The Difference Between Table Salt, Kosher Salt, and Sea Salt


pictured above, from left to right: table (iodized) salt, kosher salt, and fine sea salt

What’s the difference between table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt? I get asked this question a lot, and for the most part, salt is salt is…salt. Sodium chloride is salt and all of the three salts mentioned contains…you guessed it, sodium chloride. The differences? Texture and taste.

Table (iodized) salt: Has very fine granules and is extracted from underground deposits. Table salt is more processed than sea salt and contains additives to prevent clumping. You can also find table salt with iodine, which was added to prevent iodine deficiencies that cause hypothyroidism and goiter. I typically bake with iodized table salt because most recipes call for it and this type of salt dissolves easily.

Kosher salt: This type of salt has larger, coarser grains and is milder in flavor. It is called “kosher” salt because it is used for meats that undergo a curing process to make them kosher (it easily draws moisture out of meats). I like to use kosher salt when doing my normal cooking, because a pinch of it tastes less salty than a pinch of table salt.

Sea salt: Sea salt comes from evaporated seawater. You can find sea salt in different colors and flavors because it can take on the flavor and minerals of the water from which it is harvested (you can try Hawaiian pink sea salt, which gets its rusty color from the iron oxide found in the clay on the islands, or fleur de sel, or grey sea salt – the choices are endless!). Don’t waste your money by using this like table salt; save it for foods that you would sprinkle salt on at the end for a finished flavor, where you want the briny taste of the ocean. For example, it would taste really good if you did just a tiny sprinkle on salmon or some fresh steamed veggies.

Note: There are lots of good dietary sources for iodine. Don’t load up on iodized salt because you think you’re low in iodine – the high salt intake can cause elevated blood pressure, which is linked to numerous other health concerns. Iodine content of vegetables and fruits depend on the soil, but it can also be found in yogurt, seaweed, and seafood. Ask a dietitian if you think this could be of concern to you.

Another note: The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that the average American younger than 51 requires less than 2300 milligrams of sodium daily (that’s the amount of 1 teaspoon salt). Some populations warrant just 1500 milligrams of sodium daily. You basically have to watch your sodium intake, regardless of where it’s coming from. Avoid packaged, processed foods as much as possible, look at nutrition labels to see how much sodium is in the food, and when you do salt, do it with a light hand.

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