What’s your deal with salt?
People often tell us our food needs more salt, but here’s the thing: those people also happen to eat processed foods regularly. Packaged foods are generously salted and restaurants (especially fast food) tend to salt heavily. Why? Salt masks cheap ingredients.
We didn’t realize how much salt we were consuming until we stepped away from processed foods and started cooking everything at home. After the first month, everything tasted different – we were tasting real food and salt became less of an issue. Our policy is to cook with minimal added salt and let the individual season to taste when eating. Everybody wins.
Which type of salt is best to use?
For most applications, plain old table salt. If the texture of the salt is important, a coarsely ground salt may benefit the recipe. Generally speaking, however, fancy salt is a rip-off unless it is smoked or specially seasoned. It’s no better for you than regular salt.
The American Heart Association does a great job of explaining that all edible salt on the market is about 40% sodium by weight. The food labels claiming that the more coarsely ground pink, kosher, and sea salt contain less sodium are misleading because they measure by volume, not weight. This is why finely ground table salt has the most sodium by volume – there is literally more salt in a teaspoon. If you were to measure equal weights of table salt and pink salt, for instance, the sodium content would be identical.
But what about the minerals in gourmet salt?
It is absolutely true that unprocessed salts contain minerals and nutrients that table salt does not. However, they are in trace amounts, and offer no health benefits within recommended sodium consumption guidelines. You’d have to eat a dangerous amount of salt in order to consume a meaningful amount of mineral content, and that would just be dumb. You won’t find that on a gourmet salt label, though.
Well then…which type of salt is best to use?
For any recipe in which the salt will dissolve, table salt is the most economical and actual sodium content can be measured with higher accuracy. For recipes in which a larger grain is beneficial (think bursts of flavor), use the coarsely ground salt of your choice. Just follow the science and use it in moderation. Don’t get hosed by slick marketing.
But what about flavor?
Whichever type of salt you choose, go easy and watch out for hidden sodium in your food. Lay off the processed stuff, stop eating fast food, and explore the rich and diverse flavors of unsalted herbs, spices, rubs, and mixes. Dried spices are a great way to get started because they’re economical and have a long shelf life. Start with unsalted broths and stocks in your recipes (better yet, make your own). Experiment with new recipes and have a good time – you’ll be physically and financially healthier for it.