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How To Cook With Salt

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Think all salt is the same? Think again. Chef Douglas Miller of The Culinary Institute of America explains that there are many varieties of salt, and all of them have very different uses.

Cooking with Salt

He starts by talking about table salt, which has very small grains. Table salt has added iodine and anti-clumping agents, and is perfect for baking or for salting pasta water. Kosher salt has flat granules, which means it has more surface area than table salt. It's good for salads, on top of pastas, or even on top of meats. Sea salt, which is produced by evaporating salt water from the world's oceans, contains a lot of flavor. It doesn't have any additives, so it can clump, but that's not indicative of any quality issues. It's another good choice for pastas and meats. Finally, chef Miller talks about finishing salts -- specialty salts that have something added to them or are from an exotic source. These salts aren't for cooking -- rather, they're for finishing off a special dish. He uses Hawaiian red clay salt as an example. Red clay is added for both color and a bit of earthiness. Smoked salt is another example of a finishing salt -- it adds smoky flavor to any dish, but is particularly good on grilled meats.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Maitre D' Instructor Doug Miller from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: salt and its culinary uses.

Salt, which has been around since the beginning of time, has many culinary uses. Beyond its flavor, it also has been a preservative of many different food dishes for millennia. Salt will not go bad. You can keep salt in your cabinet for an indefinite time period.

We'll start off with the most common, table salt, which is what most homes have. Table salt is great for cooking pasta, where you add it in to boiling water; it's also very good for baking. Table salt has iodine added to it, plus additional additives to keep it from clumping.

The next salt I have is kosher salt. Kosher salt has flat granules, which allows it to have more surface area. Kosher salt is a great salt to use in finishing your favorite salad, on top of your favorite pasta, or even on top of grilled meats.

The next salt I have is sea salt. Sea salt is produced by evaporation, from oceans all over the world. Sea salt, due to its not having any additives in it, will tend to clump up just a little bit. That is no reflection on its quality, no indication that the salt has gone bad. Sea salt, similar to kosher salt, is great to finish on top of dishes - your favorite pasta, steaks, grilled items, vegetables, and so on. The advantage of using sea salt or kosher salt is they'll tend to have more flavor than your regular table salt.

The next salts I have are finishing salts. Finishing salts are salts that have something added to them, or they are specialty salts from around the world. Finishing salts are perfect on top of fresh tomatoes, or fresh salads. You wouldn't cook with these salts because you'd lose some of these nuances of flavor; instead you'd finish by sprinkling them on top of a dish. The first one I have is from Hawaii, Hawaiian red clay salt. They add a little bit of red clay to this sea salt to give it this lovely color. The clay in it also adds a little bit of earthiness to the salt. The next one, which I absolutely love, is smoked sea salt. This smoked salt is great to use for your favorite grilled items - meats, chicken, fishes - or your any of your favorite dishes that you like to eat at home. This will add a little bit of smoky texture and flavor to that dish.

There are different salts from all over the world that have different nuances and flavors, but you want to start off with table salt, maybe kosher salt and sea salt - and from there you can explore the wonderful world of salt.