What Kind of Salt Should You Use?

Switch them up for different contexts — or settle on a new favorite

Mark Bittman
Heated
Published in
5 min readJul 28, 2020

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An assortment of different-sized wooden spoons on a weathered wooden surface; each heaped with a different color/texture salt
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Let’s talk about salt: what kinds you might have in your pantry, what your go-to is, and whether it’s fine or coarse. Are you an early-and-often salter or are you in the season-food-at-the-finish camp? Or somewhere in between?

First, a few basics. All salts are created naturally — in rock and bodies of water — but they’re not all the same. Common table salt is mined, milled, refined, and “enhanced” with iodine and other ingredients. But consistency has a downside: The flavor of table salt is harsh, with iodine the predominant mineral taste.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s an array of specialty salts, pulled from both oceans and clay, with nuances of flavor and color you may or may not think are worth the expense.

In between is a handful of everyday salts — either coarsely milled from deposits in rock or made by evaporating ocean water. Either way, the result is an additive-free salt. These are the ones I use both in the kitchen and on the table.

Salt gets its name and primary flavor from sodium chloride, the major compound present in all types in varying degrees. The subtle flavors of sea salts — which may be described as briny, metallic, or earthy — come from traces of minerals. The more trace minerals, the less sodium chloride, which is why many sea salts taste less salty than table salt and kosher salts. I primarily use either kosher salt or sea salt.

Salting food is a matter of personal taste, so I rarely specify quantities. But I won’t totally leave you in the dark: The instructions suggest when to season with salt — usually more than once during the process and almost always at the end — and I always encourage you to taste.

In my recipes, I specify exact measurements in rare dishes where a precise amount of salt really makes a difference, and, of course, in baking recipes, where I almost always use kosher salt; sea salt is less uniform and might have overpowering mineral flavors.

The Salt Lexicon

Kosher salt

This usually comes in big boxes, either flaked or coarsely ground. I like the flaked…

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Mark Bittman
Heated

Has published 30 books, including How to Cook Everything and VB6: The Case for Part-Time Veganism. Newsletter at markbittman.com.