Thursday, January 1, 2009

diamonds are a cooks best friend...

During the Holiday, as many of us, I did a great deal more cooking and baking than usual.
As I cooked and baked up a storm, I started to think about the one ingredient that was common in all the dishes and baked goods that I prepared…salt.
For me that means using kosher salt...pinched in to taste for cooking or accurately measured for baking.

At one point in my holiday cooking, I ran out of the brand of kosher salt that I use, Diamond Crystal. I ran out to a nearby market as it was snowing like crazy. All they carried on their shelves was Morton Kosher salt. I had not used that brand before, but I thought…well kosher salt is kosher salt.
Not so much…

I noticed a difference as soon as I poured the white granules into my favorite flea-market find saltcellar. The new-to-me kosher salt seemed much whiter and denser than my usual kosher salt.
Then I did the “finger to tongue” test, sampling first the tiny bit I had left of my usual Diamond Crystal kosher salt. It was light on my tongue and melted immediately. I tested the new salt in the same manner, it took so much, much longer to dissolve and remained crunchy for quite a bit until I took a swig if water to swallow the granules.

Before I went on with my cooking, I decided to do some research on these two salts to see if there was really a difference beyond what my eye saw and tongue detected.

According to Linda Carucci in her book, Cooking School Secrets for the Real World, ¼ teaspoon of Morton kosher salt contains 480 mg of Sodium as well as yellow prussiate of sodium, (a water soluble anti-caking agent).
While the same amount of Diamond Crystal kosher Salt, ¼ teaspoon, contains 280 mg of Sodium and nothing else…just salt.

I also read in another favorite book, Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed by Shirley O. Corriher (she is known to many of you as the "Food Historian" lady on Alton Brown’s Good Eats Food Network show).
She states that “Diamond Crystal salt crystals are actually pyramids, as opposed to grains, and more likely to adhere to food. In fact these hollow pyramids or crystals dissolve twice as fast as granular salts as Morton.”
So my tongue and taste were correct…

According to Alton Brown and Linda Carucci, fine cooks often cite many other reasons for preferring Diamond Crystal. Because the grains are bigger, taking up more room in the measuring spoon, Diamond Crystal has about half the sodium of table salt or even fine sea salts that are very popular these days with celebrity chefs.

Among another of its legendary attributes, the unique shape of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt crystals helps lettuce from wilting in a salad. Other Kosher salts cannot claim this virtue.

I can say with all honesty that I am glad that I ran out of kosher salt that snowy winter afternoon. It forced me to look at the one main ingredient in all our cooking and baking in a new light and with new respect. I imagine that makes a good start to this New Year.

Let the food adventures of 2009 begin…!
I hope you all will come along for the ride.

11 comments:

Camera Crazy said...

You can always make anything look spectacular. I was wondering about using kosher salt in baking and now I understand how you do it. I've always used Morton's Kosher Salt before but with my education from your blog I will search for Diamond Crystal. BTW--I LOVE your new header!

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci mille fois, chere Gail,
for your visit and kind comment.
I love working with food each day, and that it leads me into learning more about the simple and comples culinary world that can improve my cooking and baking.
It is my pleasure to share them with all of you...

***Disclaimer:
I AM NOT associated with the Diamond Crystal Salt Company, I just have always used their product, with great results.

culinarycory.com said...

Great post. I use Kosher salt for all my cooking, but regular salt for baking. I think the flavor distributes better in batters and doughs.

Kristin said...

Bonjour Terrie,

Great article and wonderful example (those grains of salt) of how it is the truly the little things that make the difference!

(I use Baleine on everything... but it's time to think about salt!)

Bonne et heureuse année à toi :-)

Peter said...

One of the good things with blogging is that you learn a lot, like I did here!

Too much salt is obviously not good for your health, but I cannot quit buying slightly salted butter for my bread eating, especially the version with crystals of Sel de Gurande.

(I do not bake any more!)

Dedene said...

I'm going to have to do a similar test on the French salts. Normally, I buy the Baleine brand, but it's certainly as industrial as Morton's. The sel de Guerande is probably the best choice, but there may be others.
Thanks for the fascinating post!

Mise En Place said...

I've been trying to find Diamond Crystal since learning Alton uses it. ;) I have to use Morton's because it is all I can find locally. Thanks for the information about it. I will certainly try harder to find it now!

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

@Cory...Merci for your visit and kind comment. Diamond Crystal is perfect for baking if that is the Kosher Salt that you use. It distributes freely because of its crystalline pyramidal structure, and has no anti-caking additives like table salt.

@Kristin. Salut...!
I hope you and your beautiful family had wonderful holidays.
I see that he children are growing in to lovely teens and hope that your dear mother is doing well.
I can see that you have her beauty...

I also use the coarse grind Baleine, as well as many other flaked Sel de Mer as a fine finishing salt. I love the look and flavor of the sel gris from Normandy and Brittany.

@Dedene, merci for your visit.
I am looking forward to your post on French Salts. That would be great to read your comparisons.

@Peter
Merci for your kind comment and frequent visits.
I love the butter with the crystals of Sel de Gurande…!

@ Lisa
Merci for stopping by.
There is a Diamond Crystal Salt Culinary product locator page here:
http://www.diamondcrystalsalt.com/Culinary/Item-Finder.aspx
Just plug in your zip code.

The site also has nice pixs of AB and a few of his recipes.

They also have a 800# where you can order the culinary salts order it
1-800-428-4244.

You can always use the left over Morton’s Kosher to clean your copper pots (with lemon juice or vinegar made into a paste.)

A Brush with Color said...

What a great post on salts, Terrie! I love your research efforts and your photos are just divine. Your title here is so appropos as well. Great job, as always! The newspaper should hire you to do a food column.

jeanette mistress of longears said...

Amazing! I'm going to search out Diamond Crystal Kosher instead of my Morton's Kosher.
Eons ago, when I was in college, I dated a fellow who worked summers at the Morton factory. He told me that Morton and Diamond regularly "traded" salt when one of them ran out and need to finish a run. Of course, that was more than 40 years ago, and I doubt that still goes on with today's quality control.
As for the pyramid shape, I adore the British salt, Maldon, but use it only for finishing, though I've seen Brits on tv use it to cook with. I'm skeptical about measuring it.
Great post!!!