Tips

not all salts are created equally

salting

Have you ever used Kosher salt in a recipe and found the end result to be like a salt lick and you couldn’t imagine how on earth a recipe tester could have not noticed how horribly, horribly oversalted the dish would end up? Let me guess: you were using Morton Kosher Salt. Guess what the recipe tester was probably using? Diamond Kosher Salt. And I know what you’re thinking: Now you tell me!

Believe it or not, I only learned about this disparity weeks ago but I had suspected something was wonky for a while. I use Diamond Kosher Salt so I hadn’t run into the issue but I’ve often received comments that people found even a lightly-salted dish way over the top. In short, Morton and Diamond are made differently; Morton salt presses salt granules into large flakes with rollers; Diamond, through a patented process, stacks salt pyramids to form a large crystal — one is dense, the other is like a snowflake. One is intensely salty for its volume, the other has an expected level of saltiness.

So how to adjust for this in recipes where one is measuring salt by volume? A cup of Morton’s salt can weigh almost twice as much as a cup of Diamond’s salt, and therefore taste twice as salty. The intrepid Jill Santopietro at Chow.com came up with the following equation simply by weighing the salts:

1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt = roughly 1 1/4 teaspoons Morton’s kosher salt = roughly 1 3/4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt

“Uh, Deb, are we supposed to memorize that?” Of course not. Basically, you can think of a teaspoon of fine sea salt, regular old table salt or Morton salt as just about equivalent in salty impact. If you’d like to use Diamond kosher salt instead of table or sea salt in a recipe, use double. [Updated to clarify]

“But aack, this stresses me out because how am I supposed to know what a recipe tester used?” Here’s my advice: Pretend they used Diamond salt. You can always increase the amount of salt later (and hey, isn’t “salting to taste” the best way to cook, anyway?) but good luck scrubbing it out.

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60 comments on not all salts are created equally

  1. I’ve always used Morton’s, or Sea Salt. I’ll definitely watch out in case one of my clients purchases Diamond!!

  2. Thank you so much for this! I have Morton’s at home, and I have wondered about this very issue lately. Morton’s always looked pretty much like table salt to me–I couldn’t understand why Kosher salt was supposed to have larger fluffier crystals when mine clearly didn’t, and your post explains it perfectly. I now know what to look for when I next need to buy salt!

  3. Morton’s also puts anti-caking agents in their kosher salt, so you shouldn’t use it for lacto-fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut or kimchi – the “agents” mess with the good bacteria. I use Diamond or sometimes David’s, depending where I’m shopping, but I stay usually stay away from Morton’s.

  4. A better solution for the recipe authors is to specify WEIGHT. 5g of Morton = 5g of Diamond = 5g McDonalds

    I know most folks aren’t used to weighing ingredients, but I’ve found it to be a simpler and faster method most of the time. YMMV

    I use Mortons, only because that’s what’s on my store’s shelf. I’ll look for Diamond and try to compare.

  5. I switched over to Diamond after reading Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, where he basically said it was their choice of Kosher salt. I don’t remember the specifics of why, but I saw it at my local Persian grocery and picked it up there. I’ve only seen it at a few large grocery stores, but I definitely notice the difference.

  6. For me the big realization was using iodized sea salt, which I use for everything, instead of kosher. (Hain’s iodized sea salt is more accessible at my local store than kosher, believe it or not.) Sea salt is so much saltier (maybe this is obvious to everyone else but anyways) so I always use a lighter hand when using, and usually use half the amount than the recipe instructs.

  7. Wow, I’ve only ever used Morton’s. If I see Diamond around, I’ll have to try it. Though, I love salt, so if it winds up saltier than the recipe says, that’s usually fine by me anyway.

  8. I’ve been using Diamond, but I’m almost out, so I just bought Morton (I thought the box was prettier). Eek. Any suggestions on what I can do with my hulking box of Morton?

  9. I am a regular reader and admirer (I blame and thank you for the fearsome glory of cold-brewed iced coffee), but I’ve never commented – until now. I am bothered by the lack of citation and credit given to the author of the CHOW article. Your blog post title lifts a line from the CHOW essay and all of the information is paraphrased, but the only credit you give to the author is for the equivalencies she created (based off of other, properly attributed sources). It’s not enough just to link her article and expect that people will click it and realize your information was derived from that source. And if the CHOW post wasn’t the sole source of information, the other sources should be mentioned, as well. I realize that blog posts are not research papers, but you have always cited recipe sources in past posts.

    I hope this is not taken as part of the “slander, bile, insults” category because it is meant to be constructive, not offensive.

