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I often sea sea salt sold in grinders to be used at the table, with comments about how it tastes better. What sort of taste differences would I notice using sea salt vs table salt, and what other differences might using one over the other impart?

I've also noticed people say that regular table salt is unhealthy, but that sea salt is somehow healthier for you.

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5 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I can say, as a salt snob, that sea salt is a far more flavorful product. I can't even use regular table salt anymore.

Sea salt is salt formed from evaporated sea water, is not iodized, and because it doesn't come from salt mines requires very little processing. Some people will say that because it's "natural", sea salt must be better for you. The mayo clinic seems to disagree: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sea-salt/AN01142

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"Natural" means almost nothing. However, it is more flavorful because it has other minerals in it. Some of those may be better for you than others. –  GalacticCowboy Jul 13 '10 at 17:26
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I agree. The "natural" in quotes was meant to be indicative that it means almost nothing. –  Mike Sherov Jul 13 '10 at 21:25
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Iodine. Table salt has added iodine, and sea salt doesn't. Sea salt also tends to be a little coarser, but that's just cosmetic.

Sea salt isn't as refined as table salt, either, so it may contain traces of other minerals (magnesium, sulfur). Sea salt is also considered to be kosher.

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@mike sherov: It's my understanding that nearly all salt is kosher by default, and that kosher salt is called so because it's used in extracting the blood from meat (which is a process by which meat is made kosher). –  Satanicpuppy Jul 12 '10 at 21:41
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@Satanicpuppy, yes, this is true. Which is why it's almost not worth mentioning that sea salt is a kosher salt. If you go to the store and buy "kosher salt", you'll be buying a different product than "sea salt". –  Mike Sherov Jul 12 '10 at 21:55
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It's worth mentioning why the iodine is added: it's not some added preservative, but is added because you need it. Iodine deficiency causes all sorts of nasty problems; and unless you take multi-vitamins, you likely won't get nearly as much iodine as you need if not for the iodine added to table salt. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jul 13 '10 at 1:50
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agreed, @BlueRaja -- unless you're eating plenty of seafood (and most American's aren't), you need to get iodine. I still get disturbing flashbacks from 15+ years ago, when I worked doing web development for a university, and one the faculty members wanted us to scan in a bunch of pictures from his trip for Doctors Without Borders -- I had to pass off the project as hours of looking at the doc posing with people with goiters larger than their head really got to me. –  Joe Jul 13 '10 at 3:02
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That said, the massive amount of salt in American prepared food probably covers you - if you eat out occasionally, you're probably fine cooking with sea salt all the time. –  ceejayoz Jul 13 '10 at 22:31
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As mentioned by Satanicpuppy, sea salt is largely regular, uniodized salt but with small amounts of different minerals from ocean water, and without the anticaking agent added to salt. So, at least chemically, they are very similar as sea salt is still ~85% regular salt. The presence of different minerals affects the taste and texture (maybe someone who uses it a lot can tell you how). You can also find iodized sea salt sold in case you want to substitute it completely for normal iodized salt.

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It depends on what country you come from.

In many countries "table salt" is just their local sea salt, crushed, filtered, and sometimes iodized.

Not every country has "salt mines", but most countries with a coast line can collect or "farm" evaporated salt. See this PDF

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In Italy we basically only use sea salt, in Romania they use mostly rock salt. Once the salt has been mixed into the food, I can't tell the difference. I don't taste salt by itself because... you would have to pay me for it.

Of course, if you did an A/B double blind test, perhaps you would get some effect. But do you care?

Healthwise, food safety agencies the world over seem to have no problem at all with rock salt and sea salt. Somebody befor ementioned iodine - that is something to keep in mind.

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