and tasty meal in no time.
Just like the name says, sea salt comes from (drumroll…) THE SEA! Sometimes also referred to as bay salt, or solar salt, sea salt, like wine, is mostly produced in a Mediterranean climate, due to the optimal temperature and sunshine. Basically, ponds of channelled sea water evaporate, leaving behind sea salt residue. This residue is lightly refined compared to other types of salts, and as a result, the colors of sea salt may vary, ranging from gray to pink, and will also contain traces of other minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and iodine. To learn more about these, and other minerals, as well as the composition of salt grains, check out this course on chemistry for beginners.
Sea salt grains tend to be large and pyramid shaped, but both size and shape may vary, and some gourmet sea salts are even infused with various types of flavorings, such as smoking the salt, and infusing it with activated charcoal, or bamboo leaf extract, not only to enhance flavors, but for health reasons, as well. As you might imagine, some of these specialty salts may get a bit pricey, but for all the amateur cooks out there, save your fancier sea salts to finish your dishes, which adds a subtle crunch – use other, cheaper salts for the actual cooking process.
Slightly less healthy than sea salt, kosher salt doesn’t contain any unhealthy additives that other salts might have, but it also lacks the minerals that sea salt contains. This is due to the fact that kosher salt comes from more refined table salt, whose grains are compressed under pressure to form the larger grains that make up kosher salt, and it’s these grains that make it so unique. Like sea salt, the grains vary in size, depending on what the cook’s needs are, but are always larger than table salt. Due to the grains’ large size, kosher salt doesn’t dissolve well, but is better for seasoning food, as it tends to stick better, and it also is able to draw moisture out of meat. It’s this drying out ability that gives the salt its name, as it is used to make meats kosher by drawing out the blood found at the surface.
These bigger grains might be great for certain occasions, but they make kosher salt a bad choice for both baking and general table use. However, the large grain size allows for a more even spreading when used in cooking, and is perfect for putting on the rim of a margarita glass. This course on bartending will teach you the basics of drink-making, as well as some delicious cocktail recipes.
See, salt isn’t just the white stuff in your kitchen. There’s an entire world of salt knowledge out there, and salt isn’t just for your food, either, and now you know which of these two salts will best fit your culinary (or cocktail) needs. For those worried about these salts’ effect on your health, sea salt has the advantage, as it contains many different minerals, but both contain sodium, which is bad in large doses. If you want to live a healthier life, start with the right salt, then move to this course on the 5 pillars of optimum health to improve all other aspects of life.