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I don’t quite exactly when things shifted, but for many years, if you wanted salt you either bought granulated table salt, usually sold in a round canister for less than a dollar, or kosher salt, which came in a big box. Kosher salt didn’t get its name because it’s kosher, it’s because the bulkier crystals are a better size for salting meat, which koshers it.

If you live somewhere where your choices of salt are limited, kosher salt is usually available in any American supermarket, I recommend ditching your table salt and switching to that. But with salts now being imported and exported all over the world, the salt aisle’s gotten a lot larger, with a lot more options and choices.

Food is salted for flavor and succulence. Without it, food can taste flat. If you’ve ever tasted distilled water, which doesn’t have sodium, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Baked goods also benefit from a little salt. If a recipe doesn’t have salt in it, sometimes it’ll have baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as an ingredient, which contains salt, as does baking powder, which contains a smaller amount of sodium bicarbonate. But even a pinch can completely make a difference, and bakers sometimes sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt over a chocolate or caramel dessert, to heighten flavors.

You don’t need to use a lot of salt, and salt is a matter of personal taste. If you’re avoiding salt, the best way to do that is to avoid pre-prepared and fast foods. A fast-food burger can have up to 1000mg of salt and a can of soup can contain 1400 to 1800mg of salt. (The FDA recommends keeping your daily salt intake under 2300mg, which is approximately 1 teaspoon. If you have any health issues, consult a doctor or medical professional for guidance on how much salt you should consume.)

In terms of succulence, salting meat in advance improves its flavor. People used to think it would dry out meat (like the butcher who served me an unsalted steak recently in France, which was flavorless), but it was the late Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café who promoted salting meat in advance, which she learned when she was cooking in France and it’s something I always do.

My everyday salt is sel gris, French grey salt, similar to the one above. It’s inexpensive; most supermarkets in France sell a 1kg bag of it for around €1,50 ($1.70). It’s a great deal, but even if it was three times the price, which I see it sold for outside of France, it takes me about a year to go through the bag. So I’m spending a few pennies a day to treat myself to good salt.

The main reason I use it, though, is that I like the flavor. It’s mildly salty, with a slight mineral taste. The crystals are big enough for salting meat and poultry, but small enough to dissolve in a vinaigrette or a batch of custard. If you decide to use grey sea salt, if the crystals are too large, you can grind them to a finer consistency in a mortar and pestle, blender, or food processor.

The main thing for any cook is to be familiar with the salt(s) that you use. You’ll get used to the taste and know how salty it is and after a while, it’ll become instinctive to you how much to add. So when recipes say “Season to taste,” you can gauge the right amount to your taste. In my books and recipes, I usually give a specific amount, partially because food (like soup and mashed potatoes) taste better if the salt has been cooked in it, rather than added at the table. But I advise to taste the nearly finished dish and salt it again, if desired.

Salt comes in many shapes and forms, but most cooks should have one or two types of salt on hand: A standard salt for cooking and baking, and a delicate, flaky sea salt, for finishing a dish.

Salt for Cooking and Baking

I avoid fine or granulated salt, such as the one, above on the left. Whether the fine salt comes in a round canister for 79¢ at the supermarket, or it’s a fancy one labeled “French sea salt,” or a pink one (shown at the top of the post), I find them all harsh and overly salty. If you want to taste the difference between fine table salt and flaky sea salt, put a few grains of sea salt on your tongue, taste it, then do the same with fine granulated table salt just afterward. You likely won’t be buying table salt after that.

When adding to stock or brine, the type of salt is less-important. If you’re salting stock or a pot of water for pasta, no need to use the fancy stuff, but I recommend your everyday cooking salt be something like my French grey sea salt or kosher salt. Both, I find, are similar in saltiness and the crystals dissolve when mixed in batters, doughs, and liquids. Some bakers may prefer to use fine table salt, to ensure it dissolves, but the crystals I use do dissolve in batters. (And truthfully, you won’t be able to taste much difference in a slice of cake whether you’ve used 1/4 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon of grey sea salt in the batter. I’m just personally more comfortable always using the same salt for everything.