  10. Throw the box of Morton’s out. Since I had to also throw out the double batch of pickles I had made, I figured it was necessary. I can find Diamond at Publix grocery stores; if you are in the Southeast, start there.

  11. Ish — No reason not to use Morton’s salt. But any time a recipe calls for Kosher salt, just start by using half.

    Julienne — My sources for this post are the following: The CHOW post, which I linked and called out, Edward Schneider at the NYTimes Diner’s Journal, a Slate article and a Chowhound post on the topic. If anything, it is the other sources that got stiffed.

    The title of the CHOW post is “That’s So Salty! It’s Not Salty Enough”, not this title, so it would have no impact on CHOW’s “Google juice”.

    I always make a point to use attributions (my background is journalism) and posts are always in my own language. This may not be the most linked-out post I’ve written, but it is well within the bounds of Fair Use.

  12. Thanks for posting this – Ina Garten (aka Barefoot Contessa) wrote about this in one of her cookbooks, so I’ve always been careful to use diamond crystal (which I think tastes better anyway). We only use Morton’s for salting edamame…

    By the way, love the post on technique…

  13. What a revelation!! I’ve been lightly sprinkling Morton Kosher Salt (what a great box) on top of my Chocolate Chip Cookies. I wonder about using diamond next time I buy salt. Or maybe I’ll just buy some. Better Huh?
    Thank you so much. I had no idea.
    AmyRuth

  14. Good info – I have been puzzled by the salt issue for years. I love Diamond but found it difficult to find for a while and had to switch to Morton’s. Then I found Diamond’s again but in a cannister and it was not the flakes! It had more of a table salt texture. I am on the search for some more Diamond Flakes kosher salt now because I have always thought it was the best and most delicate. BTW – if you search on Google for Diamond salt they have a great educational piece hosted by Alton Brown.

  15. “If you’d like to swap sea salt or table salt in a recipe for Diamond salt, use double.”
    Shouldn’t this be, “use half”? Meaning, if you are making a recipe that calls for 1 tspn Kosher salt (assuming they used Diamond) and you want to use table salt or Morton Kosher salt, you would use 1/2 tspn. Right?
    I’ve been confused about the table salt/Kosher salt thing for a while now, so I just want to make sure I understand.

  16. Katie.. I agree.
    We have a serious salty situation. I just made these pickles, quintupled the recipe and doubled the salt recipe (because we used regular sea salt). I think we must have done it wrong because they are salty little puppies. Holy dina!!! I don’t think the pickles are edible on their own. Eulll.
    We’re definitly going to try them again. Everything else was delish.

  17. Katie, I think the problem is the use of the word “swap,” which is often misused or misunderstood. If you wish to substitute Diamond flake salt for kosher or sea salt, use double the quantity called for. If the recipe specifies Diamond and you want to use another type, use only half as much.

  18. For the benefit of non-New-Yorkers here (I’m thinking in terms of Lenny Bruce’s “If you’re from New York City, you’re Jewish, even if you’re goyish”) kosher salt is called that because it’s used in “kashering” meat & poultry. It’s a fairly involved process — no, the rabbi does not “bless” it — part of which is salting heavily to draw out the blood, which observant Jews are forbidden to eat. Nowadays meat usually comes to the cook with that already done(although not always!). Anyhow, kosher salt tends to be extra-coarse and extra-salty so that it can do its job more effectively. BTW this process is why kosher poultry and hotdogs are so transcendently delicious. FWIW

  19. I never knew what kosher salt was — in spite of being Jewish and living in Israel for 22 years — but now I do. Thanks for all the explanations. The only problem for me will be finding kosher salt in my supermarkets in the Tel Aviv suburb in which I live and figuring out its level of saltiness. I will not find Morton’s or Diamond, so I’ll just have to wing it.

  20. My sister and I had awesome guacamole last weekend at Rosa Mexicana and I was so excited to find the recipe on epicurious:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/ROSA-MEXICANA-GUACAMOLE-1258192
    After she could no longer listen to my nonstop raving about how fabuloust his guac was, my daughter made the recipe last night and guess what— –it was way too salty and was inedible!! I couldn’t figure out what happened, but I just read this post, ran downstairs and found that yes–we used Mortons. Mystery solved!!!–You are the best Deb!!!

  21. Thanks for a great recipe and a hard lesson! I made the scalloped tomato dish with the kosher salt we had on the shelf–the one my husband uses for making his corned beef. The dish was WAY too salty…but clearly one to make again soon with less salt. I came back to this site and noticed the link to the kosher salt lesson. Problem solved. THANKS! I had no idea about the differences in kosher salts. I love it when I find a great recipe and also learn something to use again.

