Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Tag Archives: salt

In recipes, all salt is the same

If only it were so! Salt is an essential ingredient in so many dishes, that’s just the way human taste works—we like salt (but not too much). With too little salt, savory dishes just taste flat and uninteresting. But over-salted – blech!

The problem is that all salt is not the same. Some salt is saltier than others when measured by volume, strange as that sounds. This is because different salts have different size crystals, and smaller crystals pack tighter than larger ones. So, a tablespoon of standard table salt (the stuff in the cylindrical container) weighs more than a TB of Morton kosher salt, which has larger crystals. And a TB of Diamond Crystal kosher salt weighs less than the Morton’s. It’s the weight that matters, of course. Sea salts vary because they are all different. So, here’s a guide to equivalents:

1 TB standard table salt equals:
1 TB + 1 scant teaspoon Morton kosher salt equals:
1 TB plus 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt.

So what do you do when following a recipe? Some just specify “salt” while other specify “kosher salt” without saying which brand (and I am sure there are other brands I have not tried). It’s best to play it safe and undersalt—you can always add more but it is deucedly difficult to take it back! For dishes that are difficult or impossible to salt later, such as terrines, sausages, and meatloaf, it’s worth the trouble to cook a TB or so of the mixture to taste for seasoning before completing the process, and then adding salt if needed.

Adding salt makes water boil faster

In fact, the opposite is true – dissolved salt raises the boiling point of water. For the amounts of salt used in cooking, however, it is a tiny amount, a fraction of a degree, and you needn’t be concerned about it.

Kosher salt tastes better than “regular” salt

Many cooks and recipes specify that kosher salt be used. Why? Truth be told, because it’s trendy, mostly. Kosher salt is relatively pure sodium chloride, and so is the usual table salt that is available in every supermarket at half or less the price. If you think you can taste the iodine in iodized salt, buy the uniodized version and save some money.

I do like the larger grains of kosher salt because when cooking I prefer to grab salt with my fingers to add to a dish, rather than using a shaker, and the larger grains don’t stick to my fingers as much. But, I am not fooling myself that my food tastes better as a result.

By the way, kosher salt is really misnamed. It is not “kosher” in the sense that observant Jews can eat it, but can’t eat other salts. It’s true name is “koshering salt” because it is traditionally used to salt meats in the kosher butchering process.

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