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Salt Varieties and Uses

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

When you hear the word, “salt” what do you think of?  If you are like most people you think of a blue canister filled with an easy flowing, granular substance. 

And that is salt.  Table salt is a finely grained salt crystal with additives in it.  The additives keep the salt from caking together and keep it free flowing even in the midst of the most humid summer on record.  Table salt also has iodine, a mineral that is added to keep the thyroid healthy.  In fact, recipes rarely call for any specialized salt at all, and in the past home-cooks rarely considered any other possibilities.  After all, salt is salty and that is that, right?

Wrong.  There are numerous different varieties of salt and each contributes a different flavor to a dish.  The variances are subtle but they are there and to an educated palate the differences can be quite striking.

On the list of salt that you can choose to use in your recipes iodized table salt should be the last edible choice, not the first.  The additives and iodine change the flavor and make it harsh and bitter.  What should you use?

Finishing salt, like this Hawaiian red salt, is a beautiful garnish for butter.  image:(c)maryeaudet2009
Finishing salt, like this Hawaiian red salt, is a beautiful garnish for butter. image:(c)maryeaudet2009

Some Salt Varieties and Uses

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is the perfect, all purpose salt. It is flavorful without being harsh and the larger crystals allow the flavor to be more distinct from the food. Kosher salt comes in two types of crystals, fine and coarse.

The large surface area of the salt crystals allows kosher salt to season meat to perfection without over salting. Kosher salt can be used at the table as well as in cooking and baking. Some of the more common uses for kosher salt are:

  • Breads
  • Pretzels
  • Seasoning meat and poultry
  • Table salt

Sea Salt

Sea salt is another type of salt that has iodine. The difference between sea salt and regular table salt is that the iodine in the sea salt occurs naturally. There are hundreds of different brands of sea salt and all are made in much the same way and derived from an ocean or sea.

Sea salt is harvested by channeling sea water into large bins made of pure clay. The water is allowed to evaporate leaving just the salt crystals. Since sea salt is not as refined as some of the other types it commonly contains minerals like:

  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Iodine
  • Potassium

There are other trace minerals in sea salt as well. Sea salt has a delicate flavor and makes a good all purpose table salt. It normally comes in three grinds, from fine to course.

Italian Sea Salt

Italian sea salt is produced off the coast of Sicily. It is Interesting to note that the Italian sea salt has less sodium chloride than table salt.

The salt is gathered in the same way as regular sea salt. Its delicate flavor lends itself best to use as a finishing salt, to be added once a dish is complete. It is wonderful in salads, on sliced sun ripe tomatoes with a little olive oil, or sprinkled on to meat just before serving.

Celtic Sea Salt

Celtic salt is harvested from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brittany, France. The salt is harvested as it has been for centuries, with wooden rakes. Traditionally no metal is supposed to come in contact with the salt to maintain the purest and most delicate flavor.

Grey Sea Salt

Grey sea salt is a salt that is collected in the same way as Celtic sea salt and from the same area. It is a purplish gray color. This color comes from the inclusion of clay that is found in the salt flats where the salt is collected.

Grey salt is one of the best quality finishing salts available. It is wonderful on salads, sprinkled on flavored butters, or used on vegetables.

Fleur de Sel

Literally “flower of the sea” Fleur de Sel salt is made up of salt crystals that form naturally on the surface of the salt evaporation ponds. These crystals must be harvested under specific conditions. Most Fleur de Sel comes from Guerande , France. The flavor is unusual and delicate. It is a finishing salt used in salads, vegetables and grilled meats as well as to top some desserts such as caramels.

Black Salt

Black salt has a sulfuric flavor and is used primarily in Indian cooking. The flavor is reminiscent of eggs and is sometimes used by vegans to add an eggy taste to salads and tofu dishes. In traditional Indian dishes it is used in fruit salads, chutneys, and raitas.

Black salt is not a sea derived salt but is mined from the earth. It should not be used as an all purpose salt because of the flavor.

Hawaiian Red Sea Salt

Hawaiian Red salt is colored with natural iron oxide which imparts a subtle flavor to this salt. It is a finishing salt that is perfect for grilled meats. The iron oxide caused the salt to be any color from red to pink, depending on the amount of the mineral in the salt.

Smoked Sea Salt

Smoked sea salt is exactly that. It is sea salt that has been smoked in various ways to add an additional layer of flavor.

Himalayan Pink Salt

Although Himalayan Pink salt is harvested from the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains it is technically a sea salt. It is a marine fossil salt formed eons ago. It carries numerous trace minerals and is a delicious and beautiful finishing salt.

These are not the only types of salts available but they are some of the most popular among chefs and gourmets.

Experiment on your own with these salts.  Try them sprinkled on fresh salads, fruits, and even very sweet desserts to add a gourmet touch to everything you prepare.


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    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I love finishing salts. Before I found this hub, I was going to write one to complement my recipe "Butter Caramels with Himalayan Pink Salt". Now I have backlinked to yours. Thank you!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Mary Audet , this a excellent hub on the different varieties of salt and their uses.

      I am sharing a link to this hub in my hub "Uses Of Salt" which I am publishing.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • fleurdesal profile image

      fleurdesal 6 years ago

      Portuguese sea salt and fleur de sel is also great! Some say it is better than French fleur de sel... What do you think?

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      I'm going to open a restaurant. We will serve one item.

      We will serve warm fresh potato chips...

      and put 100 different salts on the fixins bar.


    • Celtic Sea Salt profile image

      Celtic Sea Salt 8 years ago

      Celtic Sea Salt is Kosher, too! Also look for Portuguese Salt, which is harvested the same way as the French salt (traditional methods, clay lined beds), but with warmer conditions. And there is Hawaiian Deep Sea Salt, harvested in a pharmaceutical grade facility, is taken from deep ocean currents 2000 below the surface, where the water has high salinity. This salt has the highest mineral content of any salt we have measured. Great article, by the way. And thank you for mentioning Celtic Sea Salt brand.

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 8 years ago

      Really interesting hub, I use sea salt but never knew their were so many different types of salt. I've seen the 'salt pans' and heaped mounds of salt drying in the sun in Sicily, Italy they look like small snow covered mountains glistening in the sun light.