The Difference Between Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, & Table Salt?

Picture of different salts

Secret ingredients. We all love them and we all want to be in the know. So I’ll let you in on a secret ingredient that professional chefs use all the time. Salt!  No, not just any salt. They know which salt to use to bring out the best in whatever dish they are creating. Chef’s also know how much salt to use in any given dish, and guess what? It’s a lot more than you likely use at home!

Before gold or money, salt was the currency. Why? Well it’s not only necessary to human life, but it brings out the flavor in anything that it touches. It’s better than gold! Ever tried chicken stock without salt? It tastes like dirty dishwater. The trick is to keep adding salt until it tastes flavorful and rich. My kids used to ask for more sugar on their oatmeal. I could load up a bowl of oatmeal with tons of sugar, but if instead I took the salt shaker and sprinkled a little on, guess what? Like Goldilocks eating Mama Bear’s porridge, it was “Just right.”

All salts are not created equal. With different mineral contents and flavors, there are literally thousands of different choices. But in this article we’re going to stick with the basics: Kosher, sea, or table salt.


Table Salt

Heavily processed to eliminate trace elements, table salt is mined from underground salt deposits and is bleached, heated and contains an additive, calcium silicate, to prevent clumping. Imparting a “sharper” flavor than kosher or sea salt, its fine crystals are considered *saltier than kosher salt.

Iodized table salt means that iodine has been added. When buying table salt I always recommend iodized (Read on to find out why.)

Cooking with table salt: Because table salt is quite inexpensive and contains iodine, I do use it on occasion. Specifically I use it to salt the water when I boil pasta or potatoes.


Kosher Salt

Kosher salt can be made by compacting smaller granular flakes into larger irregular platelet shaped flakes or grown this way via the evaporation process. Minimally refined and sourced from either underground deposits or evaporated seawater, kosher salt tastes “less salty” than table or sea salt.

Kosher salt originally got its name from the Jewish practice of koshering meats. When applied to butchered meat, its larger flakes allow the salt to easily draw blood without over-salting the meat.

Cooking with Kosher salt: I generally reserve Kosher salt for meat and recipes that call specifically for it. Because the larger flakes hold onto moisture, Kosher salt essentially holds the moisture inside of the meat. It keeps pork chops tender, steaks juicy, and chicken breast moist. 

See for yourself. Salt one chicken breast with table salt and another with kosher salt. The one with kosher salt will retain its moisture much better than the chicken breast salted with table salt. Try my recipe for Garlic Grilled Chicken Breasts and you’ll see what I mean. “Succulent” is the word that comes to mind!

Click here for the Kosher salt brand that I use and recommend.


Sea Salt

Sea salt is harvested directly from evaporated seawater or underground resources. If any processing occurs it is usually minimal. Sea salts from around the world are coveted for their unique flavors, colors, and trace minerals. Sea salt can be costly, so keep in mind that its flavor is lost in the cooking process and is best used after cooking, or in applications that do not require cooking.

Whether pink, gray, black or white, sea salts will contain different minerals and impart various flavors, depending on the environment from which they were harvested. Enjoy trying different kinds of sea salt over steamed veggies, on sliced tomatoes and salads, and around the rim of your favorite cocktail.

Cooking with sea salt: There are so many different kinds of sea salts available and I treat them differently. If it is an expensive “finishing salt” then I will slightly under-salt the dish I am cooking and “finish” it with this type of sea salt.

If it is my go-to sea salt that I treat like a table salt, then I will use it in cooking applications. Eggs are a great example of a food in which I add sea salt before cooking, but still want the flavor and mineral content that comes with sea salt.

Click here for the brand of sea salt that I use and recommend


Himalayan Pink Salt

I’ve had many of you comment about Himalayan Pink Salt and asked me to include it here. Known for its purity and and mineral content, it’s become a favorite of mine, not because of it’s color, but because it has a lovely soft flavor that imparts none of the sharpness that can come with heavily processed standard table salt. 

Although much of the Himalayan Pink Salt on the market comes in big chunks which you can grind yourself, I personally now buy the fine grind (you can get it here) simply because I find I can use it in more applications because I can gauge the amount I’m using more easily.

Cooking with Himalayan Pink Salt:  It’s wonderful on salads, in soups, and any application where you would use sea salt or table salt.


The Importance of Iodine

We can’t talk about salt without including iodine. Iodine is essential for normal thyroid function. In fact iodine deficiency is considered “the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world.” Thus it is important to buy iodized table salt.

