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At first, salt might seem like a simple ingredient. Most of us have been using it since we were children to season our food. But, there is a whole world of salts out there and many reasons to use it beyond flavoring food. It turns out that salt is not that simple, as there are different varieties, colors, brands, functions, etc.
There really is a salt for every purpose (and every palate), and we scoured the internet for the best in each category.
Best for Cooking: SoSalt Sicilian Coarse Sea Salt
The Sosalt Sea Salt (Coarse) is special, originating from ancient salt pans in Trapani and Marsala. Seasoning enthusiasts love it for its range of potential uses. It’s flavorful with zero bitterness, adds a unique brininess to any dish, and is great for projects like curing olives. Its coarseness comes from a unique drying method that combines crystal water, wind, and sun. However, it can easily be put into a salt grinder if you prefer a fine texture. For its extensive use and flavor, this salt is the best for cooking.
Best for Baking: La Baleine Fine Sea Salt
This French sea salt comes from the salt pans of Aigues-Mortes in Camargue, France, where salt has been produced since before the Roman occupation. It is naturally crystallized by the sun and sea winds. These fine, unrefined salt crystals are a favorite among chefs, especially pastry chefs, because of their delicacy and ease of use in just about anything you’re making—it dissolves like a dream, incorporates more thoroughly into the food, and adds flavor beyond a kick of sodium.
Best Table Salt: Redmond Real Sea Salt Shaker
Many of the other salts on this list are from faraway places. This one is from Utah, mined from what geologists think was an ancient inland sea from the Jurassic Period. Thanks to a layer of bentonite clay, it’s been protected from erosion and contamination for the past few million years. The 60-plus trace minerals give it a lovely pink hue and a clean, delicate flavor with the tiniest hint of sweetness. Redmond salt is available in many iterations, but this shaker makes it easy to use as your everyday table salt.
Best Kosher: Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Kosher salt got its name because the size of the crystals tends to be perfect for drawing out salt from meat during the koshering process. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt has somewhat of a cult following, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s more of a flat, flake-style kosher salt (as opposed to the rock salt available from other brands). With a truly neutral flavor that is perfect for just about any application you might need it for, there’s a reason chefs swear by it.
Best Finishing Salt: Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
Looking for a beautiful salt to sprinkle atop your Instagram-worthy plated dinners? Meet Maldon Salt. You may have already come across it a time or two—chefs and food-lovers love this stuff. Hailing from the English seashore, this flaky, pyramid-shaped salt is naturally processed using traditional long-handled rakes for a unique texture and flavor that has made it a name for itself. In fact, some chefs are known to travel with their own tiny tin of Maldon for emergencies.
Best Himalayan: Thrive Market Pink Himalayan Salt
Himalayan Pink Salt was introduced to the mass market by Trader Joe’s in 2009. Most of it comes from Punjab’s Khewra Salt Mine, between Islamabad and Lahore. While some claim that it’s healthier than other salts, most scientists agree that it’s really just better at being pink. Nonetheless, it’s a gorgeous color to have around your kitchen, and this option from Thrive Market is beloved by reviewers for its clean flavor and range of uses. Throw it in a salt grinder or use it as is. If you’re looking for a great Himalayan salt, this is a superb option.
Best Truffle: Sabatino Tartufi Truffle & Salt
For truffle lovers, a good truffle salt is indispensable. The Sabatino Tartufi Truffle & Smoked Sea Salt is just lovely—Sicilian sea salt is blended with real flecks of black summer truffles. Perfect for eggs, popcorn, meat, french fries, and pasta, this truffle salt will serve you well. And, it won’t break the bank! Many online customers love that just a sprinkle of this salt goes a long way.
Best for Curing and Brining: Hoosier Hill Farm Prague Powder No.1 Pink Curing Salt
Pink curing salt is not quite the same thing as pink Himalayan salt. For starters, it’s inedible and made with nitrites, specifically for the curing of meats and preventing botulism. But, it can be used to preserve and cure a variety of cooked meats, including jerky, pastrami, fish, ham, bacon, and even corned beef. This option from Indiana-based Hoosier Hill Farm is revered for its price, efficacy, and distinct flavor. Many reviewers note this salt is very potent, so be sure to adhere to the curing recipe. After all, a little goes a long way.
