Salt is the most important seasoning in human history. It shows up in different forms in pretty much every nation’s cuisine. For many, all salts are interchangeable but for serious cooks, they are not. When it comes to the two forms most common in Western kitchens, it is important to understand that each brings more than just a salty flavor to the table. In order to determine which to use, we will take a closer look at them in this SPICEography Showdown.
How does kosher salt differ from table salt?
The main difference between kosher and table salt is the size and shape of the grains. Kosher salt has larger, flakier grains than those of table salt. Table salt grains are smaller and have a more uniform shape. While grain-size may seem irrelevant since both ingredients are almost identical chemically speaking, it is not when it comes to salt. The size of the grains can affect measurements, which means that it can affect how well your recipes work.
The size of the grains affects more than just the flavor concentration, it influences the rate at which the salt dissolves and is absorbed into the food that you are seasoning. Consider the fact that kosher salt got its name from the fact that it was used in Jewish rituals for the preparation of meat. The larger grains allow it to sit on the surface of the meat and absorb the blood without dissolving and thereby making the meat too salty.
Aside from grain-size, there is another difference. While kosher and table salts are very similar in terms of their chemistry, they are not exactly the same product since kosher salt usually does not have the iodine and anti-caking chemicals that you find in table salt.
Can you use kosher salt as a substitute for table salt and vice versa?
Kosher salt and table salt both give food a salty flavor, which means that you can use them as substitutes for each other; however, you will have to keep density in mind. Consider the fact that a tablespoon of kosher salt weighs considerably less than a tablespoon of table salt. Because table salt has smaller grains, much more of it can fit into the measuring spoon when compared to kosher salt. In other words, the same volume will be denser. Because of this, you can easily over- or under-salt your food if you measure by volume when replacing one with the other. While the difference will be minor in most applications, there are cases where it could ruin a dish. To ensure accurate measurements, measure by weight when you use one of these salts in place of the other.
When using kosher salt in place of table salt, note that it will not dissolve and be absorbed by the food as quickly. Keep in mind that the original purpose of kosher salt was to absorb blood on the surface of raw meat and be washed away before it has a chance to dissolve. When using table salt as a kosher salt substitute, remember that it will not sit on the surface for very long. It will dissolve and be absorbed much more quickly.
When should you use kosher salt and when should you use table salt?
Use kosher salt before or during cooking or as a finishing salt. While table salt can certainly be used at the table, it works best as a seasoning that is added before or during cooking rather than as a finishing salt.