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How to Shop for Salt

Here's the lowdown on the three most commonly used types of salt.

Everyday Food, Volume 5 September 2003

This mineral is in just about everything we eat and is essential for maintaining good health. Salt comes to us from either the sea or the earth, where it is mined from deposits left by ancient oceans. In addition to seasoning food, salt helps the body absorb potassium and balance fluids. Salt also suppresses bitterness in some foods, such as leafy greens, and acts as a preservative. Unlike some herbs and spices, salt's taste does not diminish during cooking, so add it gradually and carefully so as not to oversalt the food. There are several kinds of salt used with food; each has its own taste, properties, and uses. Here are some of the different kinds.

Table Salt
Table salt is fine-grained, refined, and used as a condiment as well as a seasoning element in cooking. It contains an anticaking agent that keeps the grains free-flowing, and may contain iodine (iodized salt), which prevents thyroid-gland disorders. Table salt's small grains make it ideal to use when baking.

Coarse Salt
Many professional chefs prefer to cook with coarse salt because its large grains are easier to pinch, allowing more control when seasoning a dish. Coarse salt weighs less than table salt. For recipes requiring specific amounts, you will need to use about a third more. Kosher salt is a type of coarse grained salt but is less salty than sea salts. It contains no added iodine, and depending on the brand, may or may not have an anticaking agent.

Sea Salt
This salt has the strongest taste and may be coarse-grained or fine-grained. It often has small amounts of harmless minerals and may or may not contain iodine and anticaking agents, depending on the brand. Sea salt makes a wonderful condiment in place of table salt.

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