If you prefer to use all natural sea salt, then Redmond Sea Salt is an excellent choice. It is harvested in Redmond, Utah and is not processed or altered in any way. It contains trace minerals, including iodine (not as much as iodized table salt, however, Redmond Sea Salt claims it is more readily absorbed than the iodine we find in table salt) and can be found at many grocery stores. You can purchase it online, here.

Non-Iodized Salt

Table salt that does not have iodine is good for neti-pots and gargles. I keep a container in my medicine cabinet for these occasions.

Whether it’s on the rim of the glass of your favorite margarita, the finishing touch on your famous green beans or a sprinkle on top of those homemade caramels, salt can be the finishing touch that makes friends and family want to know your secret ingredient.


Special Cooking Notes

If a recipe specifically calls for “table salt” or “kosher salt” it is best to use what is called for, as a teaspoon of table salt is the equivalent of a tablespoon of kosher salt.

As a general rule, I always use Kosher salt on un-cooked meat. There is no easier way to turn out a tender and juicy piece of meat than generously salting with Kosher salt before cooking.

*By weight, sea salt, kosher salt and table salt contain the same amount of sodium. That being said, when salt is called for in a recipe, it is generally not measured by weight, but volume. 


Resources: Oregon State University | Mayo Clinic | | Saltworks | | Wikipedia

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  1. can I substitute canning salt instead of kosher salt when seasoning lets say, beef or chicken?

  2. The book of Dr. David Brownstein, MD, Salt Your Way to Health say on page 24, about Refined Salt:
    Most commercial refined salt has been harvested mechanically from various salt mines as brine. Brine is a highly concentrated solution of water and salt. Prior to mechanical evaporation, the brine is often treated with chemicals to remove minerals (which are sold for use in industry). The minerals are referred to as “impurities” in salt. These chemicals used to treat refined salt can include sulfuric acid and/or chlorine. Next, water is evaporated under high compression and heat which disrupts the molecular structure of salt. Finally, almost all of the remaining moisture in the salt is removed in a fluidized-bed dryer.
    All food-grade salt available in the U.S. must comply with the National Academy of Science’s food Chemicals Codex Sodium Chloride Monograph (1996). Up to 2% of food -grade salt may contain anti-caking, free flowing, or conditioning agents. These agents may include sodium ferrocyanide, ammonium citrate, and aluminum silicate. None of these products have any positive effects in the body. Dextrose, also known as refined sugar, is used as a stabilizer so that iodide will stay in the salt.

  3. Regarding your comment on iodized table salt. Yes, the iodine is required for good health. However, you may substitute seaweed (usually Kelp) as it has a high amount of Iodine. I often consume and cook with Himalaya pink salt, but have Kelp on the side a couple of times per week to keep the Thyroid happy and well-functioning.

  4. Winnie Shiu says

    Where can i buy non iodine salt or any brands or supermarket can find it.

    Warmest Regards
    Winnie Shiu

    • Most stores sell inexpensive non-iodized salt. Morton is one brand that has both iodized and un-iodized. Just read the label carefully. It will say something like “this salt does not contain iodine. An essential nutrient.”

  5. Sam Srichuang says

    Where’s we buy ” non iodine salt in Melbourne ”
    Please help to find because I have no idea and need help for my thyroid cancers treatment

  6. Loretta Henry says

    I became curious about the differences between various salts when a recipe called for 1 T or 15 gm of kosher salt. When I measured out the table salt I had I knew there must be a great difference between the salts because they were unequal in weight. A T of table salt weighs about 22 gms. This article proved very, very informative. I will buy kosher salt the next time I shop and I will try your recipe for succulent chicken.
    Thank you and Happy New Year!

  7. Yeah, I am sure this artificial iodine in the bleached full of chemicals salt is very beneficial.

  8. So much misinformation on the Internet. What you will find missing from 9 out of 10 articles on the Internet comparing salt is any actual analysis numbers showing the actual content of the minerals. Yes, Himalayan Sea Salt and Celtic Salt and the like have a higher content of minerals than regular table salt, but most all the articles fail to acknowledge the content is SO low that the benefits claimed from the additional minerals cannot be realistically achieved without eating copious amounts of salt which in itself is not healthy.

    For example, the 0.3% content of Magnesium for celtic salt implies that you would need to eat 100 grams of salt to reach the recommended daily amount. All these trace minerals are indeed traces, such as 0.16% calcium in Himalayan salt, etc. So any claim that one salt is more “beneficial” over the other really has no merit or data behind it. It’s just an over generalization based on the fact there is just a minuscule additional amount of minerals. This is like saying taking 1/100th of the normal dose of your blood pressure medication is “beneficial.”

