Why do star chefs love flake salt so much?

So asks reader Brandi. Part of the reason, Brandi, is merely caché. Yet there are some good reasons why many cooking show chefs prefer to work with flake salt. For one, it’s easy to pick up. And I mean that literally. Granules of table salt run from between your fingers like tiny ball bearings when you try to pick up a pinch. Flake salt by comparison clumps and allows for easy grasping. It also dissolves quickly, which is nice when you’re trying to correct the seasoning of a food just prior to serving.

Flavor also has something to do with it. Mass-market table salts can have a vaguely “chemical” flavor because of the additives they contain. There’s potassium iodide of course, and to keep that from breaking down, a few stabilizers (either sodium carbonate or a combination of thiosulfate and sugar). Then there are anti-caking agents to keep the individual salt granules from sticking together (silicon dioxide or magnesium carbonate). Then there are the anti-caking agents to keep the anti-caking agents from caking, and no, that’s not a joke. They all add up to less than 3% of the total volume of the salt, but they can affect the taste of commercial salts relative to the unrefined varieties, at least when you sprinkle a little directly on your tongue. Mixed into a dish, well, that’s another matter entirely.

Of course over in the baking department regular granulated salt rules. Why? Because it’s an ingredient that’s frequently measured in volume, even for fairly large batches of…whatever. Large crystal salts throw formulas off because they don’t pack into a spoon or cup in the same way. Yes, every now and again a pastry chef might use a little fleur-de-sel to top a dark chocolate tart, but that’s about the extent to which exotic salts are useful for bakers.

4 thoughts on “Why do star chefs love flake salt so much?”

  1. So2? That’s sand and makes me worry. One ancient culture (Egypt? I don’t remember) suffered from collective toothache because they had it in their food – they used it to make grinding the grain easier, but unfortunately it also destroyed their teeth 🙁

    1. Oh it’s in very finely powdered form, but I see your point regardless. And indeed, until very recently in human history grain-based foods were terrible for teeth, full of bits of millstone and such. We’re awfully lucky to live when we do!

      Thanks, Uptight!

      – Joe

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