All forms of salt, including table salt, come from a sea or a salty body of water, yet not all salts produced by this natural process actually come from one source. Some of today’s more expensive sea salts come from the ocean sun-fried process, which is much slower than the old Evaporated Conveyor Processes, which is what the old salts came from. Salt is made from minerals in seawater that contains varying amounts of oxygen and sodium chloride.
Fine sea salts are much higher in magnesium, calcium and sodium chloride content, which make it ideal for use as a food seasoning or in cooking. It has a light gray color, which some find to be preferable. These have become very popular among chefs, who can enhance their culinary concoctions with its versatility and less pungent taste than regular table salt. The more expensive sea salts have traces of gold, silver and copper. Very fine sea salt is also high in iodine and B vitamins.
Another aspect that is also important for a salt’s seasoning and use is its texture. Some sea salts have a coarse texture, while others have a soft and subtle feel. The type of texture you like depends on your preferences and the preparation of the food that you will be preparing with the salt. For example, sea salt that is used for seasoning fish is smooth whereas sea salt on stews or mixed with butter and bacon is less smooth, with a coarse texture.
There are sea-salt varieties that are commonly used in cooking. The most popular ones are coarse sea salt, fine sea salt in evaporated form. Among the coarse sea salt varieties, we have the Himalayan sea salt, the basalt variety, which are high in potassium and magnesium; Smoky Quartz, which have a nice smoked flavor; Caribbean White, which are derived from an underground deposit of sea algae and volcanic ashes; and the fine sea salt, which are used for cooking and as an ingredient in candied deserts, as well as being a good addition to sea foods and salads.
But what makes sea salt different from table salt? Sea salt has a higher percentage of sodium chloride, because sea water contains more of it. In addition, the water is less refined, so the minerals found in seawater are less pure. Moreover, the seawater that is closest to the shore is rich in iodine and bromine, which are two important minerals that influence the salt’s chemical properties. Thus, seawater is more preferred than other types of water for the extraction of these two minerals. When the salt is evaped, it is separated into lighter salt particles and heavier mineral particles.
The composition of these two different components provides salt with its characteristic smell and flavor. Salt, being a negatively charged, heavy ion, prefers to be near the poles of a magnet. A good example of this is when you rub a rock on your back. It is easier to rub a rock near your waist because you are closer to the earth. In the case of sea salts, being near the equator makes it easier for the salt to absorb light, which leaves it lighter and having a fresh, salty smell and taste. This is why it is often added during the cooking process to give foods a more salty taste.
In addition, table salt and kosher salt are both less processed than sea salt, which means it retains more of its essential minerals. Because it is made by nature, it is a healthier alternative. Its use dates back to ancient times and was common among early civilizations. As technology and progress made life more convenient, the use of kosher salt and table salt declined, while sea salt became more popular.
As an example, sea salt has a smooth texture and fine grain size. Table salt, on the other hand, has a rough and coarse grain size and often contains an array of colors. One example of this is the rock salt that is used for its flavor and texture. Rock salt is also available in various shades of reds, blues, greens and oranges and often has a fine grain texture. These main differences between the two types of salts allow each type to have its own specific uses and to stand apart from each other.