I advise any cook to find a salt you like and make that your “house” salt. No one measures how much butter they swipe on their morning toast (and if they do, I’m not sure I’d want to wake up with them every morning!) so get used to your “house salt” and you’ll be a much better, and happier, cook.

Finishing Salts

Finishing salts are salts that are added after cooking or baking, sprinkled over food right before it’s served. Because people will be crunching down on the grains or flakes of salt, a finishing salt is always a delicate sea salt.

My preferred finishing salt is fleur de sel, the top layer of mild salt that’s raked off the surface of salt marshes. To my taste, fleur de sel is just slightly salty, yet mild, and has a gentle flavor that doesn’t overwhelm, and is a flavor unto itself. French fleur de sel is harvested in the Guérande, as well as in the Camargue and the Île-de-Re. They’re all fine but I prefer fleur de sel de Guérande.

Other countries produce their own versions of fleur de sel, including Trapani salt from Sicily, Spanish flor de sal, Maldon salt from the United Kingdom, Halen Môn from Wales, and Jacobsen, which is harvested in the United States. Those are all very good finishing salts. They cost more than other salts but you really only use them by the pinch, and you’ll find a difference in how your food tastes.

Bottom Line

Have two salts in your kitchen; one for cooking and baking, and the other for finishing. Whatever salt you like/choose, get to know it and use it all the time. In a short time, you’ll instinctively learn how much to use.

Related Posts and Links

The Science of Salt (Fine Cooking)

More Tips for Perfect Steaks (Serious Eats)

The Juicy Secret to Seasoning Meat (Food & Wine)

How Pink Salt Took Over Millennial Kitchens (The Atlantic)

Salt by Mark Bitterman (Amazon)

All Salts Are Not Created Equally (Smitten Kitchen)

Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat (Amazon)

Fleur de sel

That’s so salt! It’s not salty enough (Chowhound)






    • Daniel Kane

    Like the salt used on Pretzels in Germany?
    Without the salt and/or mustard, they taste like paste

      • Perry S. Hamilton

      Salt such as Morton table salt (when it rains, it pours) may contain something like one-third SAND (sodium silicate). Kosher salt does not contain the sand additive.

        • GuyB

        I think you mean “calcium silicate,” which is a powder made from limestone and diatomaceous earth. It’s used to keep the salt from caking together. Morton’s contains 1% or less of calcium silicate, so I don’t know where your “one-third” comes from.

    • Chuck McVey

    I’ve learned that it’s much easier to add more seasoning, salt, then to take too much out. I once had to double a recipe because I put too much salt in.

    • Belinda

    David, great job explaining this very complicated subject!! You won’t believe how many times I get asked about salt(s). And yes, I have been asked “Why kosher salt…?”

      • Bridget

      I always thought Kosher was so named because it doesn’t have added iodine?

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Belinda: Yes, it’s a frequent question I get. Some say recipe writers should specify which salt (including the brand) to use, but that’s impractical because salt isn’t universally available. Although many people, myself included, do specify which kosher salt to use as they have different levels of saltiness.

    Daniel: I know some people have to avoid salt but I like how Zuni Café does it on their margaritas in San Francisco. They salt half the rim, so people can decide if they want it, or not. And how much, too.

    Chuck: There are some tricks to dealing with oversalted food. One is to add cubes of potato to a soup, for example, which absorb the extra salt. But yes, I think we’ve all been there when we’ve overdone it (!)

    • Jennie

    I measure the butter I swipe on my morning toast. Just saying :-)

    • Emily

    I have an extensive collection of different salts from all over the world like volcanic black salt and also including some that are blended with things like hibiscus flowers and worms from Oaxaca Mexico. So lovely, each one! I was hoping you would be sharing information about nanoplastics which are evidently showing up in many salts harvested around the world. Did you know the average human is now eating about a credit cards worth of plastic per year? Ugh. I need to research more…thanks for your work it is all lovely.

