Kitchen Tip: My Favorite Sea Salt

by Maris Callahan on June 12, 2011

Buying salt at the grocery store is a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Being the kitchen commodity that it is, you would think that you’d go to the store and there would be one shelf devoted to one type of salt made by one brand and you could use this salt for everything: baking, making spice rub for grilled steaks and ribs and adding flavor to your favorite soups, sauces and salad dressings.

Unfortunately, such is not the case.

There are a lot of different salts out there ranging from plain table salt to high end sea salts – one of the most noteworthy being fleur de sel, an artisinal, hand-harvested salt hand-collected by workers in specifc regions of France. I learned about fleur de sel when I made Dorie Greenspan’s famous world peace cookies and bought it to use as a once-in-awhile-treat, because it is pricey.

After acquiring my first jar of fleur de sel, I thought I had reached the peak of sea salt ownership, until Rachel bought me a set of sea salts and whole peppercorns for my last birthday.

While fleur de sel truly is special-occasion salt (nerd alert!), every cook should invest in a high-quality sea salt.  The brand that I have and adore is Maldon Sea Salt,  one of the only four salt manufacturers in England. It’s a family-run business known for its quality, harvested in a very traditional manner.

Most salts have a bitter taste that almost make your mouth pucker when you come in direct contact with the crystals – like if you over-salt your food or if you can’t remember which canister has salt and which has sugar so you dip your finger in, ever so gently, to taste-test.

Maldon salt is unmistakable with soft crystals that look like snowflakes, so large you’ll need to crush them between your thumb and forefinger before you use them. It has a very distinctive, salty flavor without being bitter or acrid. Because it’s less processed, it’s said to be healthier for you than other types of salt.

Maldon is more expensive than traditional table salt but you’ll get a lot more mileage out of it and it really makes a difference in the quality of your food. I’ve seen it sold between $10-12 for a 125g box (I don’t know how many ounces that is. Don’t make me do math). While I haven’t quite figured out how to replace sea salt for table salt in most baked goods, I do use it for a number of other worthwhile tasks:

Uses for Maldon (or other large-crystal) Sea Salt:

Sprinkle on top of chocolate chip cookie dough just before you slide the tray of cookies into the oven to be baked. The salt will draw forth the bittersweet flavors in the chocolate chips. Delicious!

Top freshly steamed edamame with sea salt for a healthy snack. Shell any leftover edamame for avocado, corn and edamame salad

Toss a large pinch (or a heaping teaspoon if you like to measure) into your boiling water for pasta.

Dress your next simple green salad with high-quality olive oil, your favorite vinegar (such as balsamic or red wine) and a pinch of sea salt.

How do you use sea salt in your own kitchen?

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Daryl June 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I am all for these fancy salts but everyone needs iodine in their diet and I am not sure if these salts contain iodine. It is probably a good idea to make sure regular iodized salt is interspersed in one’s diet.

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Lisa from Lisas Yarns June 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I just have cheap Morton’s sea salt… When it is gone, I definitely want to buy something a little bit more high quality. Thanks for the recommendation! I will have to check that out!

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Simply Life June 12, 2011 at 2:15 pm

great to know – I always get confused by all the options!

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Kate (What Kate is Cooking) June 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I love the idea of sprinkling chocolate chip cookies with sea salt! Salt and chocolate = LOVE!

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Jennifer June 12, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Those are my sentiments exactly! I also have fleur de sel (acquired as a gift) on reserve “for special occasions only!”

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Betty @ scrambled hen fruit June 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Hubby’s on a low sodium diet so I use sea salt just because it seems to give more “bang” for the buck. I seem to be able to use less of it than when I use regular table salt. I bought fleur de sel for exactly the same recipe as you did, and was so glad I tried it, even though it was pricey.

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Tanvi@SinfullySpicy June 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Thank you for this article.I seldom get confused at the wide variety available in stores.

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chris June 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Love this post. I became a fan of Maldon when we used it at the restaurant. I topped the flourless chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream with it. You can really go wrong with Maldon. :)

In my house, I use a generic fine sea salt for everything…even my baking. I bust of the good stuff for special dishes, and have a canister of mortens for emergencies, too.

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Nelly Rodriguez June 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I love it to just finish dishes just before I eat. Loved this article, very informative!

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Alexandra (Veggin' Out in the Kitchen) June 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I love all the ideas for sea salt! I bet it would also be good sprinkled atop some oatmeal, or anything really! :)
My favorite sea salt is Hawaiian red sea salt. Best salt EVER!

