The Thing About Salt

I think the most popular recipe I have posted so far has been the Kalua Pulled Pork which is really my son-in-law’s recipe.  It is super easy to make and always a big hit when cooking for a crowd.

Unfortunately, one of my readers had a run-in with salt on this recipe.  Whatever salt he used (and I’m not sure what he used) resulted in his pork being so salty that he had to throw it out.  I hated to hear that.  Especially since it was one of my sister’s co-workers.  Yikes.

Another reader and one of my Mama’s Empty Nest Facebook fans (visit my Fan Page on Facebook, and click the “like” button) also asked me a question about salt – namely, what is the difference between Kosher salt and regular table salt?

These are the salts that I currently have in my cabinet.  I also have a number of rubs that I put together myself as well as homemade Emeril’s Essence.  I also prepare my own taco seasoning mix.

Bottom line is that, chemically, all salt is salt.  There are a lot of discussions around other chemical additives and processing, but basically salt is salt.  The biggest difference for the everyday home cook is in the texture or coarseness of the grain of salt.  Pickling salt, not pictured, is a fine salt necessary due to the need for it to dissolve quickly.  Kosher salts, conversely, are more coarse and preferred when cooking savory dishes because 1) they are easier to take a pinch of and add to a recipe, and 2) they adhere better to meat.  Salt is not Kosher, per se, rather it is called Kosher because of its use in preserving meat.

The problem is with the saltiness of salt.  It is always best to salt a little and taste a little.  You can always add more, but it is virtually impossible to remove saltiness once it is in something.

To add to the dilemma, you have the issue with Morton versus Diamond Crystal Kosher salt.  One is actually coarser than the other and, depending on which one you use, you may have to adjust the amount you use in your recipe.  Here are the adjusted proportions when measuring:

1/4 cup table salt = 1/4 cup plus 2 TB Morton Kosher salt = 1/2 cup Diamond Crystal Kosher salt

Sea Salt is said to have more impurities than other salts, but I have it on hand mainly for recipes that call for garnishing with sea salt.  I also use a lot of Seasoned Salt (hence the mega container), and purchased the Hawaiian Artisanal Salt for the Kalua Pulled Pork.  I think that was more for the effect than anything – table salt or Kosher salt would work just as well.

In fact, I think the average kitchen, professional or otherwise, generally only needs to have on hand the finer table salt and the coarser Kosher salt.  Most professional chefs use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, but it is not always that easy to find.  Morton Kosher salt is generally available in most grocery stores.

As far as the Kalua Pulled Pork is concerned, we rub it with the salt and other ingredients, but if you are concerned about the saltiness, go a little less as you can always salt in the end.

Note on salted versus unsalted butter:  Most recipes calling for butter assume salted butter.  I only buy unsalted butter – that way I can control the salt.  To compensate (and you should compensate especially when baking), add an additional 1/4 tsp salt for every stick of unsalted butter (unless, of course, the recipe specifies unsalted butter in which case you do not need to add any additional salt).

I am not a professional chef, but I can tell you that it is very important to taste as you go along in cooking.  It’s easier to adjust along the way than to have to throw something out in the end.

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