    • Taste of France

    Excellent information. I have about five kinds of salt. I tend to buy a lot of sel de Gruissan, which is just down the road from me. They really do all taste different. Like wine terroir, each place has different impurities (why some are gray) that give flavor.

    • Emily

    Also, I wanted to ask more about your opinion on salt in baking. I think you are saying you don’t use fine salt for baking…im on the fence. Doesn’t the fiber salt get distributed more evenly throughout the dry part of the mix? I worry something like kosher salt doesn’t get around in a batter the way a finer salt would. Any thoughts? Thanks!!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Emily, I actually don’t keep it on hand or in my kitchen, so I don’t use it. Sometimes I’m in kitchens where they do have it and I’ll use it in baking, but I don’t feel like I’m improving my food when I use it. Even when used in small quantities, I don’t prefer using it over sea salt.

    • Laura S

    My favorite “everyday” salt, Crystal kosher salt has disappeared from all the stores. Does anyone have an explanation or a time it might return?

      • Carla

      Same here Laura..I live in Denver, CO. I had to order it from Amazon..a 3 box pack!

        • Laura S

        Thanks for the tip!

    • Cyndy

    David, I looked up the equivalents between Morton kosher salt and Diamond Brand kosher salt, because I cannot get Diamond Brand here (la Dordogne) in the countryside.

    Mortons is almost twice as salty as Diamond Brand! Should I be halving the amount of Morton kosher if the recipe calls for Diamond Brand?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      This article has a formula for switching out kosher salts, one for the other, and how much to use in place of fine table salt. Surprised you can find Morton kosher salt in the Dordogne, unless you bring it over? Curiously Baleine (the French salt brand) makes a kosher salt, which I’ve only seen in the U.S. but have never seen in France.

        • Cyndy

        Heh heh, no… I mail-order the Morton kosher salt from It’s hard to bring everything over. I defer to the weight of nonstick Reynold’s Wrap. :-)

      • Sande

      Watch Helen Rennie salt video on you tube. She explaines everything.

    • Rob

    I am ‘hooked’ on a New Zealand smoked salt…

    • Pam

    Iodized salt is a necessary nutrient.

      • Susan

      Iodine is necessary. Iodized salt is one of the sources for it, but there are other foods you can get it from. You don’t have to get it through salt. I get enough from the milk and yogurt I eat so the salt I use doesn’t matter.

      • Emily

      Like Rob, I use smoked salt for a lot of things (obviously just when I’m looking for a smoky flavor.) have you experimented with this at all? Thanks for such a great and informative post!

    • home before dark

    I changed from Mortons to Crystal Diamond for cooking. I use Mortons for cleaning my cast iron pans—the crystals are coarser and helps with the scrubbing. I am a such a fan of Judy Rodgers. What a gift to have known her.True: some days when there is too much craziness going on, I simply pull her book off the shelf and pick anything radomly to read. I swear her prose is like Mozart: it calms and restores!

    • Brenda Pawloski

    Has anyone experienced grit (probably silica or sand) in their salt? I bought a salt mined in Utah that I saw used by a local Atlanta source for grains to grind at home. By about the third time I used it I realized it was leaving grit in my soups, stocks, baked goods, everything. I was certain it was a defective bag but no, the company and devoted users admit to the grit and say it’s healthy but nowhere do they warn of it! I expressed my shock on Amazon and was told I was in the wrong to object to gritty salt.

      • Renee

      Yes. When I finally figured out it was the salt, I stopped using it. It’s the only salt I’ve ever used that had grit. And I currently have about eight different kinds of salt in my kitchen right now. Real Salt was the brand. It made me leary of using Himalayan salt because they are both mined, but I’ve never had a problem with it. I don’t think you’re wrong for not liking gritty salt. I don’t like beach sand in my sandwiches either, which is what using that salt reminds me of.

        • Brenda Pawloski

        That’s the very salt I had too! It has affected the way I feel about Amazon because my critical review is gone (although I posted a question on there about grit today) and the company seems to be a big advertiser on Amazon. But the people who defend or deny the grit surprise me. I wonder who they’re serving food to!

