Salt by Weight


I keep running into a roadblock with my recipes. Salting is the key element to seasoning food, and I don't know how much salt to tell people to use.

I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt because I salt by hand. The big crystals of Kosher salt are easy to grab and sprinkle, unlike table salt, which has such tiny crystals that I can't get hold of it. I know that a two finger pinch of Diamond Crystal Kosher gives me a half teaspoon of salt. (Yes, I measured.) I've been using it for a while, and I have a good feel for how it works.

But when someone takes that into their own kitchen, with their own fingers and a different brand of salt, what does it mean?

With salt, density matters*. I've read that Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, with its large flakes, weighs half as much by volume as table salt, with its tiny grains. In other words, a half cup of table salt packs in as much salt as a whole cup of Diamond Crystal. (Morton's Kosher supposedly weighs in between the two, at 3/4 cup).
*Salt...it is your density.

I should take this information at face value. It's from Cooks Illustrated, so I'm sure they did their research. But I am borderline obsessive-compulsive thorough. I decided to measure all the different types of salt I use, from ultra-fine grained pickling salt to Maldon sea salt with its huge flakes.

Here are the raw numbers:

Salt TypeWeight of
1/4 cup (grams)
Weight of
1/4 cup (ounces)
Percent of
Diamond Crystal Kosher
Morton’s Table Salt76.02.6859%
Morton Pickling Salt74.02.6161%
La Baleine Coarse Sea Salt66.82.3668%
La Baleine Fine Sea Salt64.82.2970%
Morton’s Kosher Salt62.02.1973%
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt45.21.59100%
Maldon Sea Salt33.21.17136%
  

What did I learn from this?

  • Cooks Illustrated was right. A half cup of table salt equals 3/4 cup of Mortons Kosher equals 1 cup of Diamond Crystal. Roughly - it slightly over weights table salt and under weights Morton's Kosher, but it's close enough.
  • Fine sea salt is not a 1:1 replacement for table salt. I buy fine sea salt from the bulk bin at my local health food store at $0.69/lb, and use it as table salt in my baking recipes. I assumed fine sea salt has the same crystal size as table salt. Oops. Turns out, fine sea salt is closer by weight to Morton's Kosher than it is to table salt. Sea salt must have a crystal with more air in it than table salt. If you'll excuse me, I have to go fix a few of the recipes in my archives…
  • Fine sea salt and coarse sea salt have the same density: I assumed coarse sea salt would be lighter than fine sea salt. Nope, wrong again. They are basically identical; in my tests they were within a couple grams of each other, with the coarse sea salt weighing a tiny bit more than the fine sea salt.
  • Morton's Kosher salt is not quite weight specific. I read that Morton's Kosher was designed so that its weight would match water, for use in sausage making. Since a pint (of water) is a pound the world around, a pint of Morton's Kosher should also be a pound. Close, but not quite. By my measurements, two cups of Morton's Kosher weigh one pound, one and a half ounces.
  • Pickling salt has the same weight as table salt: I expected pickling salt to be heavier than table salt; I heard it had even smaller grains, to help it dissolve faster. It turns out the two are almost exactly the same weight. Table salt is ever so slightly heavier. So, why use pickling salt when pickling? Table salt has added ingredients to keep the salt pourable in humid environments. (Like the ad says, "When it rains, it pours.") Those extra ingredients make pickle brines cloudy. Other than that, pickling salt and table salt are the same thing.
Oh, and the Maldon salt? It is amazing. The flakes are huge and airy. It is a great finishing salt, sprinkled on just before serving. It adds a hit of salty crunch without over-salting the food. Don't use it any sooner in cooking, though, or it will melt. There is no difference between melted Maldon, Kosher, or table salt - they're just salt at that point. Maldon is very expensive to be "just salt".



What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:

Things I Love: Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
What does Season To Taste mean, exactly?

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14 comments:

Mike said...

common misconception here.   A pint of water does NOT weigh a pound.  Measure one out yourself and weigh it.  There are 16 fluid ounces in a pint.  A fluid ounce is a measure of volume, not weight.  Actually a pint of water (US measuring system, not imperial) weights 1.041 lbs

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

You mean to tell me I spent all my time weighing salt, and I should have been weighing water instead? Now I am depressed... :)

Heidi Younggrasshopper said...

This is a great post, I always feel like I'm doing a disservice when I say salt to taste.... but it's HARD to not say that.  I may do a link or two to your great post, thanks again <3

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

You're welcome...and, especially when it comes to soup, you HAVE to salt to taste!

Dave_in_TN said...

I have been weighing pickling salt for brining for a while, so glad to see I am not the only certifiable salt nut on earth!

Mike is right on the weight of water but then again this is a cooking blog, not NASA trying to land on Mars!   "A pints a pound the world around" is close enough for me.

GWT Beth said...

Salt is amazing. And to think we spent the 80s unsalting our food for "health reasons." Of course it turns out that the real evil is the actual hidden stuff spread by the processed food manufacturers!

Now, my new favorite use for Maldon flakes is right here: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/salted-chocolate-tart-10000001816292/. 

guitarzantx said...

Excellent information! Thanks for taking the time to do the measurements. I have definitely moved to the methodology of weighing ingredients (as opposed to measuring by volume,) especially when recording my own recipes or adaptations.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

I'm hoping the slight overweight of the water matches the slight overweight of the Morton's Kosher, so I get my "water and Morton's salt are weight equivalent" back again.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Oh, that salted chocolate tart looks so good....

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

I'd like to say I've gone to weights - but I only do it when I'm baking. Other than that, I salt by hand, or when I'm wet brining I use volume.
I know, I know, shame on me...but one of the reasons I cook instead of bake is because I'm a "pinch of this, dash of that" kind of cook. Close enough is good enough for me...which doesn't work so well when I'm baking.

Helen Rennie said...

Hi there Mike!

I saw your comment about videos and came to check it out.  I guess it's not posted yet, but I loved your post on salt.  I am currently working on yet another salt post.  For a whole week, I was weighing salt when seasoning my proteins and wondering if anyone besides me really cares what percent of salt by weight is ideal.  I am so glad I found a kindred spirit :)

Can't wait to see your videos!

Cheers,
-Helen

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Thanks, Helen! My video goes up Thursday...not as good as yours, but I'm hoping to get closer with some of those tips you gave in your post.

(For anyone reading these comments: Helen writes the Beyond Salmon blog BeyondSalmon.com. She wrote a great post on cooking videos today. Check it out at http://www.beyondsalmon.com/2012/03/how-to-make-cooking-videos.html)

Lois said...

I'm looking for the weight of medium ground Himalayan salt, as I would like to use it in brine, but cannot find what 10 oz table salt would be equal in an amount which equals medium ground Himalayan salt. It appears to have a much higher density. Could you add this salt product on your site? I love your site, it is very informative. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who also use Himalayan salt in their diet and cooking, so to add this brand to your list would be really good too. :-)

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

I'll see what I can do...

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