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Sea salt is a favorite of chefs and ‘foodies’, who appreciate the large, crunchy crystals, and softer, more complex saltiness. But it isn’t a good choice for substitution for table salt in every recipe. Once it dissolves, most of the differences disappear, and you’d have been smarter to have used the more economical every-day salt. Here are some cooking tips to take advantage of what it does best.
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- Sea salt really shines when used to season fresh or cooked fresh vegetables. Season very sparingly at first, though! You’ll discover that the large crystals seem ‘saltier’, and you won’t likely need as much. Fresh tomato slices, new potatoes, corn on the cob and even delicate fresh garden salads zing with extra flavor and crunch when you apply sea salt just before eating.
- Re-fill your table salt shakers with sea salt! Because the food will be seasoned just before you eat it, the salt won’t dissolve, and you’ll get the best possible flavor and crunch. (Make sure the holes in the top of the salt shaker are large enough for the larger crystals, though!).
- For the most part, it makes no sense to use sea salt in baked recipes. There are two reasons for this: First, once the salt dissolves, most of the unique but subtle taste differences will be overwhelmed, and 2) In yeast breads recipes, the salt acts as a yeast-inhibiter, and not so much as a flavoring agent, so there’s no sense in selecting the expensive sea salt when the table salt will work just as well. However, when making bread sticks and home-made pretzels, it makes sense to sprinkle sea salt on the surface of the bread (after the egg wash, if used) just before baking. The salt will be extra crunchy, and the flavor will burst with each bite.
- Don’t store the sea salt too near the stove: It doesn’t contain ‘non-clumping’ chemicals, and so excessive steam could leave you with a salt lump. (However, a few shakes or taps should bring it back to almost as good as new.)
- Sea salt works best in savory, spicy, smokey, salty, or sour dishes, but in most cases, it isn’t the best choice for sweet dishes, such as fruit desserts. The minerals in the sea salt seem at their best when complementing entrees, meats, vegetables and sauces.
- Sea salt is a natural for seasoning meat, but again, remember that it loses most of its unique assets once it dissolves, so salt cooked meat either just before serving or at the table, so that you can savor the texture and flavor before it melts away.
- Dry grilling and broiling lend themselves to effective sea salt use: Try sea salt on shrimp kebabs or salmon steaks just before or during grilling. The dry heat ensures minimal melting, so the salt will be at its best for every bite.
- Experiment! There are many kinds of sea salt, gathered from various seas and salt evaporation ponds. Because each contains a different mix of minerals, it will have a different hue, and subtly different flavor.
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