    • Michelle Oie

    I learned the hard way that Himalayan Salt doesn’t contain iodine. 3 weeks after switching to HS in my kitchen I fainted & ended up in the ER. Docs were unable to figure out my condition but several days later my trusted Physician Assistant looked at my blood work & the 1st question she asked was “Do you use Himalayan Salt?” I had an iodine deficiency.
    I discarded the HS & after catching up with salty chips & bananas, I was completely better in one day.

    • Dorothy Murrell

    Iodized salt was developed in 1924 to eliminate goiter and it was a highly effective move – the first biofortification, in fact (see attached pdf). I have two friends who have recently been diagnosed with goiter. So I have returned to iodized salt for baking and cooking, and use camargue fleur de sel for finishing.

    • Bonnie

    I recently ordered several (pricey) salts from a sustainable salt company in Iceland: Saltverk (
    In my opinion they are all finishing salts. Their hand harvested “Licorice” salt is yummy sprinkled on chocolate-icinged cupcakes. Their “Seaweed” salt livened-up a green salad. They even offer a “Birch Smoked” salt! No trouble with international shipping either. Pricey but a real delight!

    • Mary Ann Hanlon

    I use Haine’s iodized sea salt. have you tried it?

      • Mary Ann Hanlon

      It comes from Belgium, and to my taste doesn’t have an “iodized” after taste.

    • Terry Taylor

    Yeah! You liked the Jacobsen salt I gave you in LA last year. As an Oregonian, it is about all we use at our house.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for the salt! I didn’t open the package for a while, but I finally did :)

    • Peggy Linke

    David, I’m surprised you didn’t mention anything about iodized salt in your blog, although I see comments about it here. What is your take on using or not using iodized salt?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t generally discuss nutritional values of foods because I eat a wide variety of foods, rather than focus on certain food groups (and nutrients, vitamins, etc.) as I’m not a nutritionist and everyone’s needs are different. (My focus is cooking and baking.)

      In Europe, they don’t add iodine to salt, and don’t add vitamin D to milk. Not sure if it makes them less heathy, or not, than Americans, who do add them. It would be an interesting topic of research!

        • Linda

        Do you mean that any salt you buy in the U.S. invariably contains iodine? Here in Germany you can buy table salt with or without iodine, but if it contains iodine it has to say so on the package. Most people use it though, as far as I know, which is why fewer people need medical treatment for iodine deficiency nowadays.

        However, as far as I know, too much iodine is as bad for you as too little iodine, so if you eat a lot of fish (not freshwater fish) and especially algae (and I do like Japanese food, which uses them a fair bit) I guess using iodised table salt is at best unnecessary but might even be detrimental to your health.

          • Susan

          In the US salt is also marked as iodized if it has the added iodine. I always have some in my pantry, but mainly because it was the salt my mom always used in her recipes. As a result, I use it when I am making those so they will taste the same as what I grew up with. Other times I generally use kosher or sea salt. I probably eat a varied enough diet, as well as drink enough milk and eat enough yogurt, that I get plenty of idodine through the foods I eat.

    • Mimi Woodham

    I love the variety of salt available today from all corners of the world. I will have to try sel gris. As a foodie, my friends tote spices and salts back from all over for me. My salt selections have been a couple of places that I have yet to travel (Peru & Hawaii)
    Love your posts!

    • Cyndy

    Check your daily vitamin supplement. Mine supplies iodine from kelp. So I don’t worry about having to use iodized salt.

    • Vickie

    Can you recommend a mail order source for grey salt in the US?

    • Kathleen Taggart

    When I was running the Kitchen Kaboodle Cooking School in the 1980’s, Barbara Tropp, who had one of the finest palates I ever experienced, visited several times and always included a salt tasting in her class. It was a highly informative exercise that I incorporated into my classes over the years.

