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Different types of salt have different uses in the kitchen.
Regular table salt is the most common. It’s the type you’d find in a standard household salt shaker, and it’s the one typically used when cooking at home or seasoning directly on the plate. The word “iodized” is often seen on the packaging, which means that iodine has been added to it.
Kosher salt is also relatively common, and comes in larger crystals. It is not typically iodized, and it is used for a variety of cooking purposes. The volume is different than table salt, so be careful if you try to substitute one for the other using precise measurements – 1 teaspoon of kosher salt won’t give the same level of saltiness as 1 teaspoon of table salt.
Pickling salt is used for pickling and canning purposes. It contains no additives, as additives can negatively affect the pickling process.
Finishing salts tend to be salts that contribute extra flavour and texture to a food just prior to being served. While ordinary salt is added throughout the cooking process to build flavour, finishing salt is added at the end, just before the food is served; adding it during the cooking process would greatly diminish the unique flavour of the finishing salt.
These special, premium salts come in a wide range of types and flavours. Some are expensive and contribute delicate salt notes – fleur de sel, for example. Others either have a stronger natural flavour from their place of origin (such as sea salt) or are seasoned during the processing stage; this could involve anything from smoking the salt to blending it with herbs, essences or spices.
If you’re looking for a good excuse to use finishing salt, try sprinkling it on things like salads, steaks, roasted or steamed veggies, seafood (one of our chef instructors suggests scallops or lobster in particular), or even sprinkled atop a loaf of bread before it goes into the oven to bake.
Many supermarkets stock specialty salts, so you shouldn’t have to look too hard to find them. Specialty kitchen shops or gourmet grocery stores carry interesting salts you may not see elsewhere.