  22. I’m also confused by the post. It seems the directions should be to use half (not double) if you are using sea, table or Morton’s kosher salt. Or is my brain too addled from thoughts of the raspberry gratin and scalloped tomatoes? Either way, thanks for the awesome recipes and clueing the rest of us in to the salt mystery…

  23. Last night on Top Chef, one of the contestants ended up in the bottom because her dish was too salty. Guess what product’s use was showcased throughout the show? Yes, the Morton’s Kosher salt! After I threw out an entire batch of inedible pickles, I am a true believer. They should be reading Smitten Kitchen.

  24. I saw that! I literally said to my husband that I hope she knows that Morton can be much saltier than Diamond! (I know many restaurant kitchens say they only stock Diamond just in case a chef doesn’t know this.) Tsk-tsk.

  25. OH MY! I saw that episode… and I use morton’s, no wonder everything’s so salty. i thought i was just oversalting everything. now off to the store since i have to return the dymo tape i bought… i have p-touch. i am organizing my spice rack ala smitten kitchen! i am so excited!!! :)

  26. Now that explains why my Artisan in Five bread is a little on the salty side. I don’t mind it that way and neither does the husband. I thought I had read that if a recipe calls for just salt, doesn’t specify which kind, and you are using kosher, again no specific brand, to use just a little more because table salt has a higher density. Can anyone speak to that?

    Guess none of us are too old to learn something new. :0)

  27. This just happened to me other night with a meal that I’ve made dozens of times and never oversalted until then. I was thoroughly confused, but now I know why it happened! Thanks Deb!

  28. This is great info to know – thank you for sharing! When a recipe on your site just calls for “salt,” is it safe to assume you’ve used Diamond Kosher? I’m going to make the oreo recipe and want to increase the salt a bit…but don’t want to overdo it, since I usually use morton’s table or sea salt when I bake.

    1. I haven’t practice with other brands but whenever you work with salt, especially if you’re not sure of how salty it is, it is best to go by weight, not volume.

  29. Strangely, I can’t get ANY kosher salt in Australia… I’ve been using Murray River Salt, which I thoroughly recommend to anyone if you see it in the shops. It’s pink! flaky, delicate and deeply savoury, and every box helps with desalinating one of our most important river systems.

  30. This is so helpful! But I am still confused–for baking (in general, not just one this site) when it just says “salt” does that mean table salt or kosher salt? I never know and it always stresses me out! I usually use kosher salt but always wonder if I’m actually under-salting the baked good, which I feel like may be harder to pick up on than just salting a savory dish. Thanks!

  31. “Salt” usually means table salt. Since I’ve written this post, I’ve made an effort to just use table salt measurements in recipes, and use the word “table” to make sure it’s clear. I do enjoy salts with more varied textures, but I figure most people have table salt and would grab it first when baking.

  32. Another one bites the dust..i too..didnt know anything about the salts..so ive been using Mortons…jeeez…surprised that i still have a girlfriend..thanks for the great tip…

  33. Thanks so much for this post. I couldn’t figure out why my jalapenos pickels came out salty and inedible! I griped to the poster of the recipe, and he sent me this link. Makes total sense now… I used Morton’s because that’s what the major grocery stores in rural Westen NC carry.

  34. Oddly enough, the last time we ran out of Morton’s the only thing at the store was Diamond, so we bought it. Hubz didn’t like the texture as much, so now I just mix the two in my salt box, which has probably saved me from oversalting on occasion. I think you’re right that it’s always best to undersalt from the beginning, just in case.

  35. PURCHASING:
    If you live somewhere like southern California, where no grocery store or even kitchen supply store carries Diamond Crystal kosher salt, you can order from the company directly (you have to call their 800 number). A 13 oz container will set you back $9 unfortunately because of shipping. (I need it for cheese making: essential to not disrupt that baterial magic with any forgein anti-caking agents). If anyone else has any regional location tips, they would be appreciated. Otherwise FYI these places do not carry it: Whole Foods, Sprouts, Albertsons, Vons, Cost Plus

  36. I could never understand why some of my recipes ended up too salty — but with your explanation, I now know why — I was using Morton’s Kosher Salt. Love your website!

  37. Ever since salt became popularly more than “if it rains, it pours” I’ve used about half a dozen different types of salts, kosher, sea, canning and pickling, Hawiian, Celtic, Himalayan, all more or less interchangably (except the canning and pickling, which I only use for that purpose). A good friend of mine, when he comes over for dinner, brings his own specialty Celtic gray, and claims its the only salt he likes, and he puts it on everything, even things that are already salted, like chips.

