The Best Salt for Baking Article by: Cece Kirkwood. This post may contain affiliate links.
Let’s talk about it. Before I began baking more in my adult life, I never thought twice about salt. When I was younger all I knew was that the salt I needed to bake with would be found in my mom’s baking cabinet. Did I read the label? Of course not. But that was the only baking salt I knew.
As I got older, I realized the salt in my mom’s cabinet was iodized salt, so that is what I bought. Honestly, it was not until the first time I baked Cloudy Kitchen’s Focaccia that I thought twice about what kind of salt to purchase. In her recipe breakdown, she mentions that Morton’s Kosher Salt is saltier in taste than Diamond’s Crystal Salt. That made me ponder a bit.
Why was one salt saltier than another? Could I use table salt instead? What about the more elusive sea salts and pretzel salts? The answer...is not so simple.
As with my other big “why” questions in the kitchen, I began a deep tailspin down the rabbit hole that is the internet. To save you the time, let’s dive right into the four basic salts you need to know about for baking. Table Salt, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt and Pretzel Salt.
Starting at the smallest size, Table salt or NaCl is the smallest of them all. The crystals are all uniform in size and weight which makes it the easiest to bake with, the quickest to dissolve and the one that people are most likely to have in the cabinet.
There are two main types of table salt – Iodized and Non-Iodized.
Iodized salt is a mix of salt and iodine. There really isn’t a noticeable difference though when baking with one or the other. Manufacturers began making iodized salt available in grocery stores in America in 1924 to address an extreme iodine deficiency in Americans. But we weren’t the first to do this! The Swiss started putting iodine into salt in 1922! Iodine is important for metabolism and while the addition of iodine to table salt didn’t solve everyone’s iodine deficiencies, it certainly made for an interesting evening of research for me.
But long story short, if you are looking for table salt, when it comes to baking – it really doesn’t matter which one you pick up at the store.
Kosher salt has the next largest grain size. It is also much more coarse and dissolves a bit slower than table salt. Because of its size, it is also increasingly harder to measure kosher salt by volume, so it is even more important to measure this salt by weight.
A very brief history of Kosher Salt…
But why is it called Kosher salt? Any salt can be kosher, if produced under kosher supervision, under Jewish dietary guidelines. But not all salt labeled “kosher” is actually kosher. It should really be called “koshering” salt, as kosher salt was originally used to remove blood from meat.
The popularity of smaller packaged goods of kosher salt began in America following World War I and the wave of Eastern European Jews immigrating to the United States. American companies began directly marketing to this new audience of consumers and its popularity began to flourish. It then skyrocketed because of television. Cooking shows gained popularity through the mid 1900s and table salt was hard to see on camera. So out came the coarser salt.
It was not until the 1960s that American manufacturers fully realized its popularity and began calling their coarse salt “kosher salt” on the grocery shelves to be mass advertised to all. Americans, of course, were chomping at the bit for this seemingly “exotic” new salt because well, for reasons I won’t go into here. But you catch my drift.
Diamond Crystal vs. Morton’s Kosher Salt
Now to make things a bit more complicated – there are two main types of kosher salt – Diamond Crystal and Morton’s Kosher Salt.
Diamond Crystal salt gets its name from how the salt is shaped – it looks like a diamond. Whereas Morton’s Kosher salt is much flatter and also tastes saltier. Why? Morton’s salt is a bit bigger and denser.
Pay close attention to the type of kosher salt each recipe calls for. I normally go for Morton’s salt because I am a lover of all things salty.
Sea salt is not great to use to mix into your batter or dough, but it is a great topper on things like chocolate chip cookies. This is because it is quite coarse and doesn’t dissolve well. Sea salt is made from… you guessed it… salt water. The process to mine it is costly and can contain different types of minerals depending on where the sea salt originates.
Pretzel salt is not something you would bake with; it would not be added to your batter or dough. But it is important to note the difference between pretzel salt and other salts that dissolve completely while baking. Pretzel salt is made up of one of the largest crystals or grains. The large size means that it dissolves MUCH slower which makes it the perfect topping for pretzels. Some pretzel salts even have a light wax coating on top to preserve their salt crystal a bit longer. Crazy, right?
So what is the best salt to bake with?
There is no single right answer. Table salt is certainly easier and more reliable to measure. You are also more likely to have it in the pantry. Sea salt and pretzel salt can be great additions to top onto your baked goods. And of course, you have the amazing coarse Kosher salts.
My opinion? Just pay close attention to what the recipe is telling you. A good recipe developer will think about which salt they choose to take out from the cabinet and give you the details if the type of salt really matters.
Feeling smarter? Be sure to check out my other Basics of Baking! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – baking is a science. It is important to ask “why” before you throw ingredients into the mixing bowl. And I hope to continue to be a reliable source for you.
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