Food flavors and styles vary greatly across the globe, but one ingredient is both essential and universal: salt. Once reviled, salt is finally getting its due, and for good reason. Not only does salt have multiple health benefits, it’s enhances the deliciousness of almost all foods. Even better, the world of salt is offers much more than the well-known Kosher and table salt varieties – there are multiple types, flavors, and even colors. Similarly, because the United States is a global leader in salt production, it’s easier than ever to find a multitude of salts in mainstream grocery stores as well as specialty stores.
Unsure of what how to best use different types of salt? Don’t be intimidated! Read on to learn how to incorporate a variety of delectable salts into your cooking.
Fleur de Sel
Harvested by hand only in specific weather conditions, this French sea salt’s name translates into “flower of the sea” because of the flower-like look of the crystals. Fleur del sel is arguably the most renowned salt in the culinary world, beloved for its delicate flavor and moist, flaky texture. It makes an ideal finishing salt for everything from meats and vegetables to rich desserts like crème brûlée. Its fine texture, high mineral content, and flavor also make it an ideal replacement for everyday table salt.
Also known as Celtic sea salt, sel gris (or “grey salt” in French) is rich in flavor and nutrients alike. More coarsely granular than Fleur de Sel but just as moist, sel gris imparts a bold flavor to food. It also adds a delightfully subtle crunch when used as finishing salt. Its coarse texture also makes it well-suited for use in meat rubs.
Himalayan salt teems with trace minerals and bright flavor. Available in a variety of textures, including fine and coarse, this pretty pink salt makes a great cooking and finishing salt. Similarly, bold hand-cut slabs of Himalayan salt make an useful and attractive addition to your kitchen. Because Himalayan salt slabs maintain temperatures for long periods of time, they can be used to both serve and cook foods. They also make a wonderful cutting board, particularly for sweet fare like apples and melons whose sugary tastes are balanced by a touch of briny flavor.
Hawaiian Sea Salt
Another well-known variety, Hawaiian sea salt comes in two colors (red and black) and two textures (fine and coarse). While either variety is a visually striking and delicious finishing salt, the black variety is particularly noteworthy: because the salt is blended with activated charcoal (a digestive aid) it offers additional nutritional properties. Like other finishing salts, heat diminishes its flavor, making it best suited for sprinkling on foods before eating.
Aromatic and earthy, smoked salts are smoked slowly over pungent woods that imbue the salt with deep, unmistakable flavors. The intense flavors of smoked salts (which include applewood, hickory, bourbon barrels, and Chardonnay casks), make them ideal for dishes like hearty meats and rich sauces.
Salts can be infused with a nearly any flavor, including truffle, bacon, chocolate, matcha, herbs, and more. These savory, salty flavors elevate any dish, making them ideal for virtually every food, such as fresh fish and salads. Likewise, seasoned salts make a great addition to wide variety of cocktails and desserts. Some industrious cooks even mix them into the breading of cooked goods like fried chicken or fried green tomatoes.
Photos by Rachel Bowman