    • Manda Williams

    IMO, the biggest factor is geometry, and the Diamond kosher is a really lovely budget option. I am not a fan of the super coarse salt that Fran’s and Trader Joe’s use on their salted caramels–it’s just too much! But I do really like pyramid salt (from Cyprus, I think–I got it at Trader Joe’s) on sliced summer tomatoes, because that is one scenario when the pop of a big flake is really pleasant.

    • Linda

    wonder if I should order “velvet” or “fine” grey salt?

    • Jennifer B

    Read “Salt” by Mark Kurlansky–an exhaustive look at the history of salt–and you’ll appreciate it all the more!

      • Renee

      Great Book!!!

      • Laurie

      A VERY good book. Kurlansky takes what could be a rather bland (!) subject and transforms it into a delicious read.

    • Marie

    Dear David,

    Long time reader, first time commenter here. For medical reasons my husband is now on a very low sodium diet and I have adjusted my cooking accordingly. The problem is that now his and my palettes have adjusted to this and what we think tastes ok or even good is often woefully bland to “normal” palettes. It’s made me quite afraid to cook for friends as I no longer trust myself to season properly. Can you offer any guidance or advice?

    Much thanks!

      • Gavrielle

      I’m not David, but FWIW: my palate has adjusted to a low salt diet as well, with the delightful effect that most restaurant food tastes way overseasoned. For guests I cook as I usually do but offer salt on the side.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      That’s one of the reasons I have a “finishing salt” on the table, so people can season things further, if they like. Plus if you or others are avoiding salt, it’s easy to determine how much salt you’re consuming if you add it directly yourself. And while most foods benefit from being cooked with some salt, if people are on salt-restricted diets, or are avoiding salt for other reasons, having a little dish on the table is a good idea.

    • Kerrie

    Thanks, I’ve learnt something today. Kosher salt isn’t something sold in Australian supermarkets and I wrongly assumed it has religious connotations. Had just been swapping for crystals.

      • Linda

      I didn’t know what kosher salt is either until today. I haven‘t ever seen it in German supermarkets and was never sure which salt to use when American recipes called for it. At least I now know that I will have to try and find a coarser salt.

      I understand that for books sold in the U.S. nobody sees the need to mention alternatives or even explain the ingredients in detail since they are probably familiar to readers there, but when recipes are published on the Internet for an international I am extremely grateful when they don‘t just assume everyone can get everything everywhere, so thank you for the information on salt, especially kosher.

    • Maureen

    For table use and “saltier” friends what salt is best for salt shakers?

    • witloof

    I adore black salt! It adds a deep, delicious flavor to eggs and vegetables.

    • Margaret

    I grew up in a Morton salt household like most of us Americans of a certain age did, but switched to cooking with Diamond Kosher salt a few years ago and what a difference in taste! I’m also a big fan of Maldon sea salt flakes and Fleur de Sel de Guerande Sea Salt for finishing.

    • Martha Mast

    This is the best and most helpful discussion of salt that I’ve seen! Thanks for tackling the subject David. I love your posts.

      • David
      David Lebovitz


    • Jennifer

    Several years ago one of my cousins in Italy told me that only “sale grosso” (coarse salt) should be used for salting the cooking water for pasta. I assumed that it was probably a practice dating back to when coarse salt was cheaper than fine salt or some such thing, and that salt was salt, but I was wrong: there is a distinct difference in texture between pasta cooked with coarse salt and pasta cooked with fine salt: the former stays more “al dente.” I’ve never looked into it, but presumably there’s something about the additives in fine salt that changes the texture of pasta. I’ve kept a big box of “sale grosso” above my stove ever since.

    What I don’t get is why “kosher salt” costs twice as much as “pickling salt” in my supermarket. They’re both the same brand (Windsor), and they’re both, as far as I can tell, ordinary coarse salt with no additives.

      • jan

      That is fascinating – thanks!

      Also, the primary reason I switched to natural salts is because table salt is processed with chemicals and I prefer additive-free salt. For years I got fine sea salt from the bulk bins at the local health food store for 49 cents a pound. Now I get beautifully crystalized organic label sea salt from HMart which is an asian grocer. It’s a large bag and actually expensive compared to that bulk bin, but I use so little that it’s easily worth it. It’s so flaky and light.

