It’s an essential ingredient in food, salt. Most often, we notice it when it’s overused or missing: Dishes taste too salty, or too bland. Home cooks tend to skimp on salt; commercial food processors load up on it (to the detriment of our collective health). People have been using salt to preserve and season food for many thousands of years.
Recently, I switched from using fine sea salt for general cooking to kosher salt. When I spent a couple of days cooking with my brother, who owns the award-winning Baker & Nosh in Chicago, I used kosher salt in his bakery kitchen. When I got home, I filled the little dish next to my stove with kosher salt.
I like the way kosher salt, with its slightly larger and coarser grain, feels between my fingertips as I pinch some to add to the bowl or pot. The coarser grains of kosher salt are easy to grasp and pleasant to sprinkle. I can see and feel how much salt I’m adding to my cooking. I use kosher salt to season dishes as I cook, layering in flavor by sprinkling in a pinch when I add new ingredients to the pan (tasting as I go to be sure it’s needed). I also like kosher salt for bread-baking, although I typically use table salt in baking unless the recipe specifies kosher. (Note that there’s a difference in volume between kosher and table salt, so you’ll need less table salt than kosher salt.)
For finishing a dish, I have two preferences in my kitchen. First, I like Maldon sea salt flakes, which many professional chefs recommend. Maldon sea salt has a nicely briny flavor; just a little goes a long way. I like the crunch that it adds to a dish, particularly to salads. I used Maldon sea salt with this recipe for sea salt chocolate chip cookies.
If I want the salt to disappear texturally but add a snap of flavor, I’ll use extra-fine French gray sea salt. This salt is soft as sand and is best used sparingly. It dissolves quickly in salad dressing, it’s perfect for popcorn and I love it on a soft-boiled egg.
Where can you find these excellent salts for cooking?
find kosher salt at Penzeys (or your grocery store)
find Maldon sea salt at King Arthur Flour (or your local specialty food store)
find extra-fine French gray salt at Williams-Sonoma