Sea salt vs table salt - what's the difference?
Here's why we always keep our kitchen well stocked in sea salt and table salt
You probably notice that a lot of restaurant menus are very keen to let you know when a dish is made using sea salt. In fact we do it too, such as with the sea salt and sage roasted chicken we'll serve for dinner tonight.
But why are chefs at such pains to let you know when they're using sea salt and not just plain old table salt? Here are the key differences.
Sea salt is salt that comes from evaporated ocean water and is mostly unprocessed. Because the ocean is full of different minerals, traces of them stick around in the salt. That adds lots of extra flavour to the salt. It's more "juicy", so to speak.
You can also get sea salt at lots of different levels of coarseness, depending on whether you want to cook with it or sprinkle it on the food afterwards.
Table salt comes from underground salt mines. It’s often processed to remove minerals, then has iodine added to prevent clumping. That makes the taste of table salt more consistent, but possibly less complex.
Table salt is mostly very fine – good for mixing evenly in food.
Is sea salt healthier than table salt?
In a nutshell - no. Don't trust the internet!
Sea salt and table salt are both types of sodium chloride, and both contain about the same amount of sodium. Now, sodium is absolutely essential to your diet. We can't live without it. Too much sodium, though, is also linked to a bunch of health problems, and you shouldn’t have more than 6 grams a day.
The presence of trace minerals in sea salt means you get a broader range of nutrition than from table salt, but you'll get way more just from eating more fresh ingredients like vegetables, nuts, fruit, eggs and fish. Iodine, which is added to table salt, is also an essential nutrient but you don't need a lot and you are probably getting enough already.
Truth is, there's not much evidence that sea salt is healthier than table salt. Whichever we use, most of us eat too much.
Which is more expensive?
This is always worth considering. Table salt might not taste quite as interesting as sea salt but it's a lot cheaper, and in a well-balanced meal that includes lots of fresh vegetables, we don't think you should be anxious about deciding to reach for the table salt instead - just go easy. It's okay to keep sea salt for the special dishes where you can really taste it.
Ultimately, whichever type you cook with the real danger is buying processed food like ready meals, readymade pizzas and crisps, which contain absolutely loads of it. If you want to cut down on your salt intake, that's where you start. And cooking from scratch will also cost you less in the long run.
So - will this make you change some of your salt habits? Will you cut down on the crisps? Keep the sea salt for special occasions? Do let us know your thoughts.