When it comes to salt, there’s no need to break the bank. For everyday cooking and baking, we would recommend Redmond Real Sea Salt for its purity, consistency, low cost, and overseasoning-proof crystal shape. For finishing dishes, we recommend Maldon Sea Salt Flakes because the unique flake shape provides a pleasant, clean pop of salinity when sprinkled over foods.
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How Did We Choose?
These picks are the result of ten hours of research through articles from books, trusted publications, and blogs, enthusiast forums, as well as chats with chefs, bakers, and food writers from different parts of the culinary spectrum. And though it wasn’t totally unanimous, these were the two picks that we tallied the most nods for, with consensus from the supporters on why they’re great.
Salt is the easiest, cheapest way to improve nearly everything that comes out of the kitchen.
It’s one of the tongue’s five key tastes. Food scientist Harold McGee tells the New York Times that salt increases “the volatility of some aromatic substances in food, and it enhances our perception of some aromas, so it can make the overall flavor of a food seem more intense.” In baking, salt can help with the volume and gluten structure of rising dough. When added to boiling water, it keeps green vegetables bright. We like salt so much that we also devote countless articles and bookshelf space to advising its reduction in our diet.
Most savory recipes call for adding salt and pepper to taste because palates and salt types differ. This can be frustrating for new cooks—how do you know the right amount to use? Seasoning your food to your liking means establishing a long-term relationship with your salt of choice—knowing how much your fingers can grab, watching how evenly it distributes over your food, and learning, with practice, the right amount to use for your taste. Once you have that tactile memory for a particular type of salt, it can be hard to adjust to a different one.
Most people are already familiar with the tiny cubes of Morton’s iodized salt, which is very cheap and widely available. Then there are a few brands of refined kosher salts, finely granulated sea salts, less refined, chunky sea salts from around the world, delicate, translucent flake salts, and expensive fleur de sel, which the New York Times calls “the crème de la crème of salt.”
But salt is usually just a supporting player. We talked to Dan Barber, chef/owner of Blue Hill in Manhattan, NY and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY, who says, “I think with the best salts, you’re not tasting the flavor of salt but bringing out the flavor of the thing you’re seasoning.” A multi-purpose salt should not mask the flavors of your dish. It should work equally well for seasoning meat or for dispersion in pastries.