    In addition you will also find articles where they did blind taste tests and most people can’t tell any different in the taste. It’s a placebo effect eating “pink” salt.

    Other than comparing sodium chloride vs potassium chloride related to effect on blood pressure, there is only one real reason to claim health benefits of one type of sale over another: TO SELL A PRODUCT.

    • Agreed that we need to always vet out “hearsay”. The positive side of what I took from this article, however, was the differences between the various salts and how to utilize them. Learn something new every day. Thank you for the informative article.
      Now on to taking off my tinfoil hat for a minute:
      The molecular formula (recipe) for common salt (table or other) is NaCl which stands for Sodium Chloride (sodium and chlorine). The two are deadly to life when separated, but essential when combined. Sodium is the main part of Draino and other harsh degreasers due to its extreme base value. Chlorine is used to bleach and kill biologicals but I don’t see how using more chlorine will turn a white chlorine-compounded mineral white. It’s already white unless there are some trace elements that color it and adding chlorine would change the molecular compound.
      Packaged salts used for consumption is commonly treated with an anti-caking agent: usually Calcium Silicate or Magnesium Carbonale. Some advertise these as naturally occurring and they may be. Some salts use Ferrocyanide for anti-caking and while it is toxic, the levels are low enough to pass health standards. I just don’t put much stock in the “bleached” and poisonous table salt conspiracy. I do, however, reject those salts with cyanide in them.

  9. I have to undergo a nuclear/med procedure for thyroid testing, so for the next two weeks have to go on a no-salt/extremely low salt diet which cuts out bread, butter, dairy, processed foods, etc. Is Kosher salt the only one that is no-iodine added? Are their any other non-iodine salts or substitutes?

  10. Patricia Barrett says

    So can I use kosher salt for pickling or kosher


    Surely all salt is sea salt…as witness sea salt being mined in Utah, since all salt deposits, underground or not are derived from old sea beds or like Mortons, sea water evaporation which , in their case, at Great Inagua island in the Bahamas.
    So presenting Mortons as an example of “Table” salt is misleading.

  12. u need 2 talk less about table salt!!

  13. Barry Benedict says

    Just as an addition to my earlier post and to clarify some of the other comments about what is in ”salt” as pertains to Sodium (Na).
    The term salt is actually a chemist’s description for the residue of a distillation process of a liquid.
    There is no requirement it have any particular ingredients in it.

  14. David Blimmo says

    A note to the writer of this article:

    It’s = It is

    Its = possessive of it as in, “The snake had a hat on its head.”

    • a bugbear of mine too. It’s not so hard to learn the grammar rules but it’s hard to make people care enough.
      Good article though

  15. I keep as many as 20 different kinds of salt in my kitchen. Once you learn the finest details of cooking you’ll never go back to just 3 kinds of salt. For instance, when I prepare possum in my offset smoker, I use a salt that is skimmed from the lake water nearby. It contains all sorts of stuff that adds to the flavor of the possum. I call it “Lake Salt” and I always have some on hand. Then, for fried possum, I like to use salt that is derived from wold hog urine. It’s especially rare but I always have some for use in my marinade recipe for the squirrel. I could go on and on and mention many kinds of rare salt that most amateur chefs (cooks) have never even heard of but restrain myself.

    Seriously, salt is salt is salt so use whatever is cheapest and most available. Anybody tell you different is full of it.

    • Lol, well you had me going until the wild hog urine!

    • David Blimmo says

      Yep, and ALL of it is “sea salt,” in that it all comes from seas, some still in existence, some prehistoric.
      All salt ingested by humans in comprised of two poisons: Sodium (an extremely volatile and explosive metal), and Chlorine (a gas that kills germs in your swimming pool and used to kill people in WWI and WWII).
      The unrefined salts sold as “Sea Salt,” and different shaped salt such as “Kosher Salt” contain trace impurities, but despite claims made by some people, there is no scientific evidence that anyone can detect a difference in taste. Everyone should use iodized salt.

      • Everyone should use iodised salt you say… better tell all those people who suffer with hyperthyroid and autoimmune conditions like dermatitis herpetiformis. hashimoto’s etc

        Most of those people have any iodine and it’s detrimental to their health.

