Best Salt

Updated December 2020
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Updated December 2020
Written by Ola Faleti Authors 's image

Buying guide for best salt

If there’s one seasoning in your pantry right now, it’s likely salt. This versatile ingredient plays a vital role in enhancing flavor, adding texture, preserving food, and contributing to a balanced diet. Salt is a necessary part of any diet. Fortunately, there are almost as many different types of salt as there are uses for it.

Before you commit to a type of salt, however, there are some key factors to consider. What kinds of food will you use it in? The salt that enhances vegetables or snacks is different from the salt that enhances meats. The packaging is also crucial when it comes to dispensing the salt. Additionally, you may consider color, texture, and price.

At BestReviews, we’re pleased to help inform your purchase. Our buying guide below gives you more information about different salt types, its endless uses, and even better ways to add it to your cooking. To learn more, keep reading, and take a look at our favorites, too.

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The use of salt isn’t limited to savory foods. Sea salt in particular works nicely with chocolate and caramel, bringing out the best in both.

Key considerations

A bit about salt

Salt’s importance goes back millennia, tracing back to ancient Egypt. Salt was so valuable that it was used as currency and in trade from the Mediterranean to Morocco to China. Salt wasn’t just used for food but also for rituals, daily practices, and antiseptic purposes.  

Salt is harvested from two primary sources: the sea and beds of rock salt. Most of the world’s salt comes from China, the United States, India, Germany, and Canada. There are three ways that salt is harvested: solar evaporation, mining, and vacuum evaporation.

Solar evaporation is the oldest method. For this, saltwater is pooled in shallow ponds and evaporated by the sun, leaving a concentrated brine that is filtered into salt. Of course, solar evaporation only works in climates with plenty of sunshine. 

Rock salt mining is more common, particularly in the United States (the table salt in your pantry was likely mined this way). Workers use machines to dig into the Earth’s surface and harvest embedded salt. 

Vacuum evaporation involves large commercial evaporators that use steam to evaporate salt brine. This method yields very fine, high-quality salt.

Types of salt

Knowing that salt is found globally and can be harvested in several ways, it should be no surprise that there are several different types of salt to choose from. Here are some of the more common types you may find.

Table salt is your standard salt. It’s found in restaurants, take-out packets, and salt shakers on kitchen tables. Table salt is frequently used to add flavor to a cooked dish. It’s also excellent for baking since the granules dissolve quickly. Table salt commonly has added iodine to help prevent iodine deficiency, which can cause hypothyroidism and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Kosher salt, sometimes called kitchen salt, is a coarse-grained salt. The size of the crystals depends on the brand, but the grains are generally bigger than table salt’s and adhere better to food. Since it doesn’t have the iodine that’s added to table salt, kosher salt has a cleaner and less metallic taste. Because it sticks to food so efficiently, kosher salt is an excellent choice for marinades, spice rubs, canning, and pickling. 

Sea salt, as the name suggests, is derived from evaporating seawater. Sea salt in general is an expensive salt. Its subtle flavors are lost in the cooking process, so it’s best to use it as a garnish or to finish a dish. Sea salt itself has several forms depending on the sea it’s from. There’s Celtic salt from the sea near the coast of France. Fleur de sel, also from France, must be harvested by hand in particular weather conditions, so it’s quite expensive. 

Himalayan salt is mined in the Salt Range mountains located in the Punjab province of Pakistan. This salt’s pretty pink color and alleged air-quality benefits are responsible for the emergence of Himalayan salt lamps. In cooking, you can substitute Himalayan salt for table salt, put it in baked goods, season meats with it, or, depending on its coarseness, grind it over soft-baked pretzels. Pickling salt may be of interest to you if you enjoy canning. Pickling salt is little granules made from pure sodium chloride and absents any iodine or anti-caking additives. Truthfully, well-ground kosher salt makes a fine substitute, but if you preserve foods often enough, it might be worth investing in pickling salt.

Texture

Texture is a key component in your choice of salt. The texture indicates how quickly the salt dissolves, how it sticks to particular ingredients, and gives you an indication of which one to use while cooking. There are three main salt textures: fine, coarse, and flake. Most of the salt you’ll encounter falls in the first two categories. 

Fine salt works best when you need precise measurements or need the salt to dissolve quickly. Table salt is an example of fine salt. So are pickling salt and some variations of sea salt. 

