This seems so complicated, but here goes...

Some of us grew up in a home where there was one type of salt in the house - aptly called table salt - because that's where it sat. People often had more than one salt shaker - more or less fancy depending upon the occasion. There might have been a few grains of rice added to the contents of the shaker - aimed at absorbing unwelcome humidity that might clump the salt, making it hard to shake it out.

Right now, I have about 8 different kinds of salt in my cupboard, though only three are used with some frequency. Here's a quick overview of some of the more exotic salts gracing our shelves. Below, I am focusing only on the three big ones used in recipes - mainly because there are some serious differences. First, a really quick description of each.

Table Salt - which is iodized (and if you don't know why, check out the health problems linked to an iodine deficiency). Yes, there are people who rail against iodized salt, and their complaints include the taste - though I wonder how many palates can detect that difference. By the time you finish reading, you will likely be keeping your table salt, if for no other reason than to salt pasta water. 

Windsor Kosher Salt: Coarse - (commonly sold in the USA under the brand "Morton") was not seen in the house I grew up in. Though it has been available as a consumer product for over 100 years, the last few decades saw it become popular and favoured by chefs, but mainly for cooking (e.g meat) and/but not necessarily for baking. It is not iodized. Most people buy it because they want a coarse salt. Believe it or not, kosher salt comes in both coarse and fine grain - so take care you are getting what you want. In case you're interested, this type of salt is not "holy or blessed" - all salt is technically "kosher" - read more.

Diamond Crystal (Kosher) Salt - this is a specific brand of salt that has existed since 1886, but has become very popular in recent years. It is manufactured using a patented method that produces lighter crystals, vs. the heavier granule typified by Windsor / Morton's Coarse Kosher salt.

WHY DOES ANY OF THIS MATTER? Because... if you substitute one for the other incorrectly, your kitchen project could end up either too salty, or not salty enough. When soups, etc. are not salty enough, we can add more. However, we all know it's tough to correct an over-salted dish. In baking, there's no fix for either extreme.


Technically 1 gram of salt is 1 gram of salt - and tastes equally salty, BUT there's a but. Let's imagine 1 cup of salt. Those tiny granules of table salt snuggle together filling up the cup. On the opposite extreme, the light, fluffy Diamond Crystals don't snuggle together, leaving a fair bit of air space in the one cup measure. Result? Here's a NYT comparison of the weight of one cup measures:

Table salt: 300 grams  |  Morton’s kosher: 250 grams  |  Diamond Crystal kosher: 135 grams 

See? Add 1 cup of table salt to something, and it will taste much more salty than 1 cup of Diamond Crystal - pretty much twice as salty!  (The comparisons of Serious Eats are slightly different, but the main principles apply - and their article is a good read. ) There are some tiny differences in equivalencies advice, but most people point to the precise work of America's Test Kitchen (see The Kitchn).

1 tsp table salt (fine salt) = 1 1/2 tsp Morton (Windsor) kosher salt = 2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt

Still wondering why this matters? Back in 2010 Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen replied to complaints that some of her recipes were too salty. Turns out she always and only uses Diamond Crystal. So anyone who made one of her recipes using table salt instead was adding double the salt!! (e.g. as per the above substitutions, if one of her recipes called for 1 tsp salt - and Deb uses Diamond Crystal - that would have been equivalent to 1/2 tsp table salt, so someone adding 1 tsp table salt - well, you'd get "salty"!!)


If a recipe specifies the type of salt to be used, and you don't have it on hand, follow the conversion guideline above. However, until and unless every single recipe states what kind of salt to use, I think there's no definitive solution, and even if, moving forward, recipes specify the type of salt, what do we do about all the existing recipes (other than assuming that older recipes probably intended the use of table salt)?

Compromise? Windsor (Morton) Coarse Kosher Salt - might be a compromise. If the recipe intended the use of Diamond Crystal, the use of Windsor / Morton Coarse would make the dish only a wee bit too salty. Conversely, if the recipe intended table salt, Windsor / Morton results would be just a bit less salty than intended.

Then there's the issue of baking - and are you surprised that there's a range of opinions? Some reputable bakers insist that coarse salt is not suitable for baking because it may not evenly distribute in a mixture, or may not melt as desired, etc. Others say it makes no difference. Those who reject table salt because it is iodized, but dislike coarse salt for baking - well, they will either hunt for kosher salt that is fine grain instead of coarse, or they whiz coarse salt in the food processor. Crikey.

Make a habit of reviewing the introductory section of a cookbook - authors will often talk about their ingredients, and that's where you may find out what kind of salt they use.

I did find agreement that table salt is ideal for brining because it dissolves so nicely in the liquid mixture.

I didn't mention cost - table salt is the least expensive.

{And a postscript about "those other salts". The three salts discussed above can be called refined salts. Some people who use the "fancier" salts are aiming to choose a more unrefined salt - hopefully with some naturally occurring minerals, thus adding to the salt's nutritional value. Himalayan salt, for example, has trace amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Choose your exotic salts carefully. A "sea salt" might have be harvested from a polluted sea. Read more.]

Lastly, if you have not read enough about salt - get a copy of "Salt: A World History" by the renowned Mark Kurlansky. From the book jacket "...salt - the only rock we eat - has shaped civilization from the very beginning. Its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind." (And, nothing to do with salt - but I loved his book called The Big Oyster - all about what used to be the food of the poor.)

I don't usually add a comment / question section to the ingredients page - but am making an exception in case you want to share...

<== Questions or Comments?  Visit the Q. C. page - looking forward to hearing from you!