I Cannot Cook if I Don’t Have These Two Specific Salts in My Kitchen
It may sound high-maintenance, but when you consider how important salt is to your food… it doesn’t hurt to be particular.
When it comes to cooking, I try to maintain a go-with-the-flow, we’ll-make-it-work kind of attitude. I mean, who wants to be around a snooty, pretentious cook? Nobody, that’s who. It’s not uncommon for me, as a private chef, to sometimes find myself in a kitchen that’s not my own. This can be annoying at times (HOW DO THESE PEOPLE NOT OWN A SINGLE VEGETABLE PEELER?), but for the most part, it’s pretty fun to play around in different kitchens.
The only equipment that I bring with me are my knives (because I am undeniably snooty about those), but beyond that, I use whatever said kitchen has to offer me. While this approach may seem incredibly flexible and carefree, there are two non-negotiable, non-equipment items that I NEED to have in my kitchen. It just so happens that both of these items are salt, specifically Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and Maldon Flaky Sea Salt.
So, what’s the big deal about salt? Can’t you just use whatever salt you’ve got in the kitchen? Well, for me, not exactly. The salt that I use throughout cooking a dish from start to finish is kosher salt, and not all kosher salts are the same. Depending on the brand, kosher salt can vary in coarseness and saltiness. While this ultimately comes down to preference, I am a firm believer that Diamond Crystal is objectively the superior kosher salt. The coarseness is perfect for seasoning food as you go (it’s not as fine as iodized or table salt, but not excessively coarse) and the level of saltiness is not only forgiving, but something I’ve adapted to.
While Morton Kosher Salt, a common competitor brand, is still a fine product, I find that the salt is a bit too coarse for my liking. Not to mention, it’s almost two times as salty as Diamond Crystal, which means I’m way more likely to oversalt my food, especially since I’ve gotten used to salting my food with Diamond Crystal. Do I sound insufferable? Maybe? I like what I like, okay?!
Before I get down and dirty with my other essential salt, let’s just take a moment to run through the salts that I cannot stand. Iodized salt is my enemy. It is way too fine and way too salty to have any practical use in my kitchen. There have been instances (ones that I’d like to forget) where my only seasoning option was iodized salt and I was NOT happy about it. Grabbing a pinch of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt is a sensory experience that is essential to my cooking process. And while we’re on the topic of useless salts, let’s talk about pink himalayan sea salt. What is the point?? Other than it’s pretty pink hue, I truly cannot think of any reason why you’d opt to season your food with it instead of kosher salt.
While we’re here, let me just add that there is no practical use to grinding your salt. The reason that you want to freshly grind your peppercorns is because spices start to oxidize and lose flavor the moment that they are ground. Salt, however, is a rock. So whether you grind it right before you eat it or 6 months before, it doesn’t matter. So, why are you grinding salt when you could just buy it ground? Yep, I’m going there. Salt mills are a hoax.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s return to the second salt that I need to have at my disposal at all times. Flaky Maldon salt! It’s just as important to round everything out with a sprinkling of finishing salt as it is to season your food as you cook. You might recognize Maldon salt from those salted chocolate chip cookies that you have saved on Instagram. These delicate flakes of salt add a visually appealing and texturally interesting component to any dish. They’re not insanely salty, so I can rest assured that a pinch is not going to send a dish over the edge. Anytime I cannot finish off a dish with a generous sprinkling of these flaky crystals, I am genuinely disappointed that I do not have the opportunity to do so. Salads, soups, roasted veggies, proteins, dips, pastas, desserts—literally any dish can benefit from a few stunning Maldon crystals.
I think that the most obvious way to spot a professional chef is to watch how they use salt. Is their food well seasoned? Did they season as they were cooking? Did they top off the dish with one final sprinkle of finishing salt? Call me pretentious, but well seasoned food is essential to delicious cooking. Going with the flow doesn’t hurt, either.