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Understanding Salt

HG Cooks

Understanding Salt

Salt of the Earth

The days of one-salt-fits-all are gone. Nowadays, salt varieties are plentiful and their uses are pretty specific. Whether it's harvested from the sea or rock salt that's been mined, salt has been around for over 8,000 years and has a greater impact on flavour than any other ingredient. We'd say that, in itself, is worth its weight in salt. Unless you're a chef or avid foodie, you're likely wondering how salt became so complicated since the days of Sifto or Windsor – the refined, iodized and metallic-tasting table salts most of us grew up with. Today, salt is no longer just salt, and the supermarket aisle is a sea of salt choices: Rock or flaked? Maldon or fleur de sel? Red Himalayan or black Hawaiian? Fret no more, we boiled it down to easily digestible differences, your new user’s guide to the wide world of salt. Salt has a greater impact on flavour than any other ingredient, and when used properly, heightens our eating experience.

Fleur de Salt

The caviar of salt, this finishing salt is harvested by hand and undergoes relatively little processing. It retains its oceanic flavour due to its high moisture content and should be reserved for salads, avocado toast or fresh tomato bruschetta.


What is it? The benchmark against all other salts, fleur de sel is solar evaporated whereby the best sea salt rises to the proverbial 'top of the heap,' resulting in delicate flower-like flakes.


Uses: A perfect finishing salt, use it to bring out the flavour of any food.


Salt Scoop: Trappist Monks on the French Atlantic were the first to harvest fleur de sel, but now secular salt farmers from around the world are in on the action. North America's first fleur de sel harvester is Ben Jacobsen of Oregon.

Flake Salt

Similar to fleur de sel, flake salt is also for finishing and is prized for its lightness (the best-known version being Maldon).  Where the former's moisture causes its flakes to stick together, flake salt is dry, meaning its lifespan is shorter.


What is it? The fastest dissolving of any salt, it's the flaky quality that really sets this salt apart. Harvested in England, Maldon is the most famous flake salt brand.


Uses: Because it's considered less bitter and 'salty' than other salts, it's an ideal finishing salt on any cooked food.


Salt Scoop: Ubiquitous in the UK for years, Maldon salt has recently become a perennial favourite of chefs and food experts around the world.

Kosher Salt

The workhorse for everyday cooking. Unlike table salt, kosher salt is pure, without the slightly bitter flavour iodine adds to most table salts.


What is it? The workhorse of the kitchen. Ultra versatile, it's something to consider if you want to move on from iodized table salt. Kosher salt is sourced from the sea and is also mined.


Uses: This medium-coarse grind salt can be used in pretty much every cooking endeavor. Sprinkle it in sauces, use it to cure a ham, fold it into soups.


Salt Scoop: This salt is named for its use in the preparation of meat according to Jewish dietary guidelines, however, not all Kosher salt is certified Kosher.

Pink Salt

Mined in either the Himalayan or Andes mountains, its pretty pink colour comes from trace amounts of iron oxide. Pink salt can be used interchangeably with table salt.


What is it? Hand-mined from sea salt deposits in Pakistan, this salt is rich in minerals and extremely pure.  It ranges in colour from pale pink to deep red.


Uses: An ideal finishing salt that begs for a cellar to show off its colour, it's also a great choice to rim the edge of a glass for a summer cocktail.


Salt Scoop: Because of its purity, this salt is frequently used in spa treatments.

Hawaiin Salt

Also known as Alaea salt, this is a sea salt that's been mixed with a red alaea volcanic clay and tastes a little softer than table salt. Black Hawaiian salt, also known as black lava salt, gets its deep, black colour from the addition of activated charcoal which gives it an earthy flavour. Both are good finishing salts with a great visual appeal.


What is it? Red Hawaiian, or Alaea salt, is a sea salt that's been mixed with a red alaea volcanic clay. Black Hawaiian salt, also known as black lava salt, gets its deep, black colour from the addition of activated charcoal.


Uses: These finishing salts are great on any dish and offer an exotic presentation to any food.


Salt Scoop: India, Cypress and the Himalayas also produce black salt, but Hawaiian black salt is by far the most well-known.

Sea Salt/Gros Sel

What is it? Sea salt is what's left behind when seawater evaporates. It also contains trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. The most common sea salt available is 'gros sel', a chunkier, less ground version that offers a bigger flavour 'burst'.


Uses:  Sea salt is ideal for your salt grinder, to create a salt crust on fish, or to season pasta water.


Salt Scoop: In his book Salted, Mark Bitterman sums it up: “Fix a green salad, and make your own salad dressing with very little salt – or no salt, if you dare. Then add sea salt to the finished, dressed salad. It snaps! It explodes on the lettuce! The whole thing will have a tangy, Pop Rocks quality.”

Sel Gris

What is it? Also known as Celtic sea salt, sel gris is a crystalline salt harvested from Guérande in Brittany. Unprocessed, unrefined, and unadulterated, this coarse salt has more moisture than other sea salts.


Uses: With its earthy flavor and a dense texture, sel gris works well with grilled and braised meats and roasted root vegetables.


Salt Scoop: Sel gris is actually a by-product in the harvesting of fleur de sel.

Salt of the Earth