Hello! Welcome to Djalali Cooks. Today’s Ingredient Spotlight is all about salt. I have heard so many chefs say that the reason home cooking tastes different than restaurant food is because home cooks simply don’t use enough salt. This is an intriguing idea, because if you’re following a recipe, how could you be under-salting your dishes? I am not a food scientist, but I have a hunch it has more to do with the type and grain of salt. So let’s get down to it – Ingredient Spotlight on Salt.
Table salt is the type of salt many home cooks use in recipes. In fact, most recipes I read just say “salt” when an amount of salt is called for. This refers to table salt, the fine grain type of salt used to season your dish at the table. Table salt is also a preferred baking salt because the crystals are very uniform, so measurements can be more precise. But using a fine sea salt instead of table salt can yield the precise measurements with a cleaner flavor.
Table Salt is mined from underground mines and is processed to get rid of impurities and give each grain a uniform, cube-like shape. It often has iodine added to it. I never use table salt, I don’t even have any in my pantry. To me, iodized table salt is too salty and it has a metallic aftertaste. Its fine grains mean you’re getting more salt per pinch and I find this hard to control, since I rarely measure salt.
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
In my kitchen, Diamond Crystal is king. I use it for seasoning every single thing that calls for salt.
Diamond Crystal Kosher is sea salt, harvested from the Pacific ocean through an evaporation method that creates hollow, pyramid shapes. So when you grab a pinch of it, there is more space between individual, hollow grains – meaning less salt. This works well to avoid over-salting.
A big benefit of the shape of Diamond Crystal is that its facets help it cling more easily to food. This is where I think the difference is made. The way the Diamond Crystal salt sticks to food is what brings out the flavors of the food – giving that “restaurant” flavor quality that is hard for home cooks to achieve when they use table salt in a recipe. So maybe it’s not that home cooks under-salt their dishes, it’s just that the food isn’t getting seasoned well enough to enhance its natural flavor when a uniformly-shaped grain of salt is used.
The other great thing about Diamond’s hollow pyramid shape is that the grains are easy to crush between your fingers to get a finer grain of salt. Which is great for precise control when salting a dish.
Morton Kosher Salt
Morton is a popular table salt brand, but they also harvest sea salt. The method Morton uses for harvesting results in flakes that are rolled through high pressure rollers to create thinner flakes.
Morton Coarse Kosher‘s flat flakes stick together, which means you are actually just using more salt with every pinch and teaspoon full. So, much like table salt, over-salting your food can be an issue.
Finishing Sea Salt
Flake Finishing Sea Salt is just what it sounds like, it’s used for seasoning a plated dish to give the dish a little extra savory flavor and crunch. Salt brings out the flavors of foods, so it’s also used to top things like chocolate chip cookies or salted caramels. I really like to finish my dressed and mixed salads with it. The large, irregular flakes add so much great texture to anything they top.
Jacobsen Flake Finishing Sea Salt is my favorite finishing salt; it has a very clean, very smooth flavor.
When you’re cooking, salt a dish as you go, rather than just salting once, at a specific moment of cooking. When individual components of a dish are seasoned they all work together to create a well-seasoned, harmonious dish.
If you’re using Kosher salt and a recipe calls for table salt, I usually double the measurement initially, and then continually taste and adjust as needed.
When it comes to meat, when you salt it makes a huge difference. For large cuts of bone-in beef or pork, you want the salt to have time to penetrate the meat. You can salt the meat a couple of days in advance, almost like a dry marinade. With chicken or thick steaks, salt a day ahead of time. Seafood can get rubbery if it’s salted ahead of time, so salt fish and other seafood right before cooking.
Thank you all for joining me today for this Ingredient Spotlight on Salt. For another ingredient deep-dive, check out my Ingredient Spotlight on Vinegar. I will see you all here tomorrow for a simple and delicious way to use cherry tomatoes. Take care and be well everyone, xo Kelly
SandraSeptember 8, 2021 at 9:07 am
I am loving Djalali Cooks! I can’t believe I never even gave salt a thought until I read this post. How could I have overlooked it? Diamond Crystal kosher is on my grocery list now. Thank you!
Kelly DjalaliSeptember 8, 2021 at 9:25 am
Hello Sandra, Salt is the most ubiquitous seasoning. As such, I think it gets overlooked, or not really considered as anything more than adding what we know as a “salty” flavor. But it does so much more, when we think of it as an enhancer to a food’s natural flavor, I think it forces one to be more conscientious of its power, in sweet and savory applications. I also think this consideration can help a cook learn how to use it without over-salting their dishes. I am so happy you found this post helpful and let me know how you like cooking with Diamond Crystal, once you get going with it! xo Kelly
MariSeptember 8, 2021 at 9:39 am
I really appreciate the spotlight series. I don’t really think about salt because I don’t use that much of it. Everyone in the family has to watch their salt intake because of high blood pressure, so I know my food is under salted and rely on seasonings like Mrs. Dash or Badia. I will buy some Diamond Crystal kosher salt. The way you explained why and how you use it makes perfect sense. I really liked reading about the most under used item in my kitchen. I don’t think I have ever heard of finishing salt ether; I need to start shopping. Thanks for the specific recommendations. It’s very helpful to know exactly what to buy, instead of trying to figure it out. Time to make some changes.
Kelly DjalaliSeptember 8, 2021 at 10:05 am
Hi Mari, I am really happy you find this series helpful and interesting. We don’t have to specifically watch our sodium intake, but I am pretty conscientious of how much salt I am using, and I find that by using a salt that inherently does a better job of sticking to food and seasoning it well, I use a lot less salt with better results. It’s a funny thing; taste a tiny bit of Diamond Crystal and a tiny bit of table salt side-by-side, and see if you can detect a difference. It’s good to hear from you, thanks for writing in today! xo Kelly
Suzanne SmithSeptember 8, 2021 at 10:51 am
Great post, Kelly! And good explanations for uses of different salts for different purposes.
Kelly DjalaliSeptember 8, 2021 at 11:17 am
Thanks Suzanne! So glad you found it helpful! xo Kelly