Salt is one of the most essential kitchen ingredients. Salt is an absorbent that can help lessen the burning sensation in your mouth after eating. The salt has no flavor of its own but provides the taste of many other flavors, from salty to sour to sweet. Most people do not understand why sea salt and kosher salt are two of the most used kitchen ingredients.
Sea salt and kosher salt are terms that usually refer to coarse salt derived straight from an inland sea or ocean. It is harvested by channeling sea water to large clay pots and letting it evaporate naturally by the sun over the course of several days. Although this harvesting method has been in use for centuries, it is only in the last century that Jewish chefs have become so accustomed to using kosher salt and sea salt interchangeably.
Salt is a very important part of the cooking process because it maintains the balance of taste between food and flavor. The four different types of salt all have different characteristics including their mineral content, sodium content, flavor and hygroscopic values. Most kosher salt and sea salt are used in all types of cooking, but there are some chefs who prefer specific types. The main difference between kosher salt and sea salt lies in their moisture retention and mineral content.
Hygroscopic Value – Salt with a high moisture retention is often called “hydro-kid” salt, which means that it retains moisture longer in the stomach and digestive tract. Hygroscopic salt can help moisten and tenderize meats, crackers, cookies, cheeses and pretzels. Salty free table salt cannot perform this task. In order to obtain a correct texture and flavor, it is necessary to use a salt with a high hygroscopicity index. The four different types of salt with the highest hygroscopicity index are; Dicom, Limp, Carron and Sea salt.
Table Salt – Compared to sea salt, table salt has little to no effect on the taste or flavor of food. However, there is controversy between chefs as to whether or not kosher salt affects the flavor or taste of certain foods such as red meat or cheese. Some experts claim that kosher salt destroys the flavor of certain vegetables such as potatoes.
Heat Treatment – Hot or warm temperatures cause changes in the minerals and chemical composition of salt creating a reaction that produces a change in its properties. When salt is exposed to heat for prolonged periods, it begins to lose its saltiness and begins to take on a metallic, plastic or sweetish taste. These changes occur as a result of the formation of “free radicals” in the salt. The effects of hot temperature are most notable in sea salt and baking salt; however, salting tables and ovens do not have the same effect on the other types. The only exception to this is that elevated temperatures can speed up the melting of ice and can increase the salt-to-water ratio (which leads to a reduction in solute concentration).
Iodine – High levels of iodine deficiency can have drastic effects on our health. Studies have shown that a deficiency of iodine can cause hypothyroidism and osteoporosis. For this reason, pregnant women and people taking medications such as the thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Lht) are strongly advised to get their daily iodine intake from salt. Levothyroxine is usually incorporated into salt to aid in its absorption and processing.
While these issues regarding kosher salt may scare some people away, it does not mean that you cannot enjoy sea salt. There are sea salts and table salt varieties that are free of any of the above concerns. There are even a few brands available that are 100% kosher that cater to those with trace mineral deficiencies that typically affect people in certain parts of the world (such as Europe and Asia). To find the best brands, a trip to a kosher market or specialist online jewellery shop is recommended. Either way, you are sure to enjoy the unique taste of sea salt and be able to enjoy the many other health benefits that are associated with it.