Stored in dry conditions, most types of salt can keep for years. And while salt -- the mineral sodium chloride -- can't "lose" its saltiness, your perception of it can differ depending on the kind of you use in a recipe. Three common salts -- table salt, sea salt and kosher salt -- are all the same basic mineral, but the way they're ground and processed makes their tastes seem more or less salty.
A Sharper Taste
Cooking salt comes in two basic types: mined salt and sea salt. Mined salt is taken from ancient deposits left in rocks that once were part of prehistoric seas. Most table salt varieties are mined and processed by machine to add minerals and produce a fine-grained product. Table salt's finer grains result in a sharper taste that some describe as one-dimensional. It measures more consistently because of its finer grains, making it a better choice for baking. Table salt usually has iodine added.
Subtle Sea Salt
Sea salt comes from evaporating ocean water. Sea salts are typically used as the final seasoning of a dish because their flavors become more subtle as they dissolve. In other words, their "saltiness" is more apparent at first bite. These "gourmet salts" are so named because they give foods distinctive flavors and range in color from black to pale orange. Their flavor and color often depend on where they come from, and these differences of taste and appearance are why cooks choose them.
Kosher Salt Flakes
Kosher salt can refer to two different types of salt. One type has pyramid-shaped flakes that impart a more subtle saltiness. It's called "kosher" because it's used in processing meat according to Jewish dietary standards. The other kind of kosher salt refers to any salt that has been certified by a religious body, such as the Orthodox Union, as meeting the dietary requirements outlined by the Jewish faith. Kosher-certified salt may or may not have the same flaky consistency as its twin; what it has instead is official sanction that its production has met religious dietary standards.
Saltiness Remains, But Taste Changes
Which salt you choose for cooking and baking will depend on how bold you want its saltiness to be. Fine-grain salt will have a sharper taste, so its saltiness will be more readily apparent and will hold up in cooking. Coarse-grain salts will impart a more subtle flavor, so it's best used as a finishing touch.
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