Seasoning food perfectly is one of the greatest skills both a chef and home cook can possess. A lack of salt equals a lack of flavour, while too much salt can easily ruin an otherwise perfectly-cooked plate of food.
But, as any professional cook will tell you, it’s not just how much salt you add that impacts the final dish; it’s also which salt you use.
While recipes often simply call for ‘salt’, the type of salt you choose to deploy will affect not only the saltiness of the dish, but the texture, consistency and even the flavour. A teaspoon of fine sea salt, for example, adds far more saltiness than a teaspoon of coarser river salt flakes, as well as delivering a slightly different assortment of mineral flavours (such as calcium, magnesium and potassium). Similarly, finish a perfectly-cooked steak with a dusting of table salt, and you’re missing out on the appealing crunch and subtle brininess a fine fleur de sel would add.
There are very few dishes, savoury or sweet, that can’t be improved with a sprinkling of salt. But seasoning is also a careful art. When using salt, remember:
- Add a little at a time, and taste often. It’s very easy to add more salt, but impossible to remove it.
- Think about when to add salt to your dish. Salting mushrooms too early, for example, will draw out their moisture and result in the vegetables stewing rather than sautéing. Similarly, adding salt to a simmering stock or soup too early risks making the final product too salty once some of the liquid has boiled away.
- Look to your recipe as a guide rather than a gospel. Different test kitchens use different salts, each with their own coarseness and salinity. Trust your own palate.
- Some foods, like a well-cooked steak, benefit from multiple seasonings. A dusting of salt before it hits the pan helps build an appealing crust, while a sprinkle of finishing salt boosts the meat’s flavour and adds crunch.
- When a recipe calls for salted water (such as when cooking pasta or blanching vegetables), taste it as you add the salt. It should have the same salinity as sea water.
At The Essential Ingredient, we proudly stock a wide range of exceptional salts collected from across Australia and around the world, each with its own unique properties and applications. From pure, unrefined salts to those infused with the flavours of truffle, black garlic or yuzu, our stores (and online store) have the exact salt you need to elevate every dish.
Whether for savoury or sweet, for cooking or finishing, from Australia or abroad, these are some of our favourite salts to use in the kitchen:
Murray River Pink Salt Flakes
Produced from ancient saline waters in Australia’s Murray Darling basin, naturally occurring minerals create this unique pink hued salt with a delicate and soft flake. Beloved among Australian chefs, this is the perfect salt for finishing steak or other grilled meat, adding both seasoning and crunch.
Flaked Sea Salt
Combining the appealing brininess of sea salt with the delicate crunch of salt flakes, this solar evaporated sea salt, produced from the pristine waters of the Southern Ocean, is a pure-flavoured seasoning, an excellent finishing salt for fish, vegetables and meat, and an ideal table condiment.
Malden Sea Salt Flakes
Popular with chefs around the world, these soft, white crystal flakes produced on the South-East coast of England under a royal warrant are free from artificial additives, giving Maldon Sea Salt a distinctive texture and pure salt flavour.
Rock Sea Salt
With it’s large (stone-like) crystals, rock salt is often used as a tool in the kitchen rather than an ingredient in recipes. Use it draw moisture out of pork skin for perfect crackling, for curing a large side of salmon, or for adding crunch to homemade pretzels. Also deployed in salt grinders to serve freshly-ground salt at the table.
Pink Himalayan Salt
This pure salt with a gentle pink hue, harvested from ancient sea beds deep inside the pristine foothills of the Himalayas, is a beautiful seasoning salt with a slightly higher level of minerality than sea salt, perfect for both the table and the kitchen.
Fleur de Sel
Fleur de sel translates to ‘flower of salt’, which the thin layer of fine crystal salt that forms on the marshes of the Ile de Re resembles. This exceptional salt is prized around the world for its delicate flavour, with some chefs even travelling with a small container to ensure they never have to cook without it. Perfect as a table salt or finishing salt.
Grey Sea Salt
Sel Gris Marin (grey sea salt) is harvested from the bottom of the salt pans of the Ile de Re’ and contains up to 3% clay, giving it the signature light grey appearance and its rich mineral notes that emphasise the umami notes in savoury cooking.
Himalayan Black Salt
Also known as Kala Namak, black salt has been used for hundreds of years in Asian countries surrounding the Himalayan mountains. The sulphurous character adds unique flavour to chutneys and raitas and is perfect sprinkled on salads and fruits. Often used to add flavour to vegan recipes.
When smoked, salt absorbs and retains the full complexity of the smoke’s flavour, making it a great way to add not only seasoning, but the subtle flavours of wood and charcoal to your food.
Truffle Salt (and other infused salts)
Salt is not only a terrific booster of flavours, but an excellent flavour carrier. When infused with truffles, salt imparts that vibrant aroma over hot chips, roast potatoes, scrambled eggs, mushroom fry-ups and a host of other hearty fare. Black Garlic Salt adds an umami hit to anything it’s sprinkled over, while Yuzu Salt brings citrus zing and floral vibrancy.