Salt. Whether it’s unrefined, refined, or iodized, it’s something every one of us takes into our bodies every single day. Some are more sensitive to the flavor of salt than others, but I, sadly, cannot get enough. I can easily admit that I have a “salt tooth” instead of a sweet. Nine times out of ten when I’m craving something that is not good for me, it’s potato chips, french fries, or peanuts. Sure, there are a lot of negative affects on the body from having TOO much salt, but did you know that salt is a necessity for the body? In moderation, salt can prevent you from getting high blood pressure!
When you first hear the word “salt”, is this the picture that comes to your head? What if I were to tell you there were over 10 different types of salt out there and more are being discovered every single day?
Today I’m going to talk to you about the classics (such as kosher and table) as well as introduce you to a few of the “special” kinds that are out there!
Whenever you watch any sort of cooking show on T.V., what does the chef always seem to say? “We are about to add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavors of everything else going on in the dish.” I guarantee that if you experiment with these different types of salt, the flavors of your dish will practically jump off of your plate!
Here we have the most common type of salt out there, table salt. Nowadays, practically every type of table salt is now iodized. Why is salt iodized? Back in the 1920’s millions of people were suffering from goiters (WARNING: this picture is not pretty), an enlargement in the thyroid, which was discovered to be caused by a lack of iodine in the diet. Goiters are now extremely rare in this country because of the change. Go iodine! USES: Everything. This is best, though, to be used for baking.
You may be looking at this picture thinking “Sam, what the heck, this is the same picture”, but if you look a little more closely you will notice that this salt is a bit more coarse than in the last picture. Any guesses? That’s right, kosher salt. The term Kosher refers to the dietary guidelines that fall under the Jewish religion. It has a less pungent flavor than table salt, and because of the coarser granules, a pinch of kosher salt is less than a pinch of table. There are less additives in Kosher salt and it dissolves almost instantly. USES: Meats, poultry, seafood, soft pretzels, and, more importantly, margarita glasses :).
Sea Salt. Sea salt is harvested directly from the ocean and is proven to be the most healthy type. Why? Sea salt gets the least amount of refining done to it so it still contains traces of other minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium. USES: Sea salt brings out the freshness in leafy green vegetables. It can be used for any type of meat as well, but being that sea salt is fresh from the ocean, it can really enhance the flavors of fish and seafood.
This is one of my favorites. I absolutely love this color. This is known as Hawaiian Sea Salt. The reddish color comes from a type of Hawaiian clay that is found around volcanos and is harvested along with the sea salt. USES: The famous pig roasts traditionally done in Hawaii use this (it is known as the Kalua pig), prime rib, and pork loin.
This is grey sea salt. The grey hue comes from a very high level of nutrients it contains. A lot of salted caramel truffles use this type and it looks absolutely beautiful and rustic when sprinkled on top. It is almost “moist” in texture and is pretty expensive because it is harvested by hand, not machine. USES: meats, poultry, fish, breads, and chocolate. Yum.
This last salt is one that I find the most interesting, Black Salt. When it’s in its coarse state it can be as black as coal. But as you can see, once it gets ground it has more of a purple-grey color to it. Black salt is mined in India and has an intense sulfuric taste to it. I have never tried this salt before, but if I do, I plan on buying a very small amount to see if I like it, and I suggest you do the same! Its main use is in authentic Indian Cuisine which has a very intense flavor profile alone with spices like curry and turmeric.
I hope that this has broadened your perspective on salt, or that I have at least taught you a little something about this lovely flavoring. Next time you are wandering around the grocery store or, if your lucky, a William-Sonoma, and you know you’re low on the usual salt you have in your kitchen, pick up a new kind and try it out. There are no limits on your culinary skills. They can only grow!