Salt. Arguably, the most important ingredient in the kitchen and dare I say, the most important mineral in the world? I mean, just think about where food would be without it. Food would just be sustenance: a vegetable here, a hunk of meat there. With salt, and more importantly different types of salt, simple ingredients are elevated and nuanced. Applied in certain contexts, good salts can transform dishes by subtly enhancing flavor and adding great texture.
And while I have a slight addiction to purchasing fun new salts, I'm not a salt snob and don't think all expensive salts are necessary for good cooking. I encourage exploring salts that suit your taste, habit and wallet, and nowadays there are all kinds of gourmet salts available from around the world. Equipped with a few essential salts you can transform the way you cook and the way your food tastes. Below is a small list of my favorites. What are yours?
1. Fleur de Sel:
This is the king of salts as demonstrated by its unique flavor and texture (and price tag!). Harvested by raking salt crystals dried by wind and sun, fleur de sel contains a considerable amount of moisture which helps it resist dissolving quickly. The significant amount of minerals in the salt deepen flavors and it is great to use as a finishing salt on subtler foods. I use this salt whenever the character of the salt can be appreciated in mostly raw form.
2. Gray Salt:
Similar to fleur de sel in texture, gray salt is crunchier and moist. It makes a great all-around salt and has almost a hearty flavor due to all the minerals in the it. It also makes for a wonderful finishing salt in almost any dish.
3. Maldon Sea Salt:
This is another great all-around everyday salt (and my favorite). It is a flake salt with little moisture and has a great flakey, crispy texture. Reminds me a bit of a savory pop rock. Because there is little mineral in this type of salt, it provides a bright, clean and briny flavor. I use this in anything I can and love it to season roasted meats, fish, pastas, salads… everything. Maldon also makes a great smoked salt, try it out for fun!
4. Kosher Salt:
This should be a staple in every kitchen and if you're using table salt, switch to kosher salt right away! On the plus side it is cheap, and although not the same in quality as sea salts (it is a processed salt) is a great step up from the blue can. The convenience of kosher salt comes in its texture and ease in scattering it across food evenly. It's also not as acrid as table salt, which makes salting more controllable. I typically use it to salt anything that it doesn't directly impart flavor to like salt crusts, brining, pasta water, etc. Try Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
5. Rock Salt:
Rock salt, as the name suggests, comes in small rocks and should be used in mills. I normally wouldn't go through the hassle of grinding my own salt, but find it necessary in certain contexts. You can get a light powdery texture that you can't get with normal salts grains and this is perfect for salting dryer and fattier things like popcorn or foods straight out of the fryer.