You may have read about kosher salt, and seen it used in recipes – but what is it, and how does it differ from other cooking salts? Here we explain what makes Kosher salt so popular, and the best ways to use it in the kitchen.
What is kosher salt?
Kosher salt is loved by chefs for its fine crystals and delicate taste. It is popular in America but unlike many American salts, it is made with no added iodine, which gives it a softer flavour than traditional American table salt. In the UK, it is not compulsory to fortify salt with iodine, so we may not notice such a dramatic difference in flavour.
However, kosher salt grains sit in between fine table salt, which pours smoothly from a shaker, and large sea salt flakes. Compared to sea salt, it is much easier to rub kosher salt between your fingers and sprinkle over a dish.
Where does kosher salt come from?
Whereas the majority of salts are made by evaporation of seawater, Kosher Salt is sourced from land salt mines. Water is injected into the mine to make a brine, which is then removed and slowly heated, dried and agitated to produce kosher salt.
How is kosher salt different to table salt or sea salt?
As a result of the slow heating and agitation during the production process, the final salt crystals are hollow, coarse and more irregular in size when compared to sea salt. It’s hollow shape also means it dissolves quicker on your tongue, giving it a softer flavour compared to sea salt. Both salts, however, are made up of the same sodium chloride particles and have no additives. Sea salt can be considered purer as it has a simpler production process of evaporation, but with the increase of microplastics and pollutants in the sea more people believe kosher salt to be a purer form of sodium chloride.
The main difference between table salt and kosher salt in the UK is the grain size. Due to the larger grain size when measuring salt by volume kosher salt has 53% less sodium than table salt per teaspoon.
How do you use kosher salt?
- Seasoning a finished dish. The crystal size makes it easier to control kosher salt’s intensity – because a pinch of Kosher salt is less powerful than a pinch of standard fine-ground table salt.
- Seasoning as you cook. Once you get the hang of the ‘saltiness’ and feel of kosher salt, you’ll want to season all your dishes with it – naturally reaching for just the right amount as you season pasta water, sauces and stir fries.
- Salting and drying food. Kosher salt is very popular for salting food, as it doesn’t contain anti-caking agents so the flakes stick to food easily.
- Fermenting food. Since kosher salt doesn't have any iodine or additives, unlike table salt, it won't slow down or inhibit the bacteria during the fermenting process. It also dissolves much easier when making a brine.
- Flavoured salt mixes. The texture of kosher salt makes it a good choice for combining with finely chopped herbs, citrus peel, chilli flakes or dried garlic for homemade flavoured salt. Serve your salt mix alongside good olive oil for dipping bread.
Why is it called kosher salt?
The name kosher salt refers to the Jewish tradition of ‘koshering’ meat, by drawing blood using salts. Kosher butchers chose this salt with slightly larger flakes, and so it became universally known as ‘Kosher salt’.
There are actually two types of kosher salt, kosher-style salt and kosher-certified salt. For a salt to be certified as kosher it has to be reviewed by a Jewish institute.
Which kosher salt should I buy?
Diamond Crystal kosher salt has a fantastic fine, almost crumbly texture – with no additives. It is referenced throughout The French Laundry cookbook, where Thomas Keller explains: “we use a specific brand of kosher salt, Diamond Crystal, because of the size of the grains. Salt is the primary seasoning ingredient we use. It heightens the flavour of everything across the board…without it, the flavour of meats and vegetables and fruit is a little flat, dead, fade, as they say in France – insipid. Salt opens up flavours, makes them sparkle.”
Maldon Sea Salt has been offered kosher-certification but it is still different in grain size and shape to kosher-style salt. The soft flaky texture of Maldon sea salt crystals and the cleanness of the salt flavour they deliver makes this salt stand out.
Maldon sea salt is a beautiful finishing salt - great sprinkled over lamb, fresh asparagus and gougères. Or try Maldon sea salt in sea salt chocolate truffles or a salted caramel sauce.