Coarse salt is thick and crystalline. Coarse salt is excellent for seasoning and marinating meats, seasoning popcorn, and sprinkling on any freshly cooked foods. You’ll find this texture in kosher salt, some types of sea salt, and some types of Himalayan salt. 

Flake salt is usually sea salt. As the name suggests, these salt granules are light, flat, or rough granules. They look aesthetically pleasing on freshly cooked meat, seafood, and baked goods.  Flake salt is nice for a decorative finish, but it’s not a kitchen staple for most home chefs. 

To salt food evenly, keep your hand high. For larger food portions, you should salt from 6 to 8 inches above the dish. For very precise seasoning, salt from an inch or so above the food.

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Features

Color

While white salt is the standard, salt’s color depends on where it’s from.

Pink salt, commonly associated with Himalayan salt, is found globally. While Himalayan salt is from Pakistan, you can find pink salt in parts of Peru and Australia, too. The pink color is from the mineral composition of the particles. So the darker the pink, the more minerals it contains.

Gray salt is sea salt usually from the Atlantic coast of France. Similar to pink salt, gray salt’s color derives from the minerals in its source, in this case, the sea. This salt is chock-full of iron, calcium, manganese, zinc, and natural iodine. 

Black salt is a rock salt created by reactions with activated carbon and volcanic charcoal. Black lava salt from Hawaii is a popular variety. This is strictly a finishing salt that works nicely in soups, grilled veggies, and meats.

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DID YOU KNOW?
The size of kosher salt crystals helps remove moisture from meat. This is essential in the koshering process, which involves draining the blood from meat for Jewish eaters.
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Salt prices

As with most cooking ingredients, salt is available at nearly any price point. Expect to pay between $1 and $30 for a quality salt. The price depends on the type, quantity, and source.

Inexpensive: You’ll find quite a few iodized salts in the $1 to $5 range. Table salt is often the cheapest to produce, so you can find 24-ounce canisters of table salt at this price point. With other types, you might get 5 to 8 ounces at this price. You may also find smaller quantities (think an ounce or less) of more exclusive salts, such as black salt.

Mid-range: You’ll find many kosher and sea salts in the $5 to $15 range. Coarse salt often includes a grinder at the top of the jar, which adds to the price. You’ll be able to purchase up to a pound of some types of Himalayan and kosher salts. At the higher end of this price point, you’ll also find gourmet salts, such as fleur de sel.

Expensive: You don’t need to spend more than $15 for quality salt, but if you want to splurge, the $15 to $25 range opens you up to a world of exclusive salts in bigger quantities, such as sea salt that is harvested by hand in limited quantities. Sea salt with extra herbs or spices may fall into this range, either sold by the pound in a jar or pouch or in several 5- to 8- ounce jars.

Premium: Salt that costs $25 and more is usually a bulk purchase. You can buy nearly 2 pounds of quality kosher salt at this price or smaller quantities of rare and luxurious salt. While these are fun for a special flair, stick with the classic types of salt for your regular cooking needs.

Home chefs know the pain of oversalting food. The best remedy is to dilute the dish with more ingredients from your recipe. You can also add a liquid like cream or broth.

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Tips

  • Use a pinch. When it comes to seasoning, control is key. You can do like the experts and forgo a salt shaker altogether. Professional chefs keep salt in a bowl so they can pinch as little or as much from it as they need.
  • Know your substitutions. If you’re substituting kosher salt for table salt, you need to use twice as much. This is because kosher salt’s large crystals are half as salty.
  • Store salt correctly. Salt should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Note that natural salt, such as that from evaporated seawater, doesn’t expire. Table salt, when stored properly, can last about five years. 
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To add even more flavor, create some herbed salt. Add a handful of chopped herbs to a cup of salt and mix in a mortar and pestle or food processor. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake at 200°F for 40 to 60 minutes. Store the cooled salt in an airtight container.

FAQ

Q. What’s the best salt for everyday cooking?

A. The answer depends on the types of food you regularly cook. Table salt dissolves easily, tends to be the cheapest, and includes the iodine necessary for growing bodies. Kosher salt distributes more easily over food. Experts recommend that you keep both kosher and table salt on hand. 

Q. When do I add salt to a dish? 

A. For the best seasoning and flavor all around, you should add salt early in the cooking process. If you forget to do this early on, simply add small amounts to the food (as opposed to the whole amount the recipe requires) and taste after each addition. Add more salt accordingly. 

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