My salt cellar is one of the most used items in my kitchen. It stays out on the counter permanently, and more often than not, the lid is open. The last time I went to visit my in-laws, I was making oatmeal for breakfast and I asked where the salt was. My father in-law gave me a puzzled look and then rummaged around in the back of a cabinet for a while, finally coming up with a box of salt that looked like it had been around the block a time or two. I had to contain my shock because adding at least a pinch of salt to everything I am cooking is second nature to me now.
Salt scares people. They automatically see American Heart Association warnings and think about their blood pressure. The salt that you add to home cooked food is not the salt that is harmful. It is the excessive sodium added to processed foods that is cause for concern. Straight from the American Heart Association website “more than 75 percent of the sodium that we eat comes from packaged and restaurant foods.” Have you ever look at the sