Hi!! & Welcome to my guide to salt! 🙂
This simple guide will help you understand what exactly is salt and how it works so that you can start using salt with confidence and successfully season your food!
Let’s start with the basics!
What Exactly Is Salt?
Salt is a mineral, the fancy name for salt would be “sodium chloride”.
You may have heard how bad salt can be for our bodies but the truth is that a healthy amount of salt is actually essential for life! Yup, we cannot survive without salt and that’s why we like it, it’s supposed to be part of our diet!
When it comes to cooking, salt is used to enhance flavor but you should never be able to taste it in your dish. If you can taste it and your food is salty, you’ve either used too much or added it at the wrong time!
Fun fact: salt is also used in baking! Ever wondered why we add that pinch of salt to cookies, cakes, or pies? It’s because salt brings out the natural flavor of whatever you’re making and balances out sweetness and bitterness while enhancing aromas.
There Are 4 Types Of Salt!
All sea salt is produced by the evaporation of seawater but not all salt is equal. In fact, we have many different types of salt and each type has different characteristics and uses:
- Table salt – this is the kind of salt you find in *all* salt shakers around the world. It comes in fine granules and is very salty! It usually contains additives like iodine (used to prevent goiters and cretinism back in the 1900s), dextrose (a form of sugar added to stabilize the iodine), and anti-caking agents (added to prevent the salt from clumping up). These additives aren’t harmful but they’re not necessary so if you want to avoid them, use Kosher salt.
- Kosher salt – this type of salt doesn’t contain additives so it’s considered to be pure. Taste it and you’ll be able to spot the difference! Kosher salt is sold as fine and coarse.
- Fleur de Sel – we’re getting fancy! Fleur de sel means “flower of salt” in French and it’s harvested in, you guessed it, France. It comes in grayish flakes (really pretty) and is sometimes referred to as “flaky salt”, it’s very delicate and dissolves quickly. Since it’s considered a fancy salt and it can be a bit expensive, I recommend using it it for sprinkling and topping and for special occasions. It adds flavor, texture, and looks very pretty.
- Maldon salt – very similar to Fleur de Sel but has a very dry texture and is white in color, just like table salt. The process for harvesting Maldon salt is a bit more industrial so it’s cheaper than Fleur de Sel but it’s still considered a special occasion type salt!
What Salt Should I Use For Cooking And Baking?
Ideally, Kosher salt. You want to have coarse and fine Kosher salt for different uses. For example, you want to salt pasta water with coarse salt but season Alfredo sauce with fine salt.
If you want a fancier option for special occasions, baking, or pretty pictures, I would recommend investing in Fleur de Sel or Maldon. I prefer Fleur de Sel! It isn’t necessary to have this type of salt in your pantry so feel free to skip it if you don’t care for it.
How Does Salt Work?
This involves a bit of chemistry but I’ll keep it super simple. It’s important for you to understand this concept because it’ll help you when it’s time to salt your food.
Adding salt to food triggers osmosis which is a chemical process that causes water to flow from a low-salt environment to a high-salt environment. When this happens, salt removes water from food.
The distribution of salt happens through another process called diffusion. This is a much slower process where salt moves from a high-salt environment to a low-salt environment until it’s evenly distributed.
Because diffusion is a slow process, some foods are better seasoned in advance, this way salt has all the time necessary to diffuse and season the food from within.
So How Do I Use Salt In Cooking?
The key is to salt to taste. Taste and adjust, as you cook. Don’t taste and adjust once at the end, do this from start to finish.
I know this might be disappointing because when you’re a beginner, you just want to know an exact measurement so you won’t mess up but there is no exact measurement when it comes to salt. Really.
As a rule of thumb, you should add salt every time you add a new ingredient to the pot. Mix, wait a bit, taste, and adjust if necessary. Repeat. This way, the salt will have time to diffuse and enhance the natural flavor of your dish and you’ll be able to understand if it needs more or not.
If you accidentally overseason at one point, you’ll be able to fix it because you’re still making the dish.
Some recipes (even some of my recipes) will give you a measurement but even when sticking to the recommended amount of salt, you might come to find that specific dish actually needed more salt or less salt according to *you* which is why it’s so important to salt to taste.
Once you master the art of salting to taste, you won’t mess up because you’ll know how to do it.
More Tips To Salt Your Food Perfectly!
- Use your hands! Salt isn’t dirty but I understand it’s annoying when you have long nails (I have long claws) but this way you’ll be able to *feel* the salt between your fingers and control how much salt goes into your food and where it goes.
- When cooking something dense or big, salt as early as possible so the salt will have enough time to diffuse.
- To salt meat, take it out of the refrigerator, salt it, and let it sit on the counter while you preheat a skillet, oven, or grill. Do not let the meat out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours! You can also salt meat 1 day in advance and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it. For a big Thanksgiving turkey or similar, you might want to season 2 days in advance.
- Season fish just before cooking to keep it from breaking down (fish is much more delicate than meat). The only exceptions would be thick fish steaks, you can season those 15 minutes before cooking.
- Season vegetables while cooking or just before serving if you plan on serving raw veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, or salads.
- Season water for boiling just before adding the ingredients. You don’t want salted water to boil and cook for too long or the water will evaporate resulting in extremely salted water!
Help! How Do I Take Out Excess Salt From Food?
- Add a few drops of lemon juice, olive oil, or vinegar and taste again. This is a simple solution that works for many overseasoned dishes!
- Add more unseasoned ingredients to the dish.
- Add bland rice or veggies (potatoes work very well) to the dish.
- Add extra water, milk, cream, or low-sodium stock.
What About Pepper?
Pepper doesn’t always go hand in hand with salt. I was brought up saying “salt and pepper” when it came to seasoning a dish but that doesn’t actually work for all dishes.
If you cook dishes from different cuisines (I do) or travel a lot, you’ll realize that not everyone uses pepper or black pepper. So it shouldn’t be added to *all* dishes, you should only use it where it makes sense. It’s not a mineral, it’s a spice and not everyone uses it.
If a recipe calls for pepper and you know it makes sense in that recipe, use it, if not, don’t add it
If you love pepper and spices in general, you should always get whole spices and grind them as you use them. This is how you get the best out of any spice!
How Do You Use Salt In Baking?
Salt enhances flavors and aromas and balances out sweetness and bitterness so don’t forget about salt when you’re baking!
As a rule of thumb, a pinch of salt is enough for a classic dough or batter. You should always use fine salt when adding the salt into the dough/batter/base of your dessert, possibly kosher.
Use fancy flaky salt like Fleur de Sel or Maldon for topping cookies, brownies, or a jar of homemade caramel.
& THAT’S IT!! That was all for my guide to salt and How To Salt Food Perfectly! If you have any questions or doubts leave them down below and I’ll answer all your questions asap!! 💘