“Hey Chef, may I please have salt for table 25?” may be one of the most nerve-wracking questions a restaurant server has to ask. You see, nothing makes a chef saltier than a guest asking for more salt.
Although using high-quality ingredients is essential to a delicious meal, the #1 indicator of a top chef is in the seasoning: a well-seasoned meal is the difference between a good chef and a great one. In fact, if I had to name the most important ingredient in any chef’s kitchen, it would be salt!
When it comes to seasoning, a great chef must walk a very fine line: a sort of tightrope dance just up to the point of perfectly seasoned but before over-salted. An under-salted meal tends to taste flat and boring, but if a chef crosses the delicate threshold to the other side, their meal faces a doomed fate which, in most cases, can’t be undone.
It makes perfect sense that salt can be incredibly intimidating for a home cook. In our years of hosting virtual cooking classes, some of the most commonly asked questions are all about salt! Namely:
- What are the different types of salt?
- How much salt should I use?
- What type of salt should I use and when?
- To put it simply: add a little salt often. Professional chefs season throughout the cooking process, a little bit here and there, to “salt in layers” for a well-seasoned meal.
- From there, you have some options when it comes to your seasoning of choice. We’ve broken down the 5 main types of salt, how to use them, and when.
Salt #1: Fine Grain
When the great American duo that is the Ying Yang Twins were telling the people of 2003 to “shake it like a salt shaker,” they were, in fact, referring to table salt, a fine grain of salt that’s small enough to fit through a salt shaker’s tiny holes.
Generally speaking, your goal as it relates to table salt should be to render it superfluous: as you learn to cook like a professional chef through our online cooking classes 😉, your guests will no longer need to season their meal once it’s on your table.
With that said, because fine grain salt dissolves more quickly than its larger counterparts, it still plays an important role in baking, especially when baking bread.
Chef’s Tip: avoid iodized table salt (more on that later) & maybe get that table salt off the table, and into your sourdough.
Salt #2: Kosher
Aside from Balinese Truffle Salt 😉, kosher salt should be your go-to: A great chef always has a small ramekin of kosher within arm’s reach. Why is kosher salt better than table salt, you ask? To put it down simply:
- It’s pure: Kosher salt is always additive-free. Table salt often contains iodine, which has a metallic flavor that you don’t want messing with your master chef-level food.
- Texture: Kosher salt’s crystals are coarser than fine grain table salt, making over salting less likely.
- Usability: The larger crystals are both easier to grab and adhere better to food.
Chef’s Tip: kosher salt is about half as powerful as table salt. When substituting kosher salt for table salt in a recipe given in volume (not weight), double the amount.
Salt #3: Sea Salt
While table salt is typically harvested from underground salt deposits, sea salt is made by evaporating sea water and collecting what remains. This yields a unique flavor and texture depending on its origin.
Sea salt is an overarching term for a variety of salts that vary in size and texture. The larger, flaky sea salt, for example, makes for a delicious “finishing salt,” or the salt that you sprinkle as a final touch to a finished dish. Whether you’re making something sweet or savory, finishing salt is essential!
One famous sea salt is “fleur de sel,” hand-harvested in the hilly peninsula of Brittany, the northwesternmost region of France. Fleur de sel has gained a cult-following and high price tag for its quality, and is therefore best used as a finishing salt rather than a seasoning.
Chef’s Tip: a great example of an expert use of fleur de sel is in our Brown Butter Truffle Honey, which uses the delicious granules to perfectly enhance and balance its toasty, irresistible sweet-meet-savory flavor. 😉
Salt #4: Himalayan Pink Salt
Sourced from the southern edge just south of Pakistan’s Himalayan mountains, Himalayan pink salt is used not just for its beautiful color, but because of its high mineral content, yielding a complex flavor that some salt-connoisseurs love. Though some claim it’s “healthier” than regular salt, don’t believe the hype! There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support such claims.
Chef’s Tip: because Himalayan Pink Salt can hold heat for hours, it makes for an excellent baking stone for fish.
Salt #5: Balinese Truffle Salt
Known worldwide as the king of all salts, our Balinese Truffle Salt is that instant umami flavor boost in a simple pinch.
It starts with sea salt sourced from an exclusive partnership with a family farm in Bali that produces the highest-quality salt with the utmost craftsmanship and care. From there, it’s mixed with authentic Black Truffle from France and a touch of dried mushroom to create a delicious, complex and balanced seasoning full of savory flavor.
Chef’s Tip: because its granules are that perfect middle ground between large and crunchy and super fine, our Balinese Truffle Salt can be used as both a seasoner throughout the cooking process and as a finishing salt. With that said, this is truly “the good stuff” so you don’t want to go too crazy. Continue to use kosher salt for things like seasoning pasta water, and maybe set up a recurring order so you never run out! 😉
Now that you're a certified salt expert, I hope you have fun experimenting with different salts and how they affect the flavor of your dish. Remember: salt a little, often! If you liked this article, check out our recipe blog for more inspiration and helpful tips & tricks.