For college students trying to stock our first kitchens, salt is an all too familiar remedy for bland dishes and low-quality frozen meals. But for the frequency that we use it, how much do we really know about which salt is which, how much we really should be having, and where it comes from? Specifically, what even is the difference between kosher salt vs table salt?

Recipes seem oddly specific when they call for kosher salt, and it always feels unnecessary as a novice chef to buy separate containers for perhaps a trivial difference. Here's everything you need to know about salt and why it might not be as big a deal as it seems to only keep one kind of salt in your apartment.

Where does salt even come from?

To explain the difference between kosher salt and table salt, we have to take it all the way back to where we even get salt. Our oceans alone have 120 tons of salt per cubic mile, and with thousands of salt mines around the world we have a seemingly never ending supply. 

Salt is not likely to fade out of importance anytime soon, as global warming has caused sea levels to rise, fresh water flow to change, and in result there are problematic high salinity levels in the primary water sources of some low-income countries such as Bangladesh. Salt is everywhere, and it's only becoming more prevalent, so how should we go about using it?

What's unique about kosher salt?

Kosher salt is not just salt for Jewish families that are keeping kosher kitchens, though it did derive its name from the process of rubbing this salt on kosher meats to remove blood from meats during the koshering process. Kosher salt isn't necessarily kosher at all, it was used for this job due to its signature large crystal size.  

Kosher salt is made by evaporating seawater or brine made by pumping water into rock-salt deposits. This allows the salt to be flat or pyramidal, making it a much coarser salt. It's usually not iodized, which is something to be wary of in comparison to table salt. Kosher salt is best for seasoning meats and vegetables, and for any recipe that calls for coarse salt. In the end though, it won't make or break your dish if you only have table salt on hand.  

What's unique about table salt?

Table salt is much, much finer and is probably what you have on hand in your kitchen as a college student. Table salt is mined and then processed in order to make it finer. This processing strips it of any minerals it may have contained, which is why iodine and other anti-caking agents get added to the salt. Table salt and kosher salt contain the same amount of sodium, and are simply different textures, and have different added minerals. 

"Iodized" is oftentimes written on table salt and we don't see it on other kinds as frequently. This is because the regularity at which we consume table salt makes it an ideal option to infuse with our necessary intake of iodine, to avoid thyroid issues and prevent goiter. Goiter, an enlarged thyroid, was a major health concern in the US in the 1920s, so it was added to our most frequently used flavoring. 

Kosher Salt vs Table Salt

The differences between kosher salt vs table salt all come down to texture and the method of production. In the end, both have important purposes in the kitchen, but with similar sodium levels the choice isn't going to ruin your meal if you have to substitute one with the other.

The correct average intake of salt in itself is debated, but Dr. Judith Veis, a Nephrologist at Medstar Washington Hospital Center, advises avoiding excess salt while cooking and eating less fast food. Salt is okay in moderation, but we should try substituting salt with more pepper, garlic, onions, and green spices. So armed with more salt knowledge than you ever thought you needed, get into the kitchen and use kosher salt or table salt to enhance your cooking, but always in moderation.