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Salt: The Bare Essentials

Salt is king when it comes to seasoning. Many would say it is THE most important ingredient in your pantry, but all salts are not created equal and they are NOT interchangeable.

salt - the bare essentials

There are a lot of articles out there explaining the science, the health impact, food guideline limits, the level of ‘saltiness’ of different salts, what type of salt to use for what type of cooking and chef favourites. I did the research to get more clarity on the basics. Some good references are listed below.

Here are just a few bare essential take-aways and what most experts and chefs seem to agree on:

Saltiness and Measurements:

  • Table salt is the ‘saltiest’ salt, sea salt is sightly less salty and kosher salt is the least salty.
  • Brands can matter. For example, 1 Tablespoon table salt = 1 1/2 Tablespoons Morton Kosher salt = 2 Tablespoons Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or Maldon sea salt).
  • 1 Teaspoon table salt has the SAME amount of sodium (2300 mg) as 1 Tablespoon of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt
  •  BOTTOM LINE: Most chefs use kosher salt as their go-to, particularly Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (I have no association with them). You are less likely to over salt with it, it pinches easily, it dissolves well and it’s easy to sprinkle.

Which Salt to use for which purpose

  • Table Salt:  Commonly used as an all-purpose salt. Best for cooking and baking – anything that needs more precise measurements. Most is iodized to prevent iodine deficiency.
  • Kosher Salt: Excellent all-purpose salt. Best salt for seasoning meat and poultry and sprinkling on veggies after cooking. Flakier and courser. Dissolves quickly. Don’t use if precise measures are needed.
  • Sea Salt: Best as a finishing salt (especially flaked)- sprinkling on top of cooked veggies, cooked, meats, chocolate, caramel for a burst of flavour. Includes specialty more expensive salts e.g. Maldon, Fleur de Sel, Celtic. Can be coarse, fine or flaked. Chefs think Maldon salt is not as ‘salty’. No point in cooking with expensive sea salt as it tastes the same.
  • Himalayan Salt: Best as a finishing salt or for adding to salt rims of drinks. Purest form of salt.  Rich in minerals.

Salt-related Health Issues

  • Food guidelines suggest an intake of no more than 1 teaspoon or 2300 mg of salt per day. Most of us consume more than that.
  • Typically, only 5% of our salt comes from the food we make. The rest is from processed and restaurant foods, so read labels. For example, a single slice of bread contains anywhere from 80-230 milligrams of sodium; some breakfast cereals can contain up to 300 milligrams of sodium before milk is added. (Sodium makes up 40% of salt).
  • Salt can increase blood pressure, but there is no good evidence that salt reduction has any effect on the risk of heart disease or death for the general population. Some groups may respond to salt differently.
  • Salt is necessary for health and an intake that is too low can negatively impact health.

References

Healthline, Serious Eats, A beautiful Plate, The Spruce Eats, Wide Open Eats, Smitten Kitchen

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