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Salt Types and Measurements

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2010

What are the different types of salt, and how do their characteristics differ?

Whether mined from underground salt deposits or obtained by evaporating seawater, salt in its most basic form is the same: sodium chloride. What distinguishes one salt from another is texture, shape, and mineral content. These qualities can affect how a salt tastes as well as how it interacts with other foods.

How Much Salt Is in That Teaspoon?

Given its coarser crystal structure, kosher salt packs a lot less into each teaspoon when compared to table salt. In fact, even the volume measurements between the two major brands of kosher salt—Morton and Diamond Crystal—vary significantly.

Here's how they measure up:

1 teaspoon table salt = 1 1/2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt

>TABLE SALT

Table salt, also known as common salt, consists of tiny, uniformly shaped crystals created during rapid vacuum evaporation. It usually includes anti-caking agents that help it pour smoothly.

HOW WE USE IT: Fine-grain table salt dissolves easily, making it our go-to for most applications, both sweet and savory.

SHOPPING TIP: Avoid iodized salt, which can impart a subtle chemical flavor.

>Kosher Salt

Coarse-grain kosher salt is raked during the evaporation process to yield flaky crystals originally used for koshering meat. Unlike table salt, kosher salt doesn’t contain any additives.

HOW WE USE IT: Kosher salt is our top choice for seasoning meat. The large grains distribute easily and cling well to the meat’s surfaces.

SHOPPING TIP: The two major brands of kosher salt—Morton and Diamond Crystal—work equally well; however, their crystal sizes differ considerably (see below), and this makes a difference when measuring by volume.

>Sea Salt

Sea salt is the product of seawater evaporation—a time-consuming, expensive process that yields irregularly shaped, mineral-rich flakes that vary in color but only slightly in flavor.

HOW WE USE IT: Don’t bother cooking with pricey sea salt; we’ve found that mixed into food, it doesn’t taste any different than table salt. Instead, we use it as a “finishing salt,” where its delicate crunch stands out.

SHOPPING TIP: Texture—not exotic provenance—is the main consideration. Look for brands boasting large, flaky crystals such as Maldon Sea Salt.