Salt Grain Sizes: How Different Grind Sizes Enhance the Flavor of Your Food

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Salt is the world’s most popular spice – it’s inexpensive and adds punch to every recipe you make. And salt isn’t just for entrees and main dishes. It’s used in plenty of desserts and baked goods, too. There is just no arguing that salt has a special place on every kitchen spice shelf, whether it belongs to a home cook or a professional chef. Salt was one of the first spices sold and traded centuries ago by merchants around the world. It didn’t just improve the taste of food; it preserved it, too, long before anyone had heard of refrigeration. Salt has earned its place in culinary history!

Furthermore, your body needs salt. Salt in electrolytes helps your body function at peak performance levels. Not just your organs and circulation, but your muscle function as well. Adults should consume about one teaspoon of salt each day in order to stay in optimum health.

Salt now comes in plenty of grain sizes, colors, and flavors. Choosing the correct salt for the meal you’re making is crucial for getting the most flavors out of every dish. If you can’t always find the salt a recipe calls for, don’t worry – if you’re stuck, simply use the salt you have on hand. Owning a quality salt mill is important too because it lets you decide which salt grain size is right for the meal you’re making.

In this post, we offer tips for choosing the right salt grain sizes to make your food sing!

How does salt enhance the taste of your dish?

You likely won’t be surprised to learn that saltiness is one of the foremost tastes your tongue can identify. There are five basic tastes that everyone detects: salt, sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and umami. (This last one refers to a taste contained in certain types of meat. It is the chief ingredient in mono-sodium glutamate – popularly known as MSG).

Of course, adding salt to food makes it saltier – meaning it adds tang and heightens the flavor. But it does more than that. Adding salt also allows other chemicals in your food to burst forth into the air, which makes the scent of the food stronger and more appetizing. That affects your enjoyment of the dish – if it smells good, you’re more likely to try it and enjoy it.

Adding salt to sweet and/or sour foods help balance flavors out. Salt lessens the impact of those other tastes, meaning it gives balance to the tastes contained in, for instance, sugary baked goods or candies. If all you taste is sugar, those treats are not as enjoyable. A pinch of salt evens out the taste of pure sugar on your tongue, making the flavors more pleasant.

Salt also suppresses bitterness. For example, lots of people add a dash of salt to acidic fruits, like grapefruits. It doesn’t make the fruit taste salty, but it does make it less bitter.

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Why are salt grain sizes so important?

Why does the size of your salt grain matter so much? Just like your pepper grind sizes, size matters because it affects how your tongue and taste buds perceive it. The smaller the salt grains, the wider the area they come into contact with on your tongue. Small grains dissolve in liquids more readily, which spreads the salt’s flavor out evenly and smoothly.

Research shows that how large or small the salt grain size profoundly impacts the flavor of food. Consider snack foods, for instance. The saltier the snack, the more robust the flavor. Popcorn is a good example. If you put lots of salt on your popcorn, using a fine grind is the way to go. That’s because it distributes more easily and evenly over the popped kernels, and offers good crunchiness when you take a bite. In other words, the smaller the salt grain size the bigger bang you get for your saltiness buck!

Consequently, studies prove that salt grain size impacts the flavor of food in a big way. But which grain size you choose, and how much you season the food, depends on the dish you’re preparing. As we just noted, for something like popcorn, the smaller the grain size the better. But if you’re adding salt to an entree like roast beef or a sirloin steak, you should use a larger salt grain. Doing this lends the meat a crunchy aspect it wouldn’t otherwise have, and it’s more enjoyable that way. And of course, larger salt grains make the meat burst with flavor too, in a way that simply sprinkling a little fine grain salt just doesn’t.

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What are the different salt grain sizes?

We’ve explained why different salt grain sizes impact different foods. Next, we’re going to do a deep dive into four very different types: coarse, kosher, table, and powder. Each one of these salt grain sizes offers a unique boost of flavor all its own.

