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Old 12-31-2011, 04:14 PM   #1
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Sea salt: Is it better?

I like sea salt and I think it's better, but I have no concrete basis to prove it to anybody beyond stating my opinion. Here are my reasons:

1. Sea salt has additional minerals and salts that give a subtle taste change compared to pure table salt. However I can't quite pin down what it is. It just tastes more complex to me. (Has anybody else noticed any different or more complex taste of sea salt?)

2. Table salt is intentionally made to have uniformly small grains, probably to make it come out of a salt shaker easily. Sea salt is widely available with fine, medium or coarse grains, and is often less expensive sometimes even much less expensive particularly if you buy it in large packages from ethnic markets. (I get mine at Asian markets.) Perhaps table salt comes in fine, medium and coarse but I've never seen it sold other than fine.

3. You often see TV chefs seasoning their dishes by pinching salt out of a dish. If you've ever tried this I think you'll agree that it's much easier than shaking salt out of a container, and much more accurate too since you develop a feel for how much salt is in your fingers and it's very easy to get the amount you want. I usually use coarse salt in my dish for stove top seasoning. The coarse grains make it easier to pinch the desired amount.

4. I like medium sea salt for table seasoning (rather than fine salt) because of its non-uniformity covering the food. When you eat food salted this way you sometimes get little flavor explosions rather than having your food uniformly salty. (Granted, some people want uniform seasoning.)

5. Medium or coarse salt is particularly nice for salting bread tops before baking, like for example making focaccia.

6. I can think of only two reasons why table salt would be any more desirable than fine grain sea salt. Some people who are on certain sodium restricted diets use "lite salt" which is a mixture of potassium- and sodium-chloride so as to get equivalent saltiness but with less sodium. And since table salt is often iodized it provides a source of iodine for people who need that, although IMO we get plenty enough iodine as long as we are eating a healthy diet and a variety of foods.

So what do you think? Table salt or sea salt?

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Old 12-31-2011, 04:34 PM   #2
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Kosher salt. Diamond Crystal. It's 100% salt with no additives. This is what you see chefs pinching from a dish on TV.

Sea salts do have subtle added flavors. That's the attraction. Those flavors are lost in a pot of cooking food. Sea salts are best suited as a finishing salt used at the table where those subtle flavors can be appreciated.

BTW, all salt is sea salt. It's the impurities in "Sea" salt that provide those subtle flavors.

NOTE: This discussion is limited to NaCl - sodium chloride.
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Old 12-31-2011, 04:47 PM   #3
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In Denmark it is very common to have tiny little salt cellars at every place setting. There is often a teensy little spoon with it. Some people swear by picking up the salt with their fingers. They claim that there is a tiny amount of skin oils that get into the salt and add extra dimension. The salt in the tiny little salt cellars is always coarse salt (well, maybe medium).
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Old 12-31-2011, 05:00 PM   #4
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A lot of the taste and feel depends on the method of production. Careful controls can cause different salts to crystalize at different stages and allow the producer to provide purer salts. But the taste is also a function of crystal size. The facility with which they dissolve causes them to be perceived differently. There's no binding specification for what can be called sea salt. Historically, it was frequently evaporated from a salt marsh, which no doubt lends each location's salt a different flavor. Sometime, way too much flavor, and not the good kind. At one time, less desirable, darkly colored salt was for the poor. As you moved up the economic scale, you could afford whiter, and therefore purer and less polluted salt.

For those interested in the history of foodstuffs, read Salt - A World History, by Mark Kurlansky. I'm pretty well read, and I had some idea of the importance of salt trade and its uses, but I had no idea. In the U.S., we learn in History classes of the triangular trade, sugar-run-slaves. But I had not known of the strategic and tactical place of salt in American affairs at the time and again in the American Civil War.

I use sea salt for finer crystals and a good deal of the misleadingly named kosher salt.
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Old 12-31-2011, 05:59 PM   #5
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Andy, yes I guess on some level all salt is sea salt, even salt that comes from mines, since AFAIK all salt is residue from either ancient dried up oceans or from fresh sea water then dried. I used "sea salt" in my OP and topic title to indicate salt that is labeled "sea salt" in contrast to the common table salt.

And by no means, please don't restrict discussion to just one kind of salt. I started the discussion because I thought it would be an interesting topic, and because I'll be interested in learning new things. Let's hear about all kinds of salt used in cooking.

TL, interesting story about Denmark. I too scoff that a little skin oil on salt could have any effect on taste.

GLC, I've accepted your recommendation on Kurlansky's book, and have reserved a copy at my public library.

For those of you who like Kosher salt, please tell us why you like it and what you use it for.
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Old 12-31-2011, 07:23 PM   #6
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Kosher salt . Nothing but salt. Sal.
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Old 12-31-2011, 08:14 PM   #7
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I use Kosher salt for cooking, it has no anti-caking ingredients and I actually use less salt, because the crystal structure is larger than table salt. I have many "finishing salts" that I use at the table. Celtic Gray, Himalayan Pink and artisan salts, Maldon Sea Smoked Salt, Alder Smoked Sea Salt, etc. I love the different flavors and I use my fingers to sprinkle them.

I started this discovery of Salt after reading Kurlansky's book.
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Old 12-31-2011, 11:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessFiona60 View Post
I use Kosher salt for cooking, it has no anti-caking ingredients
Look at the packaging, at least one (national) brand does list anti-caking agents.
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Old 01-01-2012, 12:11 AM   #9
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I found this interesting website: Sea Salt & Gourmet Salts - Guide. It's a commercial site but the information is good.
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Old 01-01-2012, 12:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankZ View Post
Look at the packaging, at least one (national) brand does list anti-caking agents.
Not the Diamond Crystal Brand, which is what I buy.
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