The demand for natural food has risen sharply in the past decade or so, and with it, the demand for more natural types of salt, like sea salt and Himalayan pink salt.
Despite this demand, most restaurants, ranging from diners to middle tier places to fast food restaurants, opt for salt that has been adulterated and treated with chemicals, as these types of healthier salts are generally more expensive and difficult to procure in large quantities.
Others, including many chefs, swear by kosher salt, in large part because of how widely available it is, as well as its ease of use.
Recently in order to clear up questions on what types of salt are the most and least processed, longtime New York City gourmet grocery store owner Mark Bitterman, whose store The Meadow carries over 120 types of salt, discussed what to look for while buying culinary salt.
Bitterman broke down the six main types of salt available on the market and ranked them from most to least processed. He told the website that there is a real problem with people using the most low quality varieties, even at gourmet natural health grocers.
“We have farm-to-table ingredients,” he said. “But they are seasoned with chemical, factory-to-table salt.”
Here are his rankings according to the Post article, from most to least processed:
1. (Most processed) Kosher Salt-
“Filled with anti-caking agents but no iodine — which, ironically, is the mineral that humans mostly need when consuming salt — kosher salt is a product that mostly caters to non-food-related businesses,” the article states.
According to Bitterman, this type of salt is used because of its ease of use. But according to the article, it is “mass manufactured” and devoid of minerals, and therefore should be avoided if you’re looking for the healthiest, least processed salt.
2. Iodized Table Salt-
This type of salt is getting harder to find, but it also not only relatively low on minerals, it also is typically adulterated with chemicalized minerals like sodium ferrocyanide, calcium silicate and sodium aluminosilicate.
“If you try to pinch table salt with your fingers, it dissolves, which is why chefs don’t use it,” Bitterman said.
You’re better off getting your iodine from food and/or supplements.
3. Sea Salt-
“The method for making sea salt results in a highly pure sodium chloride,” Bitterman said of sea salt, of which there are many varieties on the market.
(Editor’s note: it’s also worth noting that many sea salts have been found to be contaminated with potentially toxic and carcinogenic microplastics according to a recent study; if you’re looking for a microplastic-free sea salt brand this one from the company Ava Jane’s Kitchen is worth looking into).
4. Maldon Sea Salt-
“Maldon is delightful,” Bitterman said according to the Huffington Post article, after mentioning that he doesn’t carry kosher, table or any other types of sea salt in his shop.
Maldon is a type of large, flaky and crunchy English sea salt that is meant to be used as a finishing salt rather than a main cooking salt.
5. Pink Himalayan Salt-
Does pink Himalayan salt really come from the massive mountain range? That depends on who you ask.
“It all comes from the Punjab province of Pakistan, about 100 miles south of the Himalayas,” Bitterman said.
It’s still high in minerals and relatively unprocessed, however Bitterman rates it lower than the least processed salt on this list because it’s oftentimes ground up by machines.
6. (Least processed) Fleur de Sel-
Made by taking seawater out of the ocean and letting it settle in an open pond, fleur de sel is one of the least processed salts on the market, taking home the top spot for least processed on Bitterman’s list.
Bitterman recommends buying French sea salt from the Western part of the country (such as the brand Straight from France, which hand harvests its product from the Île de Ré region).
Many salt companies in this area harvest using traditional methods that have been perfected over lifetimes of careful craftsmanship, which produces the most natural and unprocessed salt possible.
For more information on why he’s such a big fan of this particular type of salt, check out the full article from The Huffington Post by clicking here.