Salt makes food taste good, and that’s that.
For most of us, there was only one kind — table salt, which is finely ground and white, and it comes in the dark blue round box with the name Morton Salt on it and a picture of a little girl in a yellow dress holding an umbrella along with the slogan, “When it rains it pours.”
The only decision we had to make was whether to get iodized salt or not. Most of us chose iodized because if iodine hadn’t been added, we ran the risk of having a large lump on our necks from an enlarged thyroid gland.
Welcome to the new world of Pink Himalayan Salt, Black Hawaiian Salt, Celtic Sea Salt, Fleur de Sel (Flower of the Sea), Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Kala Namak (black Himalayan salt), Flake Salt, Red Hawaiian Salt and Pickling Salt.
No wonder Mattias Blom, a local personal chef, said, “It’s complicated. There is no simple answer,” when asked about his thoughts on which salt he prefers when cooking for clients.
“There are different ways of using it. I tend to use a lighter brand of salt rather than the pink Himalayan. I prefer the Diamond Brand of kosher salt, also Morton’s kosher salt. For desserts, I’ll use Fleur de Sel because it’s very pure and has large crystals, and I like Jacobsen Salt from Oregon for gourmet recipes,” said Mr. Blom, who owned the Summerland Salt Co. at one time. “If I’m boiling water for pasta, I use basic salt. There’s no point in using expensive salt for that.”
He added that salts are now being infused with a mix of herbs and aromatics and colors like green and yellow.
Randy Bublitz, longtime chairman of the School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management at Santa Barbara City College, agrees with Mr. Blom about when to use the basic salt and when to go for more exotic ones.
“The fancy or high-end salts I use for finishing dishes like grilled fish, lobster tail or white asparagus. For soups, they would get lost so I use basic salt. In fact, kosher salt is the go-to salt for most professional cooks,” he said pointing out that the smaller the size of the crystal the quicker it melts. “Large crystals melt slower and have a much more intense saltiness.”
Coco LaForge, Josie Hoffman and Kim Newton are local private chefs with preferences in the types and brands of salt they use in their cuisine.
“I use kosher salt for all of my cooking,” said Ms. LaForge. ”I find that the slightly larger granules add a nice pop in the food when you taste it, and it stands out. I can taste a major difference in my food whether I am using salt or regular table salt. The result of kosher salt in my food is far superior. The brand I tend to buy is Diamond.
“For a finishing salt, using Fleur de Sel, large flakes of salt, in a salad or on top of meat or cooked vegetables can be nice, but just be careful not to overdo it. A little goes a long way.”
Ms. Hoffman prefers Maldon Sea Salt Flakes “for all kinds of cooking because they have very mild saltiness, and I use the fancier salts for finishing dishes.”
Kosher salt is Ms. Newton’s choice for most of her recipes.
“I like its taste and consistency. And I rarely use table salt — only if I’m in a pinch! I’ve also used Maldon Salt in a few recipes. It is delicious as a sprinkle on top of chocolate chip cookies and always adds a little crunch!” she said.
Julie Chupak has some thoughts about salt, too. She is a nutritionist and dietitian in Lompoc.
“Whether it’s pink Himalayan salt, kosher salt or plain old-fashioned iodized table salt, the bottom line is, it’s still salt, and Americans are eating too much of it, which is causing serious health problems like high blood pressure that can lead to heart disease and kidney failure. The recommended amount for anyone over 8 years old is no more than 1500 milligrams a day,” said Ms. Chupak.
“The good news is that Americans are getting the no-added-salt message, but the bad news is that they are getting more of in the pre-packaged processed foods they’re buying at the supermarket or when they eat out. They need to eat more fresh foods. They need to pay attention to the sodium content on labels,” she said.
“Pink Himalayan salt is very trendy now. It comes from the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan, and it is rich in minerals, so people think it is healthier. People say they are getting magnesium from it. But it’s still salt. They would be better off eating more fresh vegetables.”
Williams-Sonoma in La Cumbre Plaza has a wide variety of salt for cooking ranging in price from $10.95 to $39.95. For more information, call 805-569-6913.