What Are Finishing Salts, and When Should You Use Each One?
Have you ever tasted a recipe and thought, "It's just missing one thing, but I can't place my finger on what it is?" Try adding a pinch of salt and see if that does the trick. It probably will, and that's because salt brings out the flavor of other ingredients in both savory and sweet recipes. From pasta water to sauces to soups, kosher salt is the best salt for all-purpose cooking. It is the least salty salt, which means you're less likely to oversalt any dish you're making. (Our test kitchen team prefers Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.) Beyond kosher salt there is a whole other category known as finishing salts, which include Maldon salt, fleur de sel, Himalayan pink salt, and grinding salt. These are designed to add a final flourish of texture and flavor to a completed recipe.
Maldon salt is a widely available brand of flaky sea salt that comes from the south coast of England. It has very large, coarse flakes and is acclaimed by chefs for adding crunch and adapting to the flavor of whatever it garnishes. Try its crunchy texture and flavor in Skillet Steak with Pink-Peppercorn Butter or as an unexpected contrast to Tropical-Fruit Juice Salad.
An unrefined gray flaky sea salt available in different sizes of grains, sel gris takes its gray color from clay-lined salt ponds in France where it is harvested. Its flavor and texture is very similar to both Maldon Salt and fleur de sel, but it has more minerality than either.
Fleur de Sel
Its name means "flower of salt," and this renowned finishing salt comes in both fine and coarse crystals. It is exceptional on steamed vegetables or as a garnish atop a chocolate ganache cake for a sweet-meets-salty love affair. While some varieties are mechanically harvested, true fleur de sel-like Fleur de Sel de Guérande-is hand harvested from the surface of salt marshes on the coast of Brittany, France, using traditional wooden rakes. Among the finishing salts profiled here, fleur de sel is the saltiest.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Pink salt from the Himalayas has a milder, slightly sweeter taste than other salts. It is usually sold as coarse flakes or as a larger rock which you can grate over popcorn or grilled fish. While it has been touted as a healthier, cleaner salt compared to other options, there is no hard evidence to back up these claims.
Different types of salt are available as grinding salt; instead of delicate flakes, a grinding salt has large, dry crystals designed for use in an at-home salt grinder. Use grinding salt at the table as a luxurious alternative to table salt.