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The Only Salts You Need for Cooking

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Take your dishes from drab to fab with these two types of salt. Your taste buds — and family members, and dinner guests — will thank you.

Salt is super important in any recipe, right? It’s like the glue that holds it all together. But with all the different types out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Smoked sea salt and truffle salt are hip and cool and everything, but do you really need them in your kitchen?

Truth is, you only really need two types of salt in your kitchen: kosher salt and a finishing salt. The kosher salt is for brining, seasoning, and to use in cooking. The finishing salt for sprinkling over baked goods and roast meats and vegetables.

Of course, there’s more to it than meets the eye. So let me break it down for you. Just keep reading, and I’ll fill you in on the details as always.

Kosher Salt

First up, we have kosher salt. It’s a little pricier than table salt, but nevertheless affordable. It’s also free from additives, like the stuff they add to table salt to keep it from clumping. (Most table salts contain anti-caking agents, like magnesium carbonate or sodium silicoaluminate. Kosher salt is kosher, so it’s pure.)

Kosher salt’s large, flaky crystals make it easy to pinch and sprinkle, which means you can get the perfect amount of salt on your greens without going overboard. It’s also great for dry-brining meats. Just rub a little kosher salt on those steaks, pork chops, or chicken breasts an hour before cooking, then refrigerate, and it will tenderize the meat and add flavor.

Besides, kosher salt is the no-frills choice when you’re cooking because you can pick it up and sprinkle it with your fingers — whether over the asparagus shoots hissing in that cast iron skillet of yours or in the pasta sauce you’re cooking up in a pot. And, unlike table salt, Himalayan salt, and fine sea salt, it doesn’t clump.

How to use kosher salt like a pro:

  • Start with a good quality kosher salt.
  • Add salt at the beginning of cooking to give it time to dissolve and season the dish evenly.
  • Salt liberally, but don’t go overboard. You can always add salt, but you can’t take salt away. Taste as you go and add more as needed.
  • When using a recipe as a guide, remember that everyone has a different salt preference — what’s good enough for the author might be too bland or way too salty for your taste.

So, the next time you’re cooking, have some kosher salt on hand. Trust me on this; once you start using it, you’ll be reaching for it all the time.

Finishing Salt

Finishing salt…

Sounds fancy. What’s a finishing salt, anyway?

Salt, at least the kind we use in the kitchen, can be divided up into two types: cooking salt and finishing salt.

Cooking salt is the type of salt you sprinkle on meats, vegetables, and add to gravies, sauces, soups, braises, and stews before cooking them or while they’re cooking. Finishing salt is a little different. It’s a special kind of salt. One that you add to the food after it’s done cooking that takes your dish from good to great.

Finishing salt is the final touch, the pièce de résistance, that je ne sais quoi that brings all the other flavors together and ties them into a perfectly seasoned knot. It’s not just any old salt. No, no, no. It’s a special breed of salt that comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors.

There’s flaky Maldon sea salt, crunchy sel gris, and delicate fleur de sel, to name a few. Each one brings its own unique texture and flavor to the table, so it’s important to choose the right one for the job.

So, how do you use finishing salt?

Sprinkle a little bit over your finished dish before serving. A little goes a long way — salt sparingly. You can also sprinkle it over vegetables before roasting, grilling, or broiling, or even use it as a finishing touch on a slice of bread with butter.

Once you’ve opened up to finishing salt, the possibilities are endless! Just remember this trick to making it work: Use a little less cooking salt than you normally would so the finishing salt can shine in the end without oversalting your dish.

The Bottom Line

Salt, salt, salt! It’s the glue that holds our culinary creations together. Fancy salts are all the rage, but do you really need them in your kitchen? Honestly, all you need is kosher salt and one type of finishing salt. That’s it!

Kosher salt is the no-frills choice for cooking. It’s affordable, pure, and has those big, flaky crystals that make it easy to pinch and sprinkle just the right amount in. Besides, it’s ideal for dry-brining meats, tenderizing and adding flavor. Come on, name one person doesn’t love a good dry-brined steak!

Then there’s finishing salt, the fanciest salt of them all. This special type of salt is the cherry on top of your dish, the thing that adds that salty crunch you get in fancy steakhouses and high-end restaurants. Sprinkle some over your finished dish before serving and boom, you’ve got yourself a masterpiece.

But don’t just take my word for it. Give these salts a try in your own kitchen.


Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained chef with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.

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