Salt is essential for human life, and saltiness is one of the five basic human taste sensations. It is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous food seasonings as table salt, rock salt or sea salt. And salting is an important method of food preservation.
It is essential to health.
Table salt is more processed than rock or sea salt, and generally cheaper to buy. It can often contain additives and chemicals that you won’t find in unrefined, naturally evaporated or mined salt. As with other refined foods, table salt is also stripped of a lot of its nutritional value. This meaqns what was natural, becomes nutrient poor especially in comparison to rock and sea salt.
The latter have a stronger flavour and satisfying, crunchy texture makes them much better for cooking.
The coarseness of sea or rock salt isn’t always suitable for eating. You can crush or grind it to the desired consistency with your fingers or a salt grinder. Where salt is added after cooking (like chips or fries) crushing or grinding may be preferred. When cooking, it makes little difference as the salt dissolves with minimal contact to cooking liquid or juices.
Btw, when buying it, don’t worry if it’s clumpy, this means it has no anti-caking agents = good.
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Planet earth as we know it today didn’t look the same millions of years ago. Seas have dried up and are now covered with rock and soil. Salt is mined all over (or under) the earth. Known mines have enough rock salt to supply man’s needs for many centuries.
The common name for rock salt is the mineral name halite. It is nearly pure sodium chloride. The mined salt is crushed down, packaged and sent to other companies. Those who manufacture table salt grind the rock salt down even further. Refining takes place to remove other minerals or substances deposited in the salt bed as it naturally formed.
In its most common definition, table salt is refined rock salt. If iodine is added, it is iodized salt. Table salt is mined from salt deposits under the ground, remnants of often vast areas of sea that are long gone. The mined deposits are washed with water to dissolve the salt, forming a salt solution which is then evaporated to form crystals. The mined salt is then processed to purify and strip it of all other minerals and contaminants. It is then supplemented with anti-caking agents (which can occasionally be tasted), such as sodium aluminosilicate, silicon dioxide, and magnesium carbonate.
Table salt is usually about 98% sodium chloride, with about 2% by weight of an anti-caking agent. Table salt may be iodized; in which case another product, potassium iodide (or another iodine source) is added. Table salt tends to be a little denser from the evaporation method used.
Although a mixture of many naturally occurring salts, sea salt is mostly sodium chloride (just like table salt). It is sourced from existing bodies of seawater. The sea water is evaporated and extracted either by open-air natural sun evaporation (for more expensive sea salt) or by a quicker vacuum evaporation process, giving it a flakier crystalline texture you can crush with your fingers.
Sea salt can be either unrefined or refined. The unrefined sea salt is unwashed and therefore may appear grey in colour from sediment and clay impurities. Unrefined sea salt is coated in trace minerals, algae, and even marine bacteria that can tolerate high levels of salt. All these may contribute to a more complex flavour.
Refined sea salt is washed and purified into a salt that is just like table salt. However it generally doesn’t have additives or anti-caking agents added, remaining neutral and as pure a nature allows.
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Kosher Salt can be sea salt or rock salt and takes its name from its use in the kosher-ing process. No preservatives are added and can be derived from either seawater or underground sources.
Himalayan salt is rock salt or halite from the Punjab region of Pakistan. The foothills of the Salt Range are located 190 miles (310 km) from the Himalayas. Himalayan salt is predominantly sodium chloride (95-98%), contaminated with 2–3% polyhalite and small amounts of other minerals. The pink colour is due to the presence of iron oxide. It doesn’t have any additional health benefits.