Both fleur de sel and Maldon salt are upscale salts primarily used for finishing dishes. They are both sea salts prized by serious cooks for having bright, clean flavor profiles. Aside from those similarities, there are some important differences between the two. While you should probably have both in your spice cabinet, you should consider their different properties when deciding which to use in a particular application. Consider the following Spiceography Showdown, which shows how fleur de sel and Maldon salt stack up.
How does fleur de sel differ from Maldon salt?
Fleur de sel’s main selling point is its flavor, which is bright and oceanic. The key to what sets it apart from Maldon salt (and from most other salts) is the fact that it is moist. Its moistness causes its flakes to stick together and keeps it from dissolving instantly on the tongue, so its flavor does not go away instantly. In comparison, Maldon salt flakes are dry and have a short lifespan in terms of how long the flavor lingers. It is prized for its lightness.
The appearance of the two salts are different as fleur de sel is a grayish color due to the minerals it contains while Maldon salt is white like table salt. That color is due to the respective harvesting processes. Fleur de sel is harvested by hand and undergoes relatively little processing. It forms a crust atop salt pans in Brittany. This crust is skimmed by workers called paludiers who use a tool similar to a rake to harvest the salt. The harvesting process for Maldon sea salt involves a more industrial process wherein the salt is filtered and boiled. As a result, fleur de sel retains more of its mineral content when compared to Maldon salt.
Another important difference is the price. Fleur de sel resides at the top of the market; it can sell for more than three times the cost of Maldon salt. Keep in mind that Maldon salt is hardly cheap and can be classified as a high-end salt in itself.
Can you use fleur de sel in place of Maldon salt and vice versa?
You can use fleur de sel in place of Maldon salt for finishing dishes, which means that you will sprinkle it on cooked food just before serving it. Like Maldon salt, fleur de sel adds a bright and briny note to foods as well as an agreeable crunch.
Because it lingers for longer, you may want to use slightly less fleur de sel when using it in place of Maldon salt; however, this is a matter of taste. With fleur de sel, you will not be getting the lightness that sets Maldon salt apart. You can use Maldon in place of fleur de sel as well; however, the smaller crystals and tendency to dissolve quickly means that you will lose the lingering sharpness and intensity distinctive to fleur de sel.
When should you use fleur de sel and when should you use Maldon salt?
Use fleur de sel on your more expensive ingredients. For example, this is probably the better option if you are grilling a wagyu steak. The main reason for you to use fleur de sel over the other is the price. You will want to get the most out of your expensive ingredients by pairing it with the best available salt. Fleur de sel is great for dishes where you want the visual appeal of the salt flakes since it takes longer to dissolve. In addition to being great with steaks, it is also a good addition to salads and leafy greens.
Maldon sea salt is more of an all-purpose salt since it will cost you less per serving. Because Maldon salt dissolves more quickly, reserve it for foods that you want to salt at the table.