Using Kosher Salt: Do I Really Have to Do That?

There are certain labor-intensive recipe phrases that can make the most diligent cook roll her eyes. "Do I really have to do that?" we wonder. Leave your Do I Really Have To Do That? questions in the comments and they shall be answered, saving us all a lot of needless trouble.

A salt by any name is still nearly 100 percent NaCl sodium chloride, but picking which salt to sprinkle feels a little like being Goldilocks: this grain's too small, this one's too big. Pair a salt with its perfect match, though, and you'll find the one that's just right.






KOSHER SALT

The name's a little confusing. Kosher salt, really called koshering salt, is named such because it's used in the meat koshering process to remove surface blood, not because it's made according to the Torah's guidelines for kosher food (nearly all salt is kosher). Chefs love kosher salt because of it's pinchability (handling the salt directly gives you more control when seasoning a dish) and a clean, pure flavor. In a blind taste test performed by America's Test Kitchen, both Morton Kosher Salt and Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt fared well in cooking and when sprinkled on a finished dish. The flavors were described as "straight-forward," "sweet" and "clean." This is a your all-purpose, go-to salt, especially when cooking. Keep a dish of it by the stove.




TABLE SALT
When it rains, it pours, as anyone who has unwittingly dumped too much table salt in a bowl of soup knows, and it's the Morton slogan for a reason: anti-caking agents are added to table salt to help it "rain" out of shakers. But there are plenty of times when table salt's fine crystals are just right. They dissolve quickly and evenly into liquid-based dishes such as soups, stews, braises and brines. For this same reason, lots of bakers prefer table salt for its consistent flavor and texture throughout cookies and biscuits (though I think a burst of salinity in a chocolate chip cookie is divine). When swapping in table salt in a recipe that calls for kosher salt, remember to scale back. The fine grains pack more saltiness measure for measure. Morton's Iodized Table Salt took first place in America's Test Kitchen's taste test for baking biscuits, but when sprinkled over cooked meat its flavor was deemed "harsh". Some super tasters claim to detect the flavor of iodine in table salt, which was originally added by Morton to prevent goiters (not so much an issue for us in North America anymore). You're better off using kosher salt at the table. Or better yet...


SEA SALT

Think of sea salt as a final touch to a cooked dish, like a spritz of perfume or clasping a gold bangle around your wrist when you're otherwise ready to head out the door; it's a flourish that elevates everything. As opposed to large-scale commercial salt mining and production, sea salt and fleur de sel ("flower of salt") are often harvested by small-scale, artisan methods. Rakes collect the thin layer of salt that rise to the surface of shallow seawater pools. Yeah you guessed it: that's why it can cost $10 for 4.4 ounces. It's a splurge for sure, but it's kind of a life-changing one. Discovering one of the large flakes––a burst of saltiness and a soft, subtle crunch––is a delight, and its appeal is as much textural as flavor-enhancer. For that reason, you wouldn't want to cook with it. It's like putting premium petrol in an old beater. Maldon Sea Salt won in America's Test Kitchen's taste test for its "light, airy flakes." Try it once (Maldon sells little travel size tins) and see for yourself if you think it's worth it.


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