<3

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Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) June 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I’ve been tempted to get some nice salt for some time, but wasn’t sure it was worth it. I think I’m convinced. Chocolate chip cookies with salt sounds AMAZING.

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anh@anhsfoodblog June 12, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Informative! Thank you!

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Jamie | My Baking Addiction June 12, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I am obsessed with different types of salts, but I don’t think I have tried Maldon. I must change that soon!

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mandy June 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I started using high quality sea salt earlier this year and its made such a difference in some of my recipes.

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Sherilyn June 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Fantastic post as always. I love sea salt for everything in baking and for finishing. Such wonderful information.

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rebecca June 12, 2011 at 9:02 pm

love a good salt :-)

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BakerbyNature June 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I have been going nuts for sea salt in everything lately… even in cookies.

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yummychunklet June 12, 2011 at 11:36 pm

I’ve never been too adventurous when it comes to salts (or peppers). But, this looks promising, so I’ll have to give it a go!

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella June 13, 2011 at 12:16 am

All salts definitely aren’t made the same. I was lucky enough to visit a salt farm to see how it was harvested and it was so interesting! :)

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The Harried Cook June 13, 2011 at 1:17 am

I only recently started using sea salt, and I too love sprinkling it on chocolate cookies/desserts, as well as on focaccia before baking! So yummy… Great & informative post! :)

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Pudding Pie Lane June 13, 2011 at 4:11 am

Wow, I didn’t know there was so much to salt :/ but thanks for this, it’s really useful and when I start using all these different salts I’m going to look very sophisticated! :p

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga June 13, 2011 at 4:33 am

I have just commented directly underneath you, about 2 mins behind you, on like 3 or 4 blogs. It’s high time to say hello to you :)

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My Carolina Kitchen June 13, 2011 at 5:28 am

Great article on salt and you’re right, there are a lot of salts out there. I’ve always used kosher salt, mainly because I learned to cook reading Julia Child’s cookbooks and that’s what she used. I also use fleur de sel, which I brought back from Provence, as well as Maldon, which Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) uses.

I tend to use fleur de sel and Maldon as finishing salts and kosher for seasoning pasta water and a general seasoning as I cook. Have you ever tried Maldon’s smoked salt? It’s fabulous, especially on salmon. It’s difficult to find, but sometimes I see it around Christmas time.
Sam

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Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen June 13, 2011 at 5:34 am

My favorite salt to use in the kitchen is fleur de sel. I use it in everything whether savory or sweet. Just a pinch brings out all the wonderful flavors.

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Joanne June 13, 2011 at 5:54 am

It really is crazy how complicated something as seemingly simple as salt can be! I’m so glad you’ve written this mini tutorial. Because I usually just throw something on blindly and hope for the best!

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Erica June 13, 2011 at 6:39 am

I don’t have a high quality sea salt- I NEED to pick one up next time I’m at my favorite kitchen store- it can totally make a huge difference in recipes!

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Kitchen Belleicious June 13, 2011 at 6:50 am

You know I didn’t really use sea salt until about 2 years ago.I was a plain morton salt kind of girl but now I don’t even attempt to use plain salt in my cooking unless I am baking. I love the flavor of sea salt, the extra little bitty crunch it gives and it is so much better for you! You know I always like hearing your amazing cooking ideas, tips and tricks!

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Shilpa June 13, 2011 at 6:52 am

Very informative article…A good salt makes all the difference to bringing out the real flavour of recipes..I love the suggestion of using it over cookies.. Will have to give that a go…

-Shilpa

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Vivienne June 13, 2011 at 7:17 am

ahhh i didnt use fleur de sel in my world peace cookies last time i made them! haha. im sure theyd turn out a lot better with them tho!

im quite confused with all the types of salt! but i dont use table salt anymore…these days its a mixture of maldon or himalayan salt!

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Rachel W. June 13, 2011 at 12:02 pm

And here I only was giving it to you because I think you’re salty…

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Ali Grace June 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Thanks for this! I always get confused about salts. What do you think is the best kind of salt to bake with? And does the sea salt usually work well in just normal cooking?

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Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet June 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I use kosher salt for everyday cooking and various sea salts for finishing when salt flavor is more obvious. Sea salt is good to use for everyday cooking when you need to cut back on your salt intake because it has more intense flavor.

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Nami @ Just One Cookbook June 14, 2011 at 2:04 am

Thanks for the link and now I know what it looks like so I’ll pay attention when I buy next time.

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Deeba Rajpal (@vindee) July 21, 2011 at 10:27 am

Love the post and I love Maldon’s sea salt … I have 2 little boxes which I use very sparingly.

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