Salt vs. Salt

Reader Barbara points out that there is no salt post in my ingredients section and asks that I include one. I am vey happy to do that, though I’ll warn you it’ll be short. Why? Because I never use anything other than plain ol’ iodized table salt in my baking. There’s good reason for that: because all baking recipes call for standard table salt or its very near equivalent. Commercial table salts are virtually identical the world over. Those table salts, sea salts (both coarse and fine) and pickling salt all deliver the same amount of salinity by volume. All can be used interchangeably.

Kosher salt (which you see on the upper right) cannot be used interchangeably by volume, and that’s because because the crystal size is so much bigger. Those big crystals don’t settle as closely together in the measuring spoon, which means there are more and larger gaps between crystals, and so less salt flavor per, oh let’s say…teaspoon. To deliver the same amount of salinity that’s contained in a teaspoon of table salt you need 1 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt. I should insert here that all salts are equivalent by weight.

The only time I’ll ever use a large crystal salt is as a garnish…maybe on top of caramel or some ganache or something like that. A flake salt like kosher salt is good for that. Even better is a big granular salt like fleur de sel, pictured at the bottom there. The big crystals are fun because they deliver random, uneven bursts of salt flavor and are fun to crunch in your teeth. As for whether these sorts of gourmet salts really deliver different flavors, that’s all balderdash in my opinion. But buy what you like — just don’t try to exchange it spoonful-for-spoonful for table salt in a cake recipe.

For more on salt go here.

14 thoughts on “Salt vs. Salt”

  1. Great information! I only purchase kosher salt since i am more of a cook than baker and i prefer the crunch. But i do enjoy baked goods often and really enjoy baking. Hence, i have converted all of my personal recipes to weight. It was a 12 dollar gram scale that made the difference for me and i dont intend to go back. Weighing everything, not just flour and the like, really changes everything for a cook AND baker! Reading ratio by michael ruhlman changed everything for me. I wanted to be (relatively) unchained from recipes when in my home kitchen. Learning percentages and using a scale takes all the guesswork out of these types of conundrums. Thanks again!

    1. Different strokes for different folks as they say!

      Thanks for weighing in on this, Dave!

      – Joe

        1. Ah, I don’t believe in the negative health consequences of salt anyway. It was less than half a joke.

          – J

  2. Hi Joe! My mom just went out to buy our family’s favourite salt: it’s a very coarse, various-shades-of-gray-color sea salt. Even after stir frying it with veggies and meat, it remains in crunchy little bits and imparts a taste of the sea in your dish!
    I use it to sprinkle on top of cookies (chocolate, green tea and oatmeal) before they go into the oven 🙂

    1. Large crystal salts are great for that, are they not? It’s the slow melt that makes them so great for salty cookies and things like that. Ever tried World Peace Cookies? They’re on the blog under Desserts & Cookies. You’ll love them!

      – Joe

  3. A somewhat fanatical health-conscious friend buys the salt they feed horses. He claims it’s free of those nasty trace elements and, of course, (for a horse) you can buy a human a two-year supply for peanuts.

    1. Huh. Well if says so. I hope it’s at least iodized. Goiter is on the rise these days because of the gourmet salt craze. You may want to point that out to him (not to be a boring old scold).


      – Joe

  4. Thanks for the sanity and straightforward information contained in your response on the salt issue. Lots of people demonizing iodized salt these days, for no good reason, much the same way MSG gets negative press, also for no good reason. I’m a professional cook and I think info on topics like this is important for home cooks.
    Another blogger I follow took one of her readers to task for not being willing to measure by weight, instead of volume. I respected her for that. Her stance was that it was the most accurate, easiest and, once you get the hang of doing it, fastest way to measure, especially in quantity. As one of my former coaches once said, “I can help you get to where you want to go, but if you’re not willing to change or do what it takes, I can’t help you.” I see a lot of cooks unwilling to look at a new way of doing things. They frequently don’t last very long. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hey Jim!

      Thanks very much for the very kind words! They mean a lot from a man of your experience. Truly, the anti-iodized salt thing is not only silly it’s also potentially dangerous, as I wrote here last year!

      Thanks again and please drop back in when you can! Cheerio,

      – Joe

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