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Salts of the Earth and Sea

February 22, 2011

As I get further into this project I have acquired spices at an alarming rate.I had a decent collection of spices before I began and most of the spices I have purchased have made sense, but what I hadn’t counted on was the myriad of salts that exist in the world. I currently have seven different salts in my cabinet and I will be buying curing salt next week to start curing my corned beef for Ruebens.

 

  • Sea Salt
  • Iodized Salt
  • Kosher Salt
  • Celery Salt
  • Garlic Salt
  • Seasoned Salt
  • Margarita Salt
  • Curing Salt

Some of these make sense. Celery Salt, Garlic Salt, and Seasoned Salt obviously have stuff added to give them a different flavor. Curing Salt has sodium nitrate added which helps cure meats. But what is the difference between Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Table Salt and Iodized Salt? To find out I talked to my good friends over at the Internet. The first thing I learned was that many other people have asked this question before me. I think the amount of information on the internet about salt is second only to the amount pictures featuring  sarcastic, bad spelling cats. There are entire books written about salt. It is all very technical and fascinating, but I’ll try and sum up what the differences are in 100 chemical formulas or less.

The first big thing to know is that Sea salt is made by extracting salt from the sea. Table salt is typically mined, an activity that is infamous in it’s drudgery. Iodized salt is really just table salt that has (keep your hat on) iodine added. If the Internet experts are to be believed the iodine is added for health reasons just like fluoride is added to toothpaste. An iodine deficiency can cause health problems like goiter. Kosher salt gets its name because it is used in the process of koshering meat. It can be either from the sea or from a mine and it comes in large crystals flakes.

As to why I should use one type of salt over another the answer is more a matter of size than of taste. Table salt is very small crystals so it will dissolve quickly when it hits your food on the plate. Sea Salt or Kosher salt have larger crystals and this can be better for cooking (but not for baking). Large salt crystals are also good for food presentation.  They can be used to top focaccia bread or to make a crust for roasted fish.

Sarcasm aside all of the salts are the same chemical compound. They may have some things added (like iodine) or there may be other trace minerals in the sea salt, but they are all good ol’ Sodium Chloride (NaCl).

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2011 12:04 pm

    Wow, this is facinating. I had no idea there were so many different kinds and chemical variations.

    I wonder if you could get some scientific award for discovering a new kind of salt? Sulfuric salt, perhaps, for your daily dose of H2So4? (=P)

    Anyway, great post! You summed a very large topic up into one blog post, and did it with finesse.

  2. February 23, 2011 6:36 am

    Hmmmm…no explanation for the Margarita salt… 🙂

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