Best for Margaritas: Caraval Gourmet Margarita Lime Salt
This salt contains only natural sea salt and lime, evaporated by the sun and ground and blended in the Pacific Northwest. It also is simply the best for margarita night (or Bloody Mary brunch). That hint of lime adds complexity and flavor to even the most stunningly crafted margaritas (and will make not-so-stunning ones go down all the easier). When you’re not enjoying a cocktail, it makes a great addition to chicken, beans, salad, rice, and more.
Best for Steak: Jacobsen Salt Co. Infused Sea Salt Black Pepper
Looking for a special salt for that Kobe or Wagyu steak? Your search ends here with Jacobsen Salt Co. Harvested by hand in Netarts Bay on the Oregon coast, Jacobsen Salt Co. has gained a loyal following for its texture and clean, mellow flavor, with just the right amount of spice. This salt, infused with freshly ground Tellicherry peppercorns, is great on just about anything and perfect for those special cuts of beef that simply call for salt, pepper, and heat.
Best for Popcorn: The Spice House Popcorn Collection
Everyone deserves popcorn exactly to their liking. Whether it’s cheesy, garlicky, or spicy, this collection from The Spice House includes something for everyone. This spice set includes creative flavor combinations like Maple Garlic and Vulcan's Fire Salt, which blends chili paste, shallots, and paprika. Not only do customers love the beautiful packaging, but they also praise the salt's flavor, eliminating the need for butter, oil, or extra seasoning.
What to Look for in a Salt
There is a salt for every purpose. Beyond all-purpose salts for cooking, there are special salts. Brining and curing requires a salt that preserves the food and reduces spoilage from bacteria; pink curing salt, also called Prague powder, is one of them. It is not to be confused with pink Himalayan salt, which is for finishing dishes and sprinkling. For rimming glasses for cocktails such as margaritas, there is rimming salt.
Salt can be neutral in flavor, or with hints of sweetness or brininess. Non-iodized salt has a cleaner flavor than iodized salt—iodine adds a slightly metallic taste—but any of those salts generally work well for cooking. Whether a salt has any taste on its own also depends on it being refined or unrefined. In common fine table salt, most of the impurities have been eliminated, so it’s the most neutral in flavor.
If you want to add both saltiness and flavor to food, there is a wide array of flavored salts to choose from, ranging from salt-and-pepper mixtures to popcorn salt with unusual flavor creations.
The texture of salt makes a big difference. Table salt consists of fine cube-shaped flakes. Fine salt dissolves easily, which makes it a preferred salt for baking. For cooking, coarse salt is often the salt of choice because it is easier to take a pinch with your fingers and add it to food than fine table salt, and it also adheres to food better. Kosher salt is a flat-grained coarse salt. In flaky salt, the salt crystals, which are originally cubic in shape, have been flattened. Flaky salt sticks better to food, dissolves faster, and is blended in more easily.
What is salt made of?
Salt is a compound of two elements, sodium and chlorine; its ions consist of positively charged sodium (Na+) and negatively charged chlorine (Cl-), which are bound together by electrical attraction, forming a crystal lattice structure.
Why is salt so bad for you?
The human body needs salt to function, but excess salt can be bad for your health. The FDA-recommended daily limit for people 14 years and older is 2,300 milligrams per day. Eating more salt than that can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
What are the types of salt?
The five main salt categories are table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, curing and brining salt, and specialty and seasoned salts, which can be either salt from a special location, such as Himalayan pink salt or Hawaiian black salt, or regular salt with a flavor added, such as garlic salt or celery salt.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Writer, podcaster, and professional cheese nerd Christine Clark has kind of a problem when it comes to salt—she has at least 20 different brands in her cabinet. Each is special and important!