    • Barry Benedict says

      My biggest complaint with ”chefs” is the ridiculous conceit they show when talking about ”kosher” or ”sea” salt.
      They try to tell you Kosher salt is larger than regular but then they tell you to use ”fine” or ”course” kosher salt. Kosher salt MUST be blessed by a Rabbi. That’s the ONLY difference since all salt comes from the sea and there are a million naturally occurring substances which can be in it.
      If they want to describe a certain quality of one of these salts, I have no problem with it but to use the description ”sea” or ”kosher” as the descriptive of a DIFFERENT or SPECIAL kind of salt is ridiculous and inaccurate.
      A more accurate description would be to say salt with either this item ADDED or DELETED FROM it. That COULD include the shape as describe in the article for ”flat” grains in their definition of kosher.

      • Nonsense! I’m an orthodox Jew who only eats kosher and there is no kosher food in the world that is blessed by a Rabbi! Kosher only pertains to specific animals that are kosher that need to be slaughtered according to Torah law, and soaked and salted. Fish need 2 signs, (scales and fins) to be kosher. All other foods like vegetables, fruits, any type of salt, or anything that grows is kosher. The reason people think kosher means “blessed by a Rabbi,” is because milk needs to be supervised by a Jew during the milking. The Jew does not need to be a Rabbi, s/he can even be a child. As Jeff wrote, “There is so much disinformation on the internet.” Right on.

      • David Blimmo and Barney, not all salt is sea salt, most sea salt actually comes from land by way of rivers, streams and melting glaciers dissolving water soluble minerals and depositing them in the seas and oceans. Barney, there Is also difference in all the salts that are labeled, yes the main ingredient is sodium chloride but it’s the processing method that gives them each their unique texture, it’s not a taste thing, it’s a texture thing. Almost everything you said said was “ridiculous and inaccurate”, as you put it.

  16. Thanks for this information. I never use table salt due to the processing and additives. I can get iodine from other sources. But the descriptions of the other salts were really valuable.

    • David Blimmo says

      Makes no sense at all. You don’t want to use pure NaCl with a scientifically proven safe additive that helps the crystals not clump together, yet you will use unrefined NaCl that is contaminated by unknown impurities (chemical compounds) that may or may not be harmful to you. Silly.

    • Who is this David Blimmo guy? Sounds like a “silly” bimbo to me, or a know it all with an ego problem with too much time on his hands. Picky, picky, picky.

  17. Nice to know all of this stuff hehe 🙂 tnx

  18. If I use the Kosher coarse sea salt do I have to grind it to use it on my eggs and food? Can I use a Mortar and Pestle?

    • I simply shake the kosher sea salt right out of the canister. The point of Kosher salt is that it has a large granule, so you really don’t need to grind it further or use a mortar and pestle.

  19. I believe that you forgot or just didn’t mention that iodized salt also contains dextrose which is a form or derivative of corn

  20. kosher salt is better in the neti pot, it doesn’t burn.

  21. Alison, you should look into himalayan (pink) salt and definitely celtic sea salt – the latter of which is the best salt for nutrient density in the world. Check out clive de carle on youtube and at http://www.ancientpurity,com

  22. Not completely accurate with the claim “kosher salt contains less sodium per ounce than table or sea salt”. With the exception of the slight (very slight) variations in the amount and type of impurity in a particular salt (anything other than Na or Cl), all should have the same amount of sodium per unit weight.
    If the kosher salt has a finer grind than the table salt, it will have actually more sodium per unit volume (because the finer grind allow more salt crystals to fit into a given volume). If the kosher salt has a coarser grind than the table salt, you won’t be able to put as much salt into a given volume, thus, less sodium.
    Practically speaking, if you use 1 tbsp of a coarse Kosher salt instead of 1 tbsp of a finer salt, your food will have less sodium, but only because you essentially used less salt.

    • A good point and a good explanation. Thank you

    • Irrespective of grain size if a gramme of coarse salt has x amount of sodium, you are suggesting that by grinding these coarse grains into smaller grains the sodium content increases? That is physically impossible!

      • I think there’s some confusion because Tim is talking about weight and in my article I site Linda Carucci’s explanation, which is dealing with volume. I am working on clarifying that in my article, but please keep in mind that I am talking about salt in the context of how to use it when cooking.

      • I was making the point that the amount of Na per unit mass of NaCl does not change with grain size. The amount of Na per unit volume NaCl will change with grain size. If you cook using weight measurements, there should be no issue, however most of the recipes that I use have ingredients listed by volume (quarts, cups, tablespoons, teaspoons). I made the error of assuming Alison was referring to an ounce as a volume measurement, when she could have very well been referring to weight.

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