Of all the questions I am asked–by readers, by students in cooking classes, by friends–is why do I use kosher salt. There is always a follow-up question, too: Why do I insist on Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt? What is wrong with other brands?
If you do not use this salt as your default salt, as the salt you keep next to the stove to grab as you cook, doing so will make you a happier and more successful cook. I promise!
Here is why. This salt is quite fragile and dry, qualities that make it dissolve quickly both in foods and on your tongue. This brings flavors to your palate more quickly than if you use either table salt or other kosher salts, such as Morton’s. Morton’s is made of flattened and fused cubes of table salt, which makes it dissolve even more slowly than table salt itself.
Once you get used to using this salt, you’ll use less as you will learn to salt perfectly as you cook, a technique that allows flavors to blossom fully, something that will not happen when you add salt only at the end of cooking.
Another very important quality is that Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is inexpensive. I pay about $2 for a 3-pound box. You should never use an expensive salt–fleur de sel, for example, or sel gris–for general cooking as the unique qualities are lost when you add it to, say, water for cooking pasta or vegetables.
One other salt warrants mention in this context and that’s Maldon Sea Salt, from England. It is made by the same technique used to produce Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt though the flakes are larger. It is too expensive to use as your default salt–about $10 for an 8 ounce box–but it is wonderful when you want to add a little shower of salt to finish a dish. You can find it at Pacific markets, Oliver’s markets and Traverso’s Market.
What about all the exotic salts you see on the shelves of high-end markets and on menus in top restaurants? They are for fun, for their visual appeal, for the flavors that are often added to them and for their crunchy textures, which are pleasant when used to finish a dish. They are expensive and, in the end, they don’t do anything that you can’t do in your own kitchen by combining kosher salt with whatever ingredient–cumin, lavender, rosemary and chipotle are common additions–you want. Read about the huge array of specialties salts at Shelton’s in Healdsburg here.