Salt is undoubtedly one of the main pillars of all good cooking. A crucial element in both salty and sweet dishes, it plays a major role in enhancing and amplifying flavor. That being said, all salt is not created equal, and different dishes call for different types of salt.
So what is the best salt for cooking? That very much depends on what you are cooking. A baked dessert will not require the same type of salt as a stew or soup, and the size of the salt flakes matter as well. In general, the best salts are kosher salt, sea salt, and Himalayan salt. Aside from these, there are a few specialty salts that can be used when salt should really stick out in a dish.
If you read on, you’ll discover the best types of salt that you can buy, along with what types of recipes each salt is best suited for. We will also answer some common questions related to different types of salt and how to cook with each one.
The Best Salts For Cooking
Our favorite salts for cooking are:
- Sea Salt
- Himalayan salt
- Kosher Salt
- Specialty salt
While these are all versatile salts, some are better for specific recipes than others. Keep reading to find out when you should use each salt, and why it’s handy to have multiple kinds of salt stocked in your kitchen!
1. Sea Salt
Sea salt is created when, you guessed it, seawater evaporates. However, not all sea salts are created equal.
High-quality sea salts result from a long, slow evaporation process, which can take up to five years, while less expensive refined sea salts are created from a rapid evaporation process. However, that doesn’t mean that refined sea salt is bad.
High-quality sea salt and refined sea salt simply have distinct uses in the kitchen.
Many higher-end sea salts have larger flakes, so they are perfect for topping off salads or fresh-baked bread, while less expensive, refined sea salt flakes are smaller, making them ideal for seasoning potatoes or eggs, for example.
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
One of the most affordable, yet high-quality, sea salt options on the market, Maldon sea salt flakes are a staple that any cook should have in their kitchen.
The soft, crunchy flakes taste extremely pure, due to the fact that they have no additives.
This flaky salt can take on a wide variety of roles in the kitchen.
Due to the larger size of the flakes, they shouldn’t be used for seasoning large stews or soups, as they won’t dissolve as well as smaller salt grains, but they are ideal for sprinkling onto already cooked meats, fresh tomatoes, or dark chocolate desserts.
If you could only buy one sea salt, it should be Maldon sea salt flakes.
Maldon Smoked Sea Salt
Another great, yet affordable, sea salt option, Maldon smoked sea salt is a refined, high-quality salt that is appropriate for a wide variety of uses in the kitchen.
Because it is smoked, it has a caramel color and a natural, subtly smoky flavor that will season without overpowering food.
Like all good sea salt, it is pure and natural with no additives, meaning that it tastes very clean.
Season grilled meats and fishes with this smoked sea salt.
Fine Ground Celtic Sea Salt
Not all sea salt comes in large flakes.
Celtic sea salt, for example, is extremely fine-ground, meaning that it can be used when cooking just as you would kosher salt.
Aside from its superior and natural flavor, it has a plethora of essential minerals that your body needs, enriching both your meals and your health.
SaltWorks Mediterra Mediterranean Sea Salt
Back to coarse sea salt, SaltWorks makes a large-grain, coarse sea salt that is perfect for use in a salt grinder or when you want large flakes to stand out as a finish.
Also naturally high in minerals, it is harvested from Mediterranean waters in a pure solar evaporation process.
2. Himalayan Salt
A trend that has gained popularity in recent years, Himalayan salt is a pink-colored salt that is made from rock crystals that have been mined near the Himalayas, usually in Pakistan.
Like high-quality sea salt, Himalayan salt contains many important minerals that your body needs to function, such as potassium, manganese, iron, and zinc.
Himalayan salt gets its pinkish hue from its mineral impurities, and it can be used a number of ways in the kitchen.
Finer grains can be used in cooking just like you would use Kosher salt or sea salt, while larger grains can be used in a grinder or for garnish.
The Spice Lab Himalayan Salt
This coarse Himalayan salt has a subtler flavor than Kosher or sea salt, so sprinkling it on top of finished food or even fresh fruit won’t be overpowering.
Because it is mined, there may be some sediment or small rocks in the mix, so be sure to pick those out before using or putting into a salt grinder.
The large crystals and pink color make it a perfect garnish, and you can sprinkle it on top of steaks, grilled fish and vegetables, omelets or salads.
Just note that if you want to use it when baking, you’ll have to be sure to grind it well beforehand.
San Francisco Salt Co. Himalayan Salt
In contrast to the large crystalline form that many Himalayan salts come in, Sherpa Pink Gourmet Himalayan salt is fine ground, meaning that you could substitute it for any Kosher salt or fine sea salt if you desire.
It’s the perfect salt to keep in stock in your kitchen, as you can use it to season practically any dish and even for baking.
It’s great for seasoning meats or creating brines, and it’s the ideal salt for creating your own, at-home seasonings due to its extremely fine grain.
This salt can be bought in bulk, up to 5 pounds at a time, so you can always have it stocked in your kitchen.
3. Kosher Salt
Kosher salt is a basic, all-natural cooking salt that can be used in almost any recipe. It’s inexpensive but pure, as it is free of additives.
It’s the type of salt that every cook should have in their kitchen, as you’ll have a million reasons to use it.
Morton Kosher Salt
There are two main brands of Kosher salt, the first of the two being Morton. You probably recognize the box, which has a girl in a yellow dress carrying an umbrella on it.
Morton salt flakes are relatively large, meaning that they are easier to pinch and measure for sprinkling.
Morton salt can be used in virtually any recipe, from creating brines and salting meat to lining the rim of a margarita glass.
However, due to the fact that Morton salt flakes are larger and denser, they are saltier than finer, easier-dissolving flakes would be, which is important to keep in mind when measuring out salt for a recipe.
