Types Of Salt
We tend to overlook the basics when eyeing the end goal of our pursuit. Salt is no different. A powerful and loyal ally, it can by itself change the entire flavor of a dish, or send your creation to a depth that it cannot be recovered from.
Salt is the most basic seasoning, and its use is universal. It preserves foods, heightens their flavors and provides the distinctive taste of saltiness. The presence of salt can be tasted easily but not smelled. Salt suppresses bitter flavors, making the sweet and sour ones more prominent. The flavor of salt will not evaporate or dissipate during cooking so it should be added to foods carefully, according to taste. Remember, more salt can always be added to a dish but too much salt cannot be removed nor can its flavor be masked if too much salt has been added
Remember, more salt can always be added to a dish but too much salt cannot be removed
Culinary or Table Salt
Common salt, culinary or table salt is sodium chloride (NaCl), one of the minerals essential to human life. Salt contains no calories, proteins, fats or carbohydrates. It is available from several sources, each with its own flavor degree of saltiness.
This type of salt is mined from underground deposits, is available in both edible and non-edible forms. It is used in ice cream churns, for thawing frozen sidewalks and, in edible form, in salt mills.
Common kitchen or table salt is produced by pumping water through underground salt deposits, then bringing up the brine to the surface to evaporate, leaving behind crystals. Chemicals are usually added to prevent table salt from absorbing moisture and thus keeping it free-flowing. Iodized salt is commonly used in North America. The iodine has no effect on the salt’s flavor or use; it is simply added to provide an easily available source of iodine, an important nutrient, to a large number of people.
Kosher salt has large, irregular crystals and is used in the “koshering” or curing of meats. It is purified rock salt that contains no iodine or additives. It can be substituted for common kitchen salt. Some chefs prefer it to table salt because they prefer its flavor and it dissolves more easily than other salts.
Sea salt is obtained, not surprisingly, by evaporating sea water. The evaporation can be done naturally by drying the salt in the sun (unrefined sea salt) or by boiling the salty liquid (refined sea salt). Unlike other table salts, unrefined sea salt contains additional mineral salts such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which give it a stronger, more complex flavor and a greyish color. For example, salt from the Mediterranean Sea will taste different from salt obtained from the Indian Ocean or the English Channel.
This type of salt is a sea salt harvested off the coast of Normandy, France. It is slightly wet and takes it grey color from minerals in the clay from which it is collected. Fleur de sel, which means “flower of the salt,” is salt that collects on rocks in the sel gris marshes. It forms delicate crystals and has little color because it has not come into contact with the clay.
Some specialty salts are actually mined from the earth, such as that from the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. The presence of iron and copper along with other minerals gives Himalayan salt a pink hue and distinct flavor. Black salt, common in traditional Indian recipes, is mined rock salt; minerals and other components in the salt give it a dark color and sulfurous taste.
Smoked salt is a type of flavored salt made by smoking the salt over a smoldering fire. It can also be made by adding liquid smoke to a salt solution before it is evaporated.
Sea salt is considerably more expensive than other table salts and is often reserved for finishing a dish or used as a condiment.
Because it is nonorganic, salt keeps indefinitely. It will, however, absorb moisture from the atmosphere, which prevents it from flowing properly. Salt is a powerful preservative, its presence stops or greatly slows down the growth of many undesirable organisms. Salt is used to preserve meats, vegetables, and fish. It is also used to develop desirable flavors in bacon, ham, cheeses and fish products as well as pickled vegetables.
Salt is a mainstay in the culinary world, and as you progress your cooking skills further, learning how to salt will become a skill that you use many times per day. Try different types of salt to catch their intrinsic differences and learn what each is capable of delivering. A powerful flavor enhancer, mastering the art of proper salting is a skill that you will see immediate results from.