Growing up, the one and only salt we used at home was Morton iodized salt. But as a teenager, when I started cooking more regularly, I began learning about a world beyond that iconic, fine-grained table salt. I wandered through the aisles at the grocery store and observed a wide range of salts, such as kosher salt, sea salt, and Himalayan pink salt.
Each of these salts has different shapes and sizes. But you may be wondering: do these distinctions actually matter in baking? Why is kosher salt such a popular salt to use? Read on below to find out!
Why is Salt Crucial for Baked Goods?
Salt plays a significant role in baking. In addition to enhancing the flavor of the bake, it strengthens gluten and slows down fermentation when making bread.
What is Kosher Salt?
Kosher salt is a coarsely textured form of salt that does not contain iodine. The original name for kosher salt comes from the Jewish religious practice of salting meats to remove blood, called "kashering." These large, coarse crystals were ideal for the kashering process, though nowadays, the manufacturing practice of kosher salt may or may not tie to any religious certification standards.
Kosher salt is generally considered purer in flavor than table salt because it doesn't contain iodine or other metallic additives.
Advantages of Kosher Salt
In cooking, kosher salt can be beneficial because the size of each salt flake is larger and coarser than that of table salt. Also, kosher salt's uneven texture makes it easier for cooks to visually see and measure how much salt has been added to a dish.
On the other hand, table salt is finely ground and easily compacted, making it more difficult to precisely gauge the amount of seasoning.
What Do Bakers Like About Kosher Salt?
To determine if there are potential benefits to kosher salt, I examined several cookbooks to see what bakers had to say. Michelle Lopez, of Weeknight Baking: Recipes to Fit Your Schedule, writes, "I like kosher salt for its larger crystals, which make it difficult to confuse with granulated sugar (like I once did when I was rushing through a recipe)."
And in BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, Stella Parks notes, "I've got a tiny kitchen with an even smaller pantry, so I don't have space for all sorts of salt. Since I like cooking with a dish of kosher salt by the stove, I reach for it when baking as well." Across different cookbooks and articles, I noted similar reasons. Many bakers stressed the convenience of using the same salt for cooking and baking; some mentioned disliking the taste of table salt.
Are There Any Scientific Advantages to Using Kosher Salt in Baking?
It's clear that there are some inherent benefits to using kosher salt when cooking, but what about baking? In BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, Stella Parks discusses the impact of anticaking additives to salts in baking: "Most other brands contain yellow prussiate, aka sodium ferrocyanide, as an anticaking agent, an additive that wreaks havoc in candy making by interfering with crystallization." She recommends Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, one of the only salts that don't include these additives.
Additionally, due to the geometry of these salts, a cup of table salt is significantly saltier than kosher salt. There may be some advantages to using a lighter, less "salty" salt to mitigate the risk of oversalting your foods, especially when measuring by volume.
Besides these examples, I was hard-pressed to find any other scientific benefits for kosher salt in baking. In fact, some bakers recommend table salt as it dissolves more easily. And while many say that the iodine in table salt can create an off-putting flavor, Cook's Illustrated testers could not detect a difference in taste once dissolved.
So, Should I Use Kosher Salt in Baking?
From my research, it seems that there aren't significant scientific advantages to using kosher salt versus table salt in most baking applications.
That being said, there are other benefits to keeping kosher salt.
It is inconvenient to buy and store many different salts. Kosher salt is better for cooking, convenient for baking, and visually distinguishable from sugar to prevent any confusion. For your sake, I'd recommend choosing one type of salt in baking and sticking to it for consistency.
What About Finishing Salts?
There is one other valuable salt worth noting: flaky sea salt! Flaky salts are great for topping baked goods, like chocolate chip cookies or bread. These large, crunchy crystals add texture and flavor to your dishes.
How Do I Substitute Kosher Salt for Table Salt in Baking?
To substitute kosher salt for table salts, use the following rules:
1 tablespoon of table salt is equal to 1 1/2 tablespoons Morton Kosher Salt OR 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt