Cooking Essentials: Salt

With so many different salt on the market, it can get a little overwhelming and a little confusing. Let's talk about the different types of salt, their unique characteristics, their different flavors and their different culinary uses.

This will hopefully clear up any kind of confusion and make it easier for you when you're shopping for salt, whether it's at the Nashville Spice Company or at the grocery store.

Let's talk about the basics. Salt is a mineral found almost everywhere in the world, from salt ponds in France to salt caves in Pakistan.

There are two distinct types of salt, rock, salt and sea salt. Rock salt comes in two varieties.

First, you have kosher salt. The ability of kosher salt to withdraw blood from meat makes it unique. The process of withdrawing that blood from meat is called koshering. Kosher salt is used in Jewish cuisine because it is necessary for the blood to be extracted before the meat is cooked or cured.

Kosher salt has a bold flavor, a crunchy texture, and it melts evenly. This makes it the most versatile in the culinary world and the most popular among professional chefs. Kosher salt can be used for cooking, baking, finishing, and curing.

The next type of rock salt is Himalayan salt. Himalayan salt is taken from salt caves in Pakistan. It is pink in color and considered the healthiest of all the salts. This is because Himalayan salt contains 84 different minerals found in the human body. That makes this salt prized among health conscious people.

Himalayan salt has a crunchy texture, a slightly less bold taste than kosher salt, but still melts evenly. That makes it perfect for cooking, baking, or finishing, but not for curing.

Then we have the second type of salt – sea salt. Sea salt is extracted from evaporated sea salt water beds. Sea salt is lighter and flakier, making it more of a salt for cooking or finishing. 

Sea salt can also come in a number of different forms, including smoked.

It can be smoked in one of two ways – it can be set on an open fire for a couple of days or cold smoked, which is where you take the sea salt, put it in a barrel, and then you trap the smoke into the salt. This adds a smokiness and a woodsy flavor to the sea salt, depending on how much intensity of smoke you want. 

Sea salt can also be infused with different outside ingredients. It can be infused with sweet things like lemon rind, lime rind, or vanilla. Or you can also introduce chiles, habanero, or in the case of our Venom Salt, scorpion chiles. This will make a salt that is really packed with a lot of heat.

Sea salt can also be infused with different herbal notes like garlic or celery.

You can also add some exotic ingredients to your basic sea salt, like Porcini mushrooms, black or white truffle.

Espresso salt is great for putting on top of steaks or seafoods when you want a little bit of that coffee earthiness.

That brings us to the second type of sea salt – Hawaiian salt. Hawaiian salt is a sea salt from the Hawaiian Islands. It comes in two different varieties.

Hawaiian Black is sea salt that has been mixed with charcoal. It will take on a black color and have a slight smokiness. 

Hawaiian Red is mixed with clay, giving it a red color and slightly sweet flavor. Hawaiian salts are more briny then your traditional sea salt, making them a salt that's more at home for seafood.

That brings us to the caviar of sea salts, and that is called Fleur de Sel. Fleur de Sel is extracted off the coast of Brittany, Spain from May to September, and only under optimal weather conditions. Fleur de Sel is harvested in much smaller quantities, making it a rarer and more expensive salt.

It's extremely delicate in texture and delicate in flavor and more at home for sprinkling on top of vegetables or chocolates, truffles or caramels. And it is prized among French chefs for its topping ability.

Then we have Sel Gris. This is also called Celtic Salt. It's called Celtic Salt because it is extracted using traditional Celtic methods. That is, wooden rakes are used to pull the salt out of salt beds off the coast of France.

It is grayer in color, hence the name, and wetter in its texture. It's a very briny salt that is really more at home in seafood.

To review, there are two types of salt. You have rock salt and you have sea salt. The next time you're shopping for salt, ask yourself a couple of questions. The first is "What am I going to be using the salt for?"

If you're baking, you're going to want to use a rock salt. Either Himalayan or kosher salt.

If you're curing, your option is kosher salt.

If you're cooking or finishing you can use any of these salts. You can add different texture or in this case, different flavors. 

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