    • Katy

    Hi David, I purchased “snow salt” from Japan earlier this year. Its texture is like confectioners sugar. I just wondered if you have encountered this before and how you would recommend using it to best effect? Many thanks!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Katy: I hadn’t heard of it and don’t know how to use it. Perhaps someone else will chime in with some advice?

    Linda: Yes, having global recipes presents a challenge to readers in other countries. European recipes sometimes call for “a packet of vanilla sugar” or baking powder, rather than an exact amount. (In the U.S., people usually use extract or paste, rather that pre-prepared sugar.) Similarly, American recipes sometimes call for sticks of butter (4 ounce/115g), a measurement I never use, but butter is often sold by sticks in America. Thankfully most of the info about these things, and others, are available online! : )

      • Linda

      True, but by the time I‘ve looked up which of my springform pans I need to use if the diameter of a pan is only given in inches or worked out at which temperature I have to set my oven if the temperature is only given in Fahrenheit, I‘m just about fed up. At least my scales can also do ounces, and I also own a set of cup measurements, so I‘m only in trouble with liquids added in quarts, gallons, pints or the like.
      So I don‘t really feel like having to additionally research ingredients that shouldn‘t really be exotic, such as salt (or, yes, butter as in „stick of“). I don‘t mind so much if it is a fruit or vegetable I haven‘t encountered before because it doesn‘t grow in Europe, but I have to draw the line somewhere :-)

    • Brian

    I love using sea salt, but also wonder how producers are dealing with all of the micro plastics in the ocean.

    • Sonja

    What about salt from natural brine? I use the coarse one for everyday cooking and “fleur de sel” for finishing, both from Göttingen/Germany. It´s really great.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I use sel gros (large grain salt) for brining. Often I use grey salt but some advice using white salt. I know the gray adds a bit of color to the brine, but that doesn’t really bother me.

    • rainey

    I’m a big fan of smoked salt and use it interchangeably with kosher salt in pre-seasoning, cooking and even baking when I want just that more complexity in the final product. It’s great for fish and nothing enhances a garden fresh tomato like smoked salt. It does something wonderful to the flavor of chocolate as well.

    Personally, I think it’s important to avoid 90% of what’s called “smoked” salt but is really black and greasy and much closer to the flavor of the charcoal than the more crafted stuff that really carries the flavor of the smoke.

    Maldon makes a nice one and in the US I get Falksalt.

    I keep mine at the stove in a big tulip-shaped canning jar with a palm-sized mortar and pestle right in the jar with it. That way I’ve got the big sexy flakes for finishing and I can grind big fat pinches in just a second.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I like smoked salt, too. It’s not very common in France (although interestingly, I see French smoked salt sold in the U.S.) Maldon makes one as you mentioned, although I find the flavor of others a little stronger when used in cooking.

    • GuyB

    There’s a lot of fuss in the cooking world about salt these days. I particularly like the admonition to use only sea salt when all salt comes from seas. So the lesson is: 1) use table salt for almost everything and 2) use the expensive salts when your taste buds will touch them directly.

      • Greg

      Mined salt comes from ancient (very prehistoric) seas which have the added benefit of not containing any cesium-137!

    • Diane

    One minor thing that wasn’t mentioned – coarse salts whether marked “Kosher” or “Flossy” haven’t been powdered, and as mentioned haven’t got additives to prevent the salt caking in the container. These additives (eg Calcium or magnesium salts, or flour) are harmless but can make a brine cloudy which is why coarse salt is preferred for brines, fermenting etc – people prefer a clear supernatant.

    • Chin KY

    Thanks for this extensive explanation on salt. I just tried dry-brining my pork chops and found them a bit too salty. Re-read the recipe and found that kosher salt was to be used. I used sel moulu de Guerand… But I have used gros sel de Guerand before to quite a similar effect. Is there something I’m missing? Thanks!


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