Coarse salt

Coarse salt is totally made from sodium chloride salt crystals. This grain is always large in size. It is tamer in taste – not as zingy as other salt types. But its flavor lasts longer than some others, and it doesn’t soak up moisture as much as others do. That means this is (as we mentioned above) the ideal salt grain size for certain meats, like rib-eye steak and pot roast. It’s also perfect for some fruits, like watermelon and papaya. And believe it or not, coarse salt is also perfect in certain kinds of ice cream, like salted caramel. It’s really delicious, honestly!

Furthermore, coarse salt is what you need if you want to have a salt grinder to match your pepper mill. Grind it over salads, meats, and lots of other foods. Coarse salt is the right choice for plenty of foods – the sky’s the limit, really!

Kosher salt

Kosher salt is smaller than coarse, but bigger than table salt. It’s called kosher salt because it is used in the making of kosher meats. (That’s when blood is drained from all meat and poultry before it’s prepared.) It’s lighter in weight than table salt, too.

Kosher is just the right size of salt grain for caramelizing certain foods, like onions and garlic. If your recipe calls for kosher salt rather than table salt or course, by all means, use it if you can. Kosher salt pulls proteins out of food, which means it won’t get that too-salty taste that sometimes happens with other types. That’s one reason it’s ideal for meats, like coarse salt, but it’s also terrific on steamed or grilled vegetables, baked potatoes, and – let’s not forget — the rim of your margarita glass!

Remember, for salt to be called genuinely kosher, it has to be made in accordance with a strict set of guidelines. Always check that the bag’s label says “kosher certified,” when shopping for this delicious type of salt.

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Table salt

This kind of salt is often called the “common, everyday” salt. It’s a finer grain than other salts, and it comes from deep underground mines. Have you heard the expression “working in the salt mines” to describe having a tough day at the office? Well, there really is such a thing as a salt mine, and it’s challenging work! But the salt you get from these deposits is flavourful – tangy and sharp. This salt undergoes a purification process that removes trace minerals. That makes it a great choice for baked goods, like cookies and brownies.

It’s also the best choice when you want just a wee bit of salt added to your food once it’s cooked, like French fried potatoes. This is the most common salt put on restaurant tables because it doesn’t have too much zing. Still, food professionals often opt for a different type of salt fresh from a grinder. Many say that table salt is just a little bitter for their liking.

But table salt is great for that little dash of saltiness you want if your meal isn’t quite tangy enough. However, when you’re preparing a dish, season it beforehand with coarse or kosher salt. Think of table salt as an afterthought, so to speak, when you need a little burst of extra flavor. Use the other salts here when you’re cooking.

Powder salt

Powder salt has other names, like flour salt, popcorn salt, and others. Just like the name implies, powder salt is the right salt grain size when you want the flavor of salt but not the crunchy texture. Think of all the snack foods you enjoy, like potato chips, tortilla chips, and nuts. They all have a great, salty flavor but they don’t have that crunch – the saltiness is evenly baked into the food.

Powder salt is also excellent in certain sweets if recipes call for fine-grain salt. When you need salt to “sink right in” so to speak – like in gravy, soups, and certain sauces, powdered salt is the best choice.

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A word on the importance of investing in a salt mill

Salt is in every kitchen around the world — whether you’re a home cook or a professional chef, you’ve got salt in your pantry for almost all your favorite recipes. But choosing the right salt grain size makes a big difference to the taste of the foods you make and serve, and so owning a top-notch salt grinder also called a salt mill, is vital. An adjustable salt mill lets you have any salt grain size you want, depending on what you’re making. The right salt mill lets you adapt the grinding mechanism to the perfect salt grain size, whether that’s large or very fine.

Once you invest in a good salt mill and start buying the right salt for all your cooking needs, you’ll wonder how you ever ran your kitchen without this essential tool! Have fun browsing kitchen shops, check out different salt grinders, and purchase one that’s right for your kitchen. You’ll be amazed at the difference the right tool, along with the right type of salt and salt grain size, can make to all your recipes, whether sweet or savory!

As always, we want to hear from you. Let us know what your favorite type of salt is, and send us ideas for future topics you would like us to explore. We want your feedback! Write to us in the comment section below.

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