Salt is a nutritional necessity but also enhances the flavor of food, especially when used at different stages in cooking.
“Red meat has one friend and that's salt,” said Ambarish Lulay, department chef for hospitality and tourism management at Purdue West Lafayette campus. “When you’re grilling New York steaks, you want to season them with salt before they go on the grill. When you pull steaks off the grill to rest, you sprinkle them with salt as well. And when you’re slicing the meat and serving it, that’s when you sprinkle it with an expensive finishing salt like Fleur De Sel, to give it a crunch.”
Lulay, who is chef for the Purdue president at Marriott Hall, said seasoning at different stages brings out flavor of meat without making it salty.
Knowing the difference between table salt, kosher salt, finishing salt, etc., when restocking the salt you cook with, can make a big difference in your food’s flavor.
The most common salt found in homes is iodized table salt.
Lulay said because the crystals in this salt are small it is best for baking.
“In a kitchen if you have iodized table salt, you want to use that for baking. The fine grind help salt dissolve and helps incorporate better,” Lulay said.
Another common salt is kosher salt, which seems to be used most in professional kitchens.
“I prefer kosher salt when cooking because it’s not as salty and sharp as regular table salt. The way it falls out of your hand, you have better control when you are seasoning,” Lulay said.
Katlyn Rather, chef and owner at Green is Good by Kate in Crown Point, agrees with Lulay.
“Kosher salt is my go-to salt. I use it in all of my cooking and flavoring needs. I’ve been cooking with this salt for a very long time, so I know just how much to use when I need to adjust the flavor of a dish,” Rather said. “Kosher salt is coarser and has larger flakes so it’s easier to grab and spread across your dishes.”
Rather also uses Himalayan salt, especially when she cooks at home.
“This salt is the purest form of salt. It contains 84 natural minerals and elements — because of its mineral content it has a bolder flavor. I use this salt more for finishing items,” Rather said.
Lulay said salts such as Pink Himalayan, Black Volcanic salt, etc., have slightly different nuances because of the minerals that the salt will catch depending on where it’s harvested from.
“It’s a matter of personal taste and if they are hand-harvested, it’s more expensive. These salts should always be used as finishing salt not a cooking salt,” Lulay said.
Sea salt is another example of a finishing salt.
“I use sea salt for finishing dishes. Since sea salt isn’t ground as finely as table salt the result when using it on your food is more of a burst flavor,” Rather said. “Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater — because of this there are more trace nutrients in the salt. This makes the flavor of the salt vary.”
Lulay said the amount of salt used in cooking can be the difference between a good dish and a great dish.
“Salt is really that component that sets apart home food from professional food. Because in culinary school we are taught how to season then taste and season again and taste again and so forth.”