Diamond Crystal Pure and Natural Kosher Salt
The second of the two main kosher salt brands is Diamond Crystal. Like Morton salt, this Kosher salt is pure and additive-free, meaning that it has a natural taste.
However, Diamond Crystal flakes are much finer than Morton flakes, meaning that you may have to use a larger quantity to achieve the same flavor as you would with the latter.
Because of their smaller size, these flakes will stick to food better.
Many chefs, including Samin Nosrat, author of the cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, swear by Diamond Crystal Kosher salt due to its ideal size and pure flavor.
Because it is finer than Morton flakes, it is also perfect for baking. Diamond Crystal Kosher salt is something that every cooking aficionado will want to have stocked at all times.
4. Specialty Salts
These specialty salts aren’t meant to be used in your everyday cooking, but they are great to keep on hand for garnishing special meals. Their strong flavors are a great addition to a variety of dishes, adding complex and unique tastes.
Caravel Gourmet Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt
This sea salt is infused with Italian black truffle, which has a very distinct flavor.
Though certainly not to be used for everyday cooking, it is an excellent garnish or can be incorporated into a dish to add strong truffle notes.
Rub on steak or chicken before grilling, or sprinkle on roasted potatoes with olive oil.
San Francisco Salt Co. French Fleur de Sel de Guérande
This pure sea salt, harvested in France, is a common choice of chefs for its high quality and superior flavor.
Its fine yet extremely solid grains are natural, neither ground nor crushed, so the most important aspect that it has to offer is its crunchy texture.
Utilize it in dishes that will show off its shape, such as on top of a Caprese salad or even sprinkled on brownies.
The Spice Lab Black Lava Salt
This real Hawaiian black lava salt obtains its naturally dark color and smoky flavor from activated charcoal.
Its unique black flavor adds an interesting garnish, but it’s important to note that it should not be used during the cooking process but rather sprinkled on top of finished dishes.
Its medium grain is sure to stick out on top of lighter ingredients, so consider topping light-colored dishes, such as fried eggs or creamy pasta, with this shocking black salt.
What about table salt?
Perhaps the most popular or well-known salt, table salt is the most inexpensive salt on the market.
Though it has a similar grain and texture to Kosher salt, there are many reasons to splurge a little bit more to get Kosher or sea salt.
Table salt is a refined salt that is usually mined from underground salt deposits. It is heavily processed to remove minerals and usually includes additives to prevent clumping.
Most table salt also has added iodine, which is essential to thyroid function.
However, unless you have thyroid issues, the added iodine that you’ll find in table salt doesn’t make up for the additives and the heavy processing that it goes through.
Most normal adults can get their daily recommended dose of iodine through common foods, such as dairy, seafood, and eggs.
Should I buy iodized salt?
Again, if you have a thyroid issue, you may have to keep an eye on your iodine intake. One way to do so is by buying iodized table salt.
No other salt is iodized, so Kosher, sea, and Himalayan salt won’t be able to help you out in that department.
If you have a normal, healthy thyroid, try to steer clear of iodized table salt.
Natural Kosher and sea salt will taste purer and have no additives, giving your food a better and more natural flavor.
Where does salt come from?
As was briefly mentioned, all salt was originally part of ocean seawater, but over the centuries has ended up in one place or another. The different varieties of salt have different origins.
Kosher salt, like table salt, is harvested from underground salt mines that remained after ancient oceans evaporated.
Sea salt, as you can probably guess, is produced from evaporated seawater, a process that can take a very long or very short amount of time, depending on the method employed.
Finally, Himalayan salt is also mined, but it only originates from areas surrounding the Himalayas, most frequently Pakistan.
Which type of salt is healthiest?
It’s difficult to choose just one salt as being the healthiest, as they all have their unique qualities, but it’s safe to say that salts free of additives are healthier than heavily processed salts, so table salt is not the healthiest choice.
There are claims that Himalayan salt is especially healthy due to its high levels of vital minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. However, the levels of these minerals that are present in the salt may not be high enough to make serious impacts on the body.
Some people swear by high-quality sea salt as having significant health benefits. Natural sea salt also has a high concentration of essential minerals and can help to restore or maintain electrolyte levels in the body, aiding in the prevention of dehydration.
Which type of salt do chefs use?
Each cook certainly has their own personal preferences, and their preferred salts vary depending on their usage. Many chefs swear by Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt when it comes to large-batch seasoning.
This is a perfect heavy-duty salt that can add flavor to restaurant-size portions of soups, stews, and roasts with ease.
Chefs often turn to sea salt, specifically Maldon Sea Salt, for a finishing salt. When they want the salt crystals to stand out on a piece of steak or crunchy salad, chefs are sure to use high quality, larger grain salt that will leave its mark.
Which type of salt is best for baking?
We all know the important role that salt plays in seasoning when cooking (flavor, duh!), but its role in baking is a bit more mysterious.
While it does still act as a flavor enhancer, in many cases it plays a crucial role in the chemical reactions that are occurring when you pop something in the oven.
When baking bread, for example, salt controls yeast growth and works to strengthen the gluten in the dough. In pastries, it cuts the oiliness and greasiness of butter and encourages browning.
When a baking recipe calls for salt as a supporting ingredient, such as in bread or cake, any Kosher salt will do just fine.
There are certain recipes in which it pays off to use a specialty salt:
- Use flaky sea salt to top off rich brownies or dark chocolate ganache truffles.
- Use large, chunky salt grains in salted chocolate chip cookies.
- Use pink Himalayan salt to garnish a rich carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting or make salted caramels.