Does it matter what type of salt you use in your cooking? Is it worth spending more on a bottle of sea salt or kosher salt instead of the usual table salt? And which one should you try first, sea salt or kosher salt? Or are these two just the same?
Refined salt (table salt), sea salt, and kosher salt are exactly the same. These are all essentially sodium chloride (NaCl), and you can use any of them in all of the same ways.
What’s the difference between sea salt and kosher salt? The main difference between them is the shape or size. Table salt is fine salt. Sea salt is commonly coarse and less ground, while kosher salt is larger in grain size. Sea salts are crystal in shape, but kosher salts are either thin flakes or pyramidal flakes.
Today, both have finely ground varieties. But fine kosher salt is still larger in grain size compared to fine sea salt.
What are Other Differences Between Sea Salt and Kosher Salt?
There are more differences between these two. Firstly, sea salt and kosher salt can be different in color. Unlike white kosher salt, sea salt varies in color. People produce sea salt by evaporating seawater, and colors may change depending on the place of harvesting. Both sea salt and kosher salt have trace minerals and other elements. These are impurities that tend to influence salt’s color.
Himalayan sea salt or pink salt is pink in color because of the composition of minerals in its particular water source, commonly the Himalayas of Pakistan. Gray sea salt is gray because it is harvested from salt ponds that contain clay elements.
Secondly, they may differ in taste. Not only do trace minerals and other elements in the water source change the color of salt, but they can also influence the flavor of salt. On the whole, what stands out is the saltiness. But the sensitive tongue may be able to distinguish the slight difference in flavor between different salt types and salt brands. Moreover, companies may put additives in their brand of salt, and that further changes the flavor.
Lastly, they differ in purpose. Sea salt and kosher salt are both cooking salts. They taste the same and flavor your food in the same way. But kosher salt is suited specifically for the koshering process. It is more efficient in drawing out blood and moisture from the meat. And it does so without you having to salt your meat too much, unlike when you use sea salt and especially refined salt.
We should also mention that the term kosher salt does not mean the same as kosher-certified. It is called kosher salt because it is used to kosher meat, not because it is produced under kosher supervision nor because it meets all the guidelines set by Jewish law.
Are Sea Salt and Kosher Salt Better Than Table Salt?
Generally, yes, because they are the purer and more natural forms of salt. Table salt is the most processed type of salt. Some varieties also contain iodine for the health benefit of their consumers. And all table salt contains anti-caking agents to keep them from clumping.
In truth, you are not tasting pure salt. That is why many professional cooks recommend switching to unrefined and more natural kinds of cooking salt for the best-tasting dishes. You would want to avoid putting anything other than salt in your food.
In saying that, however, you should know that just because it’s sea salt or kosher salt, it does not mean that it is pure or unrefined. They would all probably have some amounts of iodine in them. And you’ll find some sea salt and kosher salt that contain anti-caking agents. So check labels before you buy.
There are those that still prefer refined salt over unrefined because of ocean pollution. The refining process is in place to remove dirt and any elements that are unfit for human consumption like microplastics or tiny remains of plastic waste that the human eye cannot see.
Why Do Recipes Ask for Different Types of Salt?
If they are all the same, then what is the use of listing different types of salt in recipes. Why do some recipes specifically ask for sea salt or kosher salt, while other recipes just list plain salt as an ingredient?
Some recipes need specific types of salt. If the recipe calls for koshering meat or drawing out moisture like when you prepare to make crispy pork belly, then it’s better to use kosher salt. Other recipes tell you to add salt in pinches or to season as you go, particularly when you make stew and other slow-cooking dishes. Kosher salt and even sea salt (compared to table salt) are easier to pinch so you avoid salting too much in one go.
Cooks share with you their recipes and let you know the exact ingredients they use or prefer. Maybe, it is what they have at the time. Or maybe, they prefer the taste of unrefined sea salt and kosher salt, particularly for sensitive dishes that can easily be affected by additives.
How Do You Convert Salt Measurements?
It happens. The recipe asks for sea salt or kosher salt, but you only have table salt. How do you substitute? Here is how you do it:
- If the recipe calls for fine sea salt or fine kosher salt, it’s safe to use the exact same amount.
- For coarse sea salt and kosher salt, remove at least ¼ teaspoon of table salt. So if the recipe calls for 1 tsp. of sea salt or kosher salt, use ¾ tsp of table salt.
- Sea salt is coarse and less ground, while kosher salt is larger in grain size.
- Sea salt is crystal in shape, but kosher salt looks like a thin flake or pyramidal flake.
- Fine kosher salt is larger in grain size compared to fine sea salt.
- Kosher salt is white, but sea salt may be white or colored (pink, gray, and more).
- Kosher salt is more efficient at koshering meat.
- Trace minerals and elements in the water source change the color and taste of salt.