What Is Kosher Salt?
Many recipes--especially those originating from professional chefs--call for the use of kosher salt. Time and again I've watched amateur home cooks use regular table salt without knowing there is a difference. And what a difference the right salt makes.
Kosher salt is a coarse grained salt that contains no additives. It's not kosher, per se, but takes its name from the curing process used to make kosher meats. Kosher salt is nutritionally no different from table salt–they're both sodium chloride (NaCl) and both are mined from either seawater or inland deposits from ancient oceans. However, there are several key differences:
- Kosher salt has a larger grain size than table salt.
- The irregular, larger grains don't fully dissolve in liquid.
- Most table salt contains additives.
These first two differences are extremely important to cooking.
Kosher Salt Has a Larger Grain Size
Your tongue can only detect 4 flavors: bitter, sour, sweet, and salt. The remaining nuances of taste comes from your sense of smell. The larger grain sizes in kosher salt provide a larger surface area for taste buds. Also, since the grains don't fully dissolve in liquid, there is still salt grains left in solution to tickle your taste buds. Hence, kosher salt taste different, more flavorful, more complex. For cooking, this is better.
The Larger Irregular Grains Don't Fully Dissolve in Liquid
The larger grain sizes that don't fully dissolve in liquid also make kosher salt better for curing meats. This is why this type of salt is used when making meat kosher for Jewish dietary laws. which forbid eating blood. Typical table salt would dissolve before it's finished the job, so coarser salt is used. Hence, koshering salt, or simply, kosher salt as it's now known.
As stated in the previous section, because the larger grain size means it doesn't fully dissolve in liquid, there are still salt grains left to tickle the taste buds creating more perceived flavor and complexity.
No Additives in Kosher Salt
Kosher salt contains no additives. On the other hand, there are several common additives found in table salt. Some additives are there as anti-caking agents, like sodium ferrocyanide, to make it easier for the grains to move through salt shakers. Some additives were put into salt to combat health problems. Iodine, for example, was added in 1924 by the Morton Salt Company to combat goiter. Hence, the term iodized salt. Other common additives can include fluoride, folic acid, and iron, among others.
Although these additives have not been demonstrated to cause health problems (on the contrary some were added to combat certain health issues), most people in the first world don't need the supplements. Additives are more important in developing countries. Given that, I personally prefer to know exactly what goes into my food and prefer salt with no additives.
Kosher Salt Versus Sea Salt and Fluer de Sell
Sea Salt and Fluer de Sell (a particular type of sea salt) are the salt grains left over after evaporating sea water. It undergoes little or no processing. This makes sea salts less dense than table salt. Some sea salts, in fact, quality as kosher salts.
Despite the claims on the labels, sea salt is not healthier. Both sea salt and table salt contain the same amount of sodium: about 60 percent, by weight. The naturally occurring minerals are left in sea salt--it's these that determine its color--where they are processed out of table salt and additives put it.
Some sea salts are great for use in cooking for when kosher salt is otherwise called. You just need to make sure the grains are fine enough to properly dissolve like a kosher salt. With sea salts whose grains are quite large, they make for a better finishing salt when you want a few salty grains to cap your dish.
Conclusion: Use Kosher Salt In Cooking
When salt is called for in a recipe, use kosher salt. The coarse grains create more flavor and complexity in your dishes and several taste tests performed by the Food Network, Cooks Illustrated, and Slate Magazine prove that out. This is why kosher salt is a staple in the kitchens of professionally trained chefs.
MickiS (author) from San Francisco on December 10, 2012:
Thanks for comment, forddriver66! I had no idea that it was hazardous. Yet another reason to use unadulterated kosher salt!
forddriver66 on December 05, 2012:
The additive in Morton Coarse Kosher Salt *Kosher for Passover* , called Yellow Prussiate of Soda (an anti-caking agent) which is mentioned in the post above is also known as Sodium ferrocyanide, also known as tetrasodium hexacyanoferrate or sodium hexacyanoferrate (II), and is a coordination compound of formula Na4Fe(CN)6. If you look up the MSDS sheet it will tell you it is hazardous if consumed.
Just sharing, as this was a total shock to me. Here we were eating 'healthy' and consuming deadly additives without knowing it!
Claudia Tello from Mexico on October 04, 2012:
Looking for hubs to backlink to, I found this one a perfect hub to link to my "Kosher Carrot Salad Recipe", the first Exclusive I´ve published!! I am very excited to see how it does! Thanks for writing this kosher salt hub, it was certainly useful to me, as it contributes to a richer content.
MickiS (author) from San Francisco on August 16, 2012:
Yep, Drgnkss, Mortons is the first brand whose ingredients I read when I wrote the Hub. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Drgnkss on August 15, 2012:
just read the labels on my Morton Kosher Salt and it does contain additives yellow prussiate of soda (anti-caking agent) also known as Sodium ferrocyanide
johnwindbell from - the land of beards and buggies on May 20, 2012:
Anything Kosher is good for you. Years ago I tried Kosher meat, and kept with it. I was at a friends cook-out, had burgers and dogs, thought they were codboard! But I kept my smiley face on. Thank you for your hub.
Rain Defence from UK on May 20, 2012:
I had no idea that Jews weren't supposed to eat blood. I guess black pudding is not usually on a Jewish breakfast menu then? They're missing out!
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 14, 2012:
I've never cooked with kosher salt before, but just discovered what a difference sea salt makes, and know there's no going back! I'll definitely give kosher salt a try once my sea salt supply runs out.
MickiS (author) from San Francisco on March 13, 2012:
Excellent comment, livelonger. In fact, i'll update that paragraph to make it more clear the kosher origin of the use. Thanks.
Jason Menayan from San Francisco on March 13, 2012:
Great read. I like the large-grained, crunchy salt myself, but I guess I'm a sodium addict. And thanks for clarifying a common misconception regarding its "kosher" origins; the large grains help draw out blood, which is forbidden to eat under kosher rules, from meat. The salt itself, just like all natural salts, is kosher pretty much by definition.