Sea salt used as a “finishing salt” elevates the taste of most foods. Over the years, I have gradually reduced – if not eliminated – the use of salt in my cooking. Nevertheless, I still use large crystal sea salts to flavor many of my dishes after they have been prepared. While some view “salt as the enemy,” I don’t and believe that most foods can be enhanced with just a bit of salt. For those who wish to know more, I have prepared this list of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”) are broken down into several key categories that will be updated frequently as new questions arise. For more information on sea salt and other natural products, please consult the Gourmet Living website.
Shopping for Sea Salt
Cooking with Sea Salt
Health and Nutrition Facts
Other Questions about Sea Salt
Is the term “sea salt” redundant?
A: The answer to your question is YES, but a qualified YES! All commercial table salts were at one point in time sea salts. Some salts are harvested naturally from evaporated sea or ocean water, others are mined and some table salts are produced from briny water forced from underground reservoirs by applying pressure and then purified using heat.
From a practical perspective, most people (including me) tend to think of sea salt as salt harvested from salt beds after the ocean water or seawater is allowed to evaporate. Some of these salts contain minimal traces of other minerals and other organic and inorganic material. In most cases, this unprocessed sea salt is reheated under pressure with clean water to remove unwanted impurities and then allowed to crystallize again.
Salts free of impurities and other minerals are white in color. Traces of color indicate the presence of other minerals that have been infused into the sea salt or allowed to remain during the harvesting process.
Factory-processed table salts contain virtually no impurities and are generally more granulized than sea salts. For the most part, commercially processed salts are often used to flavor and extend the shelf life of factory-processed foods.
What is the nutritional difference between Celtic sea salt and Mediterranean sea salt?
A: Nutritionally, there is little if any difference between Celtic sea salt and Mediterranean sea salt. Nevertheless, there are certain trace minerals in both sea salts depending where the sea salts have been harvested. In many cases, the harvested sea salts are re-processed to remove undesirable minerals and bi-products from the salt and then the sea salt is allowed to recrystallize.
When should one use table salt as opposed to sea salt?
A: When one refers to “table salt,” I assume that they are talking about “cooking salt.” Sea salt is generally used as a “finishing salt.” That is, sea salt is generally applied after the dish is cooked to add flavor or, perhaps, a little color to bland looking dishes.
Do I get enough iodine if I use sea salt instead of iodized salt?
A: Iodine in salt is equivalent to fluoride in toothpaste. Most independent studies suggest that if you are eating a balanced diet, there is no need for iodized salt. Sea salt does not naturally have iodine, so it has no material impact on your retention of iodine.
If you eat seafood or vegetables grown in soil that has iodine, you should get enough iodine in your diet. In any event, if you are concerned, I suggest you consult with your physician.
Where online can I buy inexpensive sea salt?
A: As one reviewer stated: “salt is salt is salt.” This is true, but this fact alone doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. According to the USDA, the average American consumes roughly 70% of their daily salt intake through processed foods. As such, most of us are consuming salt without even being aware of it.
The size of salt crystals make quite a bit of difference in the amount of NaCl you are actually consuming as measured by a single teaspoon. Check out the labeling on standard cooking salts (which are heavily processed) to see the difference. Despite the “added” cost, I prefer to use sea salts as a finishing salt because it adds both color and texture to what could be a very bland dish.
Is sea salt healthier than normal table salt?
A: Technically, there is little to no difference between “normal” or table salt and sea salt. Nevertheless, sea salt crystals tend to be larger than commercially processed salts and, as such, the amount of salt or NaCl that you get in a teaspoon can vary significantly.
Also, many sea salts are “washed” or “cleaned” to remove trace minerals and other undesirable elements captured during the harvesting process. The sea salt crystals are then allowed to recrystallize and may be infused with other trace elements to add flavor or color. We normally use sea salt as a finishing salt to add texture, flavor and color to some under-seasoned dishes.
When do I use sea salt in cooking?
A: For the most part, chefs do not use sea salt in cooking or the the preparation of food. Sea salt is generally used as a “finishing salt” and added only have the food is ready to be served. In some cases, the sea salt is infused with additives or other minerals which provide a color to showcase the dish. Also, sea salts tend to have larger crystals allowing for more texture as well as seasoning the food.
When do I use lemon infused sea salt?
A: We typically recommend using lemon or citrus infused sea salts for fish. It adds a nice touch of color and the large crystal sea salt flakes do add an elegant finishing touch to fish fillets.
When do I use black sea salt?
A: Black sea salt tends to make bland dishes like cauliflower soup or eggs pop. Again, sea salts are used as finishing salts rather than cooking salts and both the color and crystals provide an explosion of color. The large black crystals provide both texture and contrast and are often found at better restaurants in the United States and abroad. For the most part, the black color comes from a carbon infusion rather than any romantic notion of lava beds.
Is Himalayan salt better than sea salt?
A: Actually pink Himalayan salt is “sea salt” that has been mined. Most salt enthusiasts know that all salt is sea salt and the differences in taste, texture and color are simply a function of how the salt crystals are processed. There are no special nutritional or health benefits in seasoning your food with Himalayan salt, but you may like the color.