Most table salt is table salt that is available in grocery stores or drugstores. Table salt was the only salt used for table food in the ancient world. Sea salt and other salts have become more popular over the years, though. While table salt was used for its medicinal value, sea salt has a more universal application.
Salt is necessary for many purposes. Some salts, such as table salt and kosher salt, is mined from ancient underground salt mines and created from the ancient dried up saltwater of old oceans. Sea salt is created by harvesting from seawater. While seawater is mineral rich, the water evaporates, leaving behind a thin layer of salt called the sea salt. The process of harvesting sea salt makes it highly concentrated, making it ideal for use in a variety of baking and cooking processes. While some controversy exists as to whether kosher salt is truly kosher, sea salt can’t be properly labeled as kosher since no traditional supervision is used during harvesting.
Other salts, including most sea salt, is not mined from seawater and is mined from locations where the soil contains very little sea water. In these places, volcanoes create a natural source of alkaline soil that works just as well for baking as it does for kosher salt. Since the process is similar, you can usually get close to 100% kosher salt at market. This isn’t to say that the occasional unharvested batch is not kosher; it’s just that commercially harvested sea salt has little difference from naturally mined kosher salt.
Another type of sea salt commonly used in cooking is “refined” salt. This is the common salt that is most often purchased in supermarkets and in restaurants because it has less flavor than “real” kosher salt. In many cases, this trace mineral deficiency is purely cosmetic. With regular cooking, the mineral deficiency will begin to show and result in less flavorful dishes.
When shopping for kosher salt, you’ll notice two major categories: kosher and table salt. Kosher table salt comes from sea water and is not used for cooking, although some kosher salt manufacturers are now using it for cooking purposes. Table salt on the other hand is not kosher, but instead is used for seasoning food or baking purposes. As you can see, there are significant differences between the two. When choosing between kosher salt and table salt for cooking purposes, you should keep in mind the following four factors.
The first factor to consider is the sodium content. Most sea salts and table salt have a standard sodium content of two milligrams of sodium per one-gram salt. The sodium concentration is determined by counting all of the sodium ions, which are found in the minerals. For example, the sodium content of sea salt includes magnesium, calcium, bromide, and potassium. However, this specific concentration may vary slightly depending upon where the salt is mined. In addition, the amount of sodium contained may also differ among different types of sea salts.
Another factor to consider is the frequency of evaporation or losing moisture from sea salts. Although they look like fine particles on the surface, sea salts have large crystals that make them evaporate easily. Some types of sea salts have high water evaporation rates, while others have low rates. The more frequently these crystals evaporate, the lower the sodium concentration and the less “salty” they may seem like.
The final factor to consider is the presence of trace minerals like magnesium, iron, and potassium. In addition to their role as essential trace minerals, these natural elements enhance the flavor and nutritive value of sea salt. While it is impossible to completely remove every trace mineral from sea water, scientists have developed ways to significantly reduce the presence of impurities like sodium, potassium, and chloride. However, not all trace minerals can be removed by sea salt impurities. So it’s best to choose sea salt with the highest concentrations of trace minerals to reap its full nutritional benefits.