9 Types of Salt and How to Use Them for Cooking

published Oct 24, 2023
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Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Where would we be without salt? In a sad, bland abyss, that’s where. Salt is the essential ingredient we add to everything, from pasta water to pie crust, because of its unique ability to bring out the essence of whatever it touches. Here, we’re taking a look at nine different types of salt, including cooking and finishing salts, to determine the perfect variety for every occasion.

Types of Salt

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Kosher Salt 

Whether you’re team Diamond Crystal or Morton’s, kosher salt is the home cook’s best friend. Technically a sea salt, the larger flakes of kosher salt (as opposed to table salt) are ideal for building layers of flavor as you cook. The name comes from the salt’s efficacy at koshering meat and does not signify Kosherness, per se. Kosher salt is frequently used by home cooks because it is easier to add more of a salty flavor to dishes at a gradual pace, rather than accidentally over-salting a dish with something like table salt. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Table Salt 

Unlike sea salt, table salt is mined from salt deposits before being processed to create a fine texture, making it pourable and, thus, easier to use in recipes. This process removes minerals and contaminants from the salt and introduces additives to prevent clumping. Table salt is often iodized, which means potassium iodide has been added as a way to provide a dietary source of iodine.

Table salt, as the name implies, is good for having alongside black pepper on a dining table for use on foods like a basket of fries or on an Italian sub. Table salt, however, isn’t the ideal choice for baking or cooking, as it commonly makes dishes too salty, which can be difficult to salvage.  

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Pink Himalayan Salt 

Mined from the Punjab region of Pakistan, pink Himalayan salt gets its light rosy hue from trace minerals. This rock salt may be used as a cooking block, where ingredients are cooked directly on the salt block, imparting a salty minerality, or the coarse-grain salt can be used to finish dishes whenever a pop of crunchy, pink salt is appropriate. (And when is it not?)

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Flaky Sea Salt 

These are your large, pyramid-shaped flakes of salt that have been harvested from coastal regions (think: Maldon and Jacobsen). Flaky sea salt is ideal for finishing, due to its satisfying crunch and bold flavor. It’s especially nice on sweet treats like cookies, brownies, and chocolate cake, where the salt provides balance for the sweeter ingredients.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Fleur de Sel 

Unlike typical sea salt, fleur de sel is collected by skimming the salt that floats to the surface of the water used to harvest sea salt (the rest falls to the bottom of the basin). The complex harvesting process and smaller quantities result in a premium product that has a clean finish and a super-light flake. Reserve fleur de sel for your fanciest salting opportunities, like breakfast radishes or a slice of buttered homemade bread.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Celtic Salt 

Harvested from the Guérande salt marshes along the coast of Brittany, Celtic salt, aka sel gris, is a coarse, gray sea salt with a slightly oceanic, mineral flavor. Use it for seasoning or finishing and to amplify the flavor of seafood dishes.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Smoked Sea Salt 

With its one-two punch of salinity and smokiness, smoked sea salt is a clever way to build flavor. Smoked sea salt is infused with the flavor of whatever hardwood is used to smoke it — mesquite, hickory, applewood, etc. These smoky notes work especially well in a dry rub.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Hawaiian Red Salt 

Mineral-rich red salt hails from the Hawaiian islands, where it develops an earthy red color from red volcanic clay that’s loaded with iron oxide. Also known as red area salt, Hawaiian red salt has a pleasantly mild flavor and a slight crunch.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Black Lava Salt 

Harvested from coastal regions, like Hawaii, Cyprus, and Iceland, and combined with charcoal for its characteristic obsidian hue, this finishing salt delivers a seasoned crunch and a bit of drama to dishes. Try it on a Caprese salad for a little visual contrast.