Ina Garten's All-Time Favorite Salts To Cook With

Not all salts are made equal: From table salt to kosher, and flaky sea salt to savory smoked salt, there's a lot out there on the market. And one chef who knows this all too well is Ina Garten. The beloved culinary icon doesn't just stick to one variety of salt — instead, she stocks her pantry with three of them.

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The most important is Garten's go-to for most of her cooking: Kosher salt. Unless otherwise specified, this is what Garten regularly recommends using in her recipes; specifically, Garten opts for Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt. Garten absolutely shuns table salt (which many home cooks use as their general-purpose salt), as she says it's overly salty in flavor and tends to have a metallic taste. Kosher salt avoids this pitfall: It doesn't have iodine in it, which is the additive that causes that metallic taste. Kosher salt can come from either the sea or a mine (the Diamond Crystal version is sea salt) and it typically has coarser crystals or grains compared to table salt and a pretty clean flavor profile.

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What to know about kosher salt

The name of kosher salt comes from its use in the Jewish culinary process of koshering or "kashrut." This involves using the salt to draw blood out of meat so that the meat would be kosher. Somewhat confusingly, kosher salt is not automatically kosher, so check the label if that's important for you. That said, Diamond Crystal brand is actually kosher. 

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Garten noted in a kitchen tour for the New York Times that Diamond Crystal kosher salt is not as salty as some other kosher salts on the market — which means if you're following one of her recipes and using an alternate kosher salt, you may want to use a bit less. If you do want to follow in Ina Garten's footsteps, know that you'll probably pay a bit more than your average salt: It has quite the culinary following among chefs and home cooks, and is considered a premium salt, so three pounds of it will cost you around $13 (with some variation between stores, naturally) — that's compared to just a couple of bucks for the same volume of table salt; there are also other cheaper kosher salts out there.

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Garten's two other favorite salts

While Diamond Crystal kosher salt is Ina Garten's main sodium go-to, it's not her only one. She also keeps Maldon flaky sea salt on hand, although for more specific uses. The example she shared in her kitchen tour is that she might dust a pie crust with it to add flavor and texture, but also as a styling choice, since the salt flakes remain visible. Of course, this isn't the only use for the much-beloved Maldon-brand sea salt — however, it is generally used as a finishing salt. That means you wouldn't typically use it to season a dish before or during the cooking process: It's added at the end to give a light savory hit.

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Garten's third go-to salt is also for finishing: Fleur de sel from the French brand Le Saunier de Camargue. She's a fan of its light saltiness for dusting over dishes at the end. But this is the fanciest of Garten's trio of salts: Fleur de sel is typically pricy due to the harvesting process that basically involves skimming it off seawater. A container around 4.5 ounces can cost over $11, so you obviously won't want to use it by the handful — just a light sprinkle over anything from buttered bread to grilled meat, salads, or eggs can add an extra dimension of flavor.

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