    I have to admit, having tried a variety of salts, and having this salt-freak good friend, I’m still confused by the particularity of all this salt talk. Maybe the “salt” part of my tongue is not developed very well.

    Morton table salt is like $.99 a pound, with others going into the teen$ or higher per pound. Guess which I use most of? Also, iodized is an essential for some people in some areas.

  38. I live down a dirt road in the Puna District of Hawai’i island (the Big Island. Thanks for the treatise on ‘salty business’.

  39. ahhhh why did I not read this sooner!? I made your bread and butter pickles a week or so ago and I saw the note about diamond salt, and though ‘aw what ever it cant matter that much” ahh but it did. The pickles are good, but also intensely salty for a bread and butter pickle. Round two will happen today with salt adjustments! :)

  40. I’ve never posted a comment before in my life. But my personal response on the salt issue is this. We all have prefernces. Some like it salty and some doesn’t. I respect both sides of the arguing situation. What is good for me doesn’t mean that taste good to someone else. I use both types of salt. But hence the comment my granmother told me before she passed away. ” Baby taste it. If ur not happy with it no one else will be either ,and always leave open ground for them to season to suit themselves and never season for just yourself or all food would taste bad”. We all have different tastes. That is why this website is important. So we can share ideas. But like I said. Just my opinion.

  41. Wow, found this website because I used Morton Kosher Salt on my Peppered Crusted pan seared Ahi and WOW was it way too salty. The recipe called for 1 1/2 tsp salt and I only put in 1 tsp. Your site explains it all! Thank you so much. Just wish I would have read this first.

  42. Hi Deb, I have been reading your blog for a few days now and it’s great! As an extremely unpredictable cook (I rock at making an Old Fashioned Caramel Cake but am, alas, incompetent at instant mashed potatoes), I’ve never really been educated on the best ingredients to use. I looked in our pantry and we have Morton’s un-iodized table salt, which is all I’ve ever used. Is there really that much of a difference between table salt, kosher salts, diamond salt (which I’d never heard of til this post), etc.? Please help…I’d love to become a better cook but am fairly clueless about what ingredients are truly inferior. Also, my boyfriend uses said Morton’s un-iodized salt to cure wild bird meat that he gets. Would fancier salt be better for that? Thanks!

  43. I buy all my spices, including Kosher Salt, at Penzey’s. And have just happily discovered that the Penzey’s salt is Diamond brand. Very reasonable $2.29 for a 1lb bag.

  44. It would have been great to have photos of the different salts in the blog article itself. A tablespoon of each. Then weigh each one. I am still confused. I guess table salt is the smallest in size and therefore the most dense. I have never seen kosher salt, actually.

  45. Hi Deb,

    Been reading you for years, and love the site!
    When I was reading this article today I came across a link that no longer works because the url was changed by the publisher.

    The link goes to Chow.com, and it should read as follows: http://www.chow.com/food-news/47641/thats-so-salty-its-not-salty-enough/

    The “bad” link is (located in “The intrepid Jill Santopietro at Chow.com”): http://www.chow.com/blog/2010/06/thats-so-salty-its-not-salty-enough/

    Keep on rockin’ the totally delicious recipes!

  46. Hi Deb. I travel 3 hours to Buffalo to purchase items and Morton’s salt has always been on my list. It is very salty!! I don’t like to use table salt and I read that sea salt is not really for cooking or baking, it’s more of a finishing salt. Do you know if Diamond has a kosher salt that is “fine” and not coarse? I can’t seem to find it on their website. I can’t even find fine kosher salt anywhere.

    Thanks.

  47. Weight, always weight. All of my cooking teachers in college were European, and the recipes we used were in grams, etc. So much more accurate, especially for baking and confections which, to me, always seemed more chemistry based than regular cooking. Unfortunately, few recipe quantities are given by weight, so I keep different brands of salt in my cupboard and use whatever type the recipe calls for. It’s not like it will go bad…

  48. we use diamond brand…sea salt. for everything. i’ve not had an issue with amounts, except for occasionally wanting a bit more salt, so for me it all works out. i have used it for everything from baking to sauces to salt potatoes to pickling, and boyperson uses it at the table. (i never use salt at the table, but he would put salt on a salt lick, i’m pretty sure.)

  49. I made it all the way past 60 before realizing there was something other than Morton’s table salt….. anywhere…. for anything.
    Today, if asked, (which I apparently wasn’t) I will tell any that wishes to listen that: Diamond Kosher tastes like salt. Morton’s tastes like a mutation of salt.
    However, I know several French-fry freaks that would take serious issue with this analysis.:)