- Food and Cooking
What is Kosher Salt?
Don't bless the salt – it's already kosher.
It seemed like a cooking fad, but kosher salt is not going away. What is kosher salt? Is it really better than table salt?
You bet. With the exception of chilling your beer.
Kosher, which means "fit" or "proper", is a word mostly associated with food. It's not a style of cooking; kosher food gets its label only after strict processing rules have been followed. In a broader sense, the term can also be used to describe purity, as in ritual objects, and even people themselves.
What does this have to do with salt?
Kosher laws require that all of the blood be removed from meat when it is butchered. This means packing the meat in salt. Plain old table salt won't do the trick because it dissolves into the meat before the process is complete. So, your brisket is too salty and non-kosher.
Enter kosher salt, aka Koshering Salt.
Large flakes don't dissolve before the job is done. And because there is no iodine or anti-caking agent added, it can be called kosher because it is pure salt. No blessing needed.
You'll need to modify your salt shaker when you replace standard table salt with your new friend kosher salt. Better yet, buy a cheese shaker. Those flakes are huge.
Salt enhances flavor in part by drawing moisture out of the food you sprinkle. A large salt crystal will melt more slowly and draw out more moisture, so cooking with kosher salt gets you more flavor.
Use it instead of table salt with any of your favorite recipes. Its great for using in a rub, or brining meat. Chunky, irregular looking kosher salt also makes an interesting garnish. If you clean your cast iron with kosher salt, you can scrub without removing the seasoning from the pan.
A note about Sea Salt
Sea salt and kosher salt are often referred to interchangeably. They are not the same thing though. While they are each large flakes of sodium chloride, there are a few key differences.
Sea salt crystals are not quite as big as kosher salt crystals. Kosher’s flakes have large surface areas while sea salt has a pyramid shape. This is why sea salt cannot absorb as much moisture.
While some producers use evaporation to make kosher salt, others compress table salt crystals under pressure. The resulting flakes have irregular shapes.
Sea salt is made by evaporating sea water at normal pressure. Therefore the flakes are relatively uniform in shape. Minerals such as magnesium and calcium may be added to sea salt to give it a distinct flavor. Hawaiian salt, for instance, is a rich black sea salt that comes from lava.
Depending on where is it made, sea salt will have different colors. This is caused by the trace minerals that exist in the area where the salt was evaporated.
Generally chefs prefer kosher to sea salt, due to the coarser texture. The price difference is a factor as well; sea salt is generally a gourmet item and a salt plate can be quite expensive.
How to substitute with kosher salt
Kosher salt's larger crystals take up more space than table salt flakes, even though they weigh the same. This makes substitution tricky. (The size of the flakes also varies from brand to brand.) Start yourself out with a two to one ratio: two teaspoons of kosher salt generally equal one teaspoon of table salt. It's not a hard and fast rule. Then again, neither is the measurement at the end of all the best recipes: salt to taste.
When your measurement must be exact, however, be careful. The volume of the salt is not the only factor. How quickly the flakes dissolve may affect your recipe, too. For this reason, table salt may still be a better choice than kosher salt for baking.
Oh, and for chilling your beer.
If you dissolve salt in your cooler, you will lower the freezing point of the water. The salt molecules interfere with the water molecules, preventing them from bonding into a solid.
Water can still form itself into ice when foreign bodies are present, but the temperature needs to be lower than 32 degrees. Compare Lake Michigan with the Bering Sea, in January.
The ice cubes in your cooler will chill the water they are floating in to a temperature below freezing. How does a chilly and refreshing beverage in a mere 15 minutes sound? Thought so.
Kosher salt will dissolve in your cooler, but when you're thirsty and the drinks are warm, speed is key. So stick with the little salt. You'll have lots to spare once you switch to kosher salt.