Some people live for sweets while others play for team salty. Growing up, I chose potato chips over sugar cookies any day of the week. To me, nothing beat the salty taste of corn chips, cured meat, or even a slice of cheddar cheese. As I grew in my foodie endeavors, I've come to realize the importance of having sweet and salty in the overall flavor of a dish.

The simple addition of salt enhances natural sweetness, which affirmed my love for it from the start. Not only does it have the ability to complement sweetness, salt also plays a critical role in the balance among other components (including fat and acid in cooking), rendering salt to be the not so secret ingredient in the success of any dish.

Now that we've established that salt is pretty incredible, it's time to delve a bit further into the specific varieties of salt that exist to make our food taste delicious. The kosher salt vs sea salt debate has been lingering over us for years. While we know there has to be a difference between these two "chunkier than regular table salt" salts, due to the obvious difference in name, I've done some digging to show what exactly the difference is between kosher salt vs sea salt.  

What Is Kosher Salt?

Technically, any salt can be named kosher if it's made under kosher compliance. However, kosher salt has absolutely nothing to do with kosher dietary guidelines practiced by those who are Jewish. Surprisingly, kosher salt first received its name because its original purpose was to kosher meat, meaning to remove blood from the animal (gross, I know). Since then, it has evolved to be the most common ingredient found in the kitchens of world-class chefs and the self-taught foodies alike.

What Is Sea Salt?

Fortunately, sea salt doesn't have as grotesque of a backstory as its friend kosher salt over here. Sea salt is simply evaporated directly from seawater. Because of this processing element, sea salt readily upholds naturally present trace minerals, which is why sea salt is perceived to be on a higher pedestal. These trace minerals not only slightly enhance the nutritional profile (there's only a negligible difference), but also account for the altered color of many sea salts. 

How Salt Is Made

All salt crystals are made by harvesting salt from seawater or rock-salt deposits in salt mines. Evaporating salty water into salt crystals or pumping water into salt mines is the premise of salt productions. Both techniques will result in salt once the water is evaporated. Because evaporation can be quite a timely process, seawater is often filtered and boiled to remove any impurities that may exist. It's then heated again to expedite the evaporation process until the salt forms crystals. This means that the temperature and timing both play a crucial role in the outcome of the salt we intake on a daily basis.

That being said, chemically speaking, there is no difference between kosher salt, sea salt, and table salt. All of them are essentially 100% sodium chloride (NaCl for all of the science people out there). The difference between these three varieties of salt solely lies in the processing techniques used to produce differing density and shapes. 

When to Use Each Type of Salt

Most chefs these days likely have kosher salt stocked on the shelves of their kitchen. Known for its versatility, the appeal of kosher salt stems from the notion that it can be used for flavor laying throughout the entire cooking process (before, during, and after).

Kosher salt is best used when actively seasoning with your hands, especially when properly seasoning meat, vegetables, or even pasta water because it allows for a consistent, even distribution. Because you can physically feel how much kosher salt you are adding to a specific dish, this sensation provides a stringent element of control, opposed to those times when you turned over the salt shaker and wayyyy too much salt came out. 

On the other hand, since sea salt is the most unrefined variety of salt, it also tends to be the most expensive. This means that in cooking it's best used sparingly. Because its flakes vary in size and density, sea salt is best to be used as a finishing agent. Flakey crystals of sea salt sprinkled on top of a dish add a slight bit of crunch to a salad or meat after it has been cooked.

The use of salt, whether it be kosher salt vs sea salt, is one that is ironically both undervalued and overused. Despite the criticism salt faces in the medical community, as a nutrition student I acknowledge the negative consequences of excess sodium. That being said, from a culinary perspective the power properly seasoning with salt has in enhancing the flavor of foods improves the outcome of cooking, making the integral role salt plays in one's diet a delicate balance.