Essential Salts For Your Kitchen

by Karen on Monday, January 10, 2011

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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.

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{ 10 comments }

rebecca January 10, 2011 at 9:09 am

wow great post I need to use better salts more

Belinda @zomppa January 10, 2011 at 11:10 am

Wonderful synoposis…and just think, when I was a kid, it was simply Morton’s.

Gelareh January 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm

i never even knew there were salts other than the blue can! ps…are you gonna make something salty this week?

Karen January 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Sure am, will be a celebration of salt! Stay tuned…

Dinners & Dreams January 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Who knew salts came in all these colors? I’ve only seen gray and white. Thank you!

Kulsum at JourneyKitchen January 11, 2011 at 12:23 am

I almost picked up Fleur de Sel the other day and then I kept it back! The price tag got to me, now I’m going back soon to Dean and Deluca to pick the baby and I’ll blame you for the pinch in the pocket.

The Food Hound January 11, 2011 at 4:24 am

Thanks for the info! My favorite local gourmet store (also online if you ever want to check it out at http://www.avantisavoia.com) carries all kinds of fabulous salts, but I’m embarrassed that I don’t know much about them! I have now been schooled!

Jennifer (Delicieux) January 12, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Love this post. I love gourmet salt, it is so delicious and adds so much to a dish rather than regular table salt. My favourites are Maldon and Murray River Pink salt.

Lentil Breakdown January 12, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I’ve been using Himalayan pink salt in a grinder lately and fine sea salt for finer grained needs. I’ve used gray before but wasn’t as impressed by it as its popularity and price would have warranted. And of course I also have kosher. I’ve never tried Maldon but need to!

bailey B. Yamamoto January 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I’m a huge fan of gourmet salt, but I don’t like salty foods or snacks, I think salt should just slightly bring out the flavor? I think that is due partly to growing up with a father who put pepper on everything, and all kinds of peppers…

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