I was chatting about the different types of salt in grocery stores with a friend the other day, and she asked me a really good question… “What’s the best salt to use for baking?”
At the end of the day, all salt is salt, isn’t it? I mean, no matter what the brand and the origin of a salt, it’s nothing more than packaged sodium chloride.
Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t make the choice of salt for home bakers less daunting. And if you found yourself wondering what salt to use for your dough, in this post I’m going to try and help make that choice easier for you.
I’m going to make the unpopular statement and start off this post by telling you that the best salt for baking is the one that you and your household like the most.
As with pretty much everything else in home cooking, the type and brand of salt that you add to your doughs and finish your baked goods with ultimately comes down to your taste and budget.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of types of salt that seem to work really well with baking…
Table salt and fine grain sea salt come in tiny and evenly-shaped crystals, which makes them perfect for adding to a dough. They dissolve easily in water and mix well with flour. Kosher salt is coarser, which makes it a great finishing salt.
Both table salt and kosher salt come from the salt from long gone bodies of water that’s dried up on the rocks in underground salt mines.
Table salt is processed to give it a fine texture. It’s typically iodized and contains additives such as anticaking agents. Kosher salt, on the other hand, needs to conform to the strict dietary requirements of Jewish law. It’s flakier, free from iodine, and contains no additives.
Sea salt is made by evaporating water from oceans, seas, and saltwater lakes. Sea salt takes little processing to produce, leaving behind trace minerals and elements like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sulfates, supposedly giving it a stronger taste than other salts.
While some home cooks will swear by the taste of sea salt, others will tell you that they can’t really taste the difference.
If you belong to the latter, the higher price tag of sea salt is probably not worth it. So use table salt or kosher salt instead.
Though marketers will try to convince you otherwise, most food scientists will tell you that the trace minerals and elements found in sea salt are present in amounts so small, that it’s practically impossible for you to taste the difference.
So, as I like to do on this blog, I put their theory to the test.
I made two loaves of bread from two batches of dough. For each loaf, I used the same type and brand of flour and made a dough with the same hydration and equal amounts of salt, baking it at the same temperature.
The only difference was that I used fine grain sea salt to make the first batch of dough and table salt for the second.
My wife and I then tasted the two loaves to see if either of us could notice a difference.
In all honesty, we couldn’t.
My Best Baking Salt Picks
Salt is probably the ingredient that everyone stocks up on more than well in their pantry.
If you’re curious to try something new the next time you shop for salt, here are a few of my personal favorites.
The San Francisco Salt Company Sea Salt comes from the Pacific Ocean and has no additives. Though you could use it for bath and spa, I think it goes great in bread and pizza dough.
Looking for kosher salt? When in doubt, go for David’s. Like the name and packaging suggests, this is the kosher-est salt you’ll ever purchase. There’s a reason why it’s the favorite of professional chefs and home cooks across the country.
What About Other Salt Varities?
Search for the types of salt on the Internet, and you’ll come across at least a dozen salt varieties to choose from.
That includes kosher salt, table salt, and sea salt; the three staple salts for baking that I already covered. It also includes rarer and costlier salt varieties like Himalayan pink salt, Celtic sea salt, sel gris, smoked salt, and others.
As I like to say every so often, it’s your kitchen—and your rules. If you really like the aroma, taste, and texture of a certain salt variety and you want to use it for making bread or pizza at home, go for it. Just remember to use fine grain salt (or to dissolve coarse salt crystals in the water extra carefully), or your baked goods could end up breaking someone’s tooth.
What Kind of Salt Do Professional Chefs Use?
Most professional chefs I’ve watched on YouTube and talked to in person tend to use kosher salt. When asked why, they typically say they like kosher salt because it’s natural, non-iodized, and additive-free. The coarse and flaky structure of kosher salt also makes it easier to pick up by hand.
Another type of salt that I’ve seen many chefs use, especially those who cook Mediterranean food, is sea salt. Sea salt comes in large crystals, best for seasoning soups, stews, chilis, and sauces, or fine ground, which is more suitable for baking.
The one salt I haven’t seen almost any chef use is table salt.
Why Do Chefs Sprinkle Salt From High Up?
Professional chefs sprinkle salt from high up because it helps them to season their dishes more evenly. The closer you sprinkle salt to the surface of a dish, the more the salt will dissolve and concentrare in one area of it.
Thought you can fix that easily by stirring a dish, sprinkling salt from high up and tossing your dish in the pan is typically enough to season it nice and even.
Why We Use Salt in Baking
Salt plays an important role in baking, especially when it comes to bread and pizza.
Salt enriches the taste of your dough, bringing out the natural flavors present in the flour and yeast. As with any other recipe, the trick is in adding “just the right amount” of it to your dough.
According to employee-owned flour mill and bakery shop King Arthur, “the correct amount of salt in bread dough is 1.8 to 2% of salt based on flour weight (that is, 1.8–2 pounds of salt per 100 pounds of flour).”
Now back to our regularly-scheduled programming on the topic of… salt. Other than bringing out the natural taste of the four and yeast, what else does salt do to a dough?
Salt gives strength to the dough by tightening its gluten structure. The “gluten structure” is the protein strands that form in the dough as you’re kneading it.
A tighter structure means your dough is more capable of holding on to the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas bubbles produced by the yeast during fermentation.
In other words, salt helps you to make dough that’s more airy and fluffy, which is exactly what you’re looking for when making rustic bread and Neapolitan-style pizza at home.
The best to use for baking is the one you like the most. Whether that’s kosher salt, fine grain sea salt, or plain ol’ table salt, the “secret” to great-tasting baked goods is not in using a specific kind of salt, but knowing how much of it to add to your dough in the first place.
What’s your favorite salt for baking? And why? Let me and the rest of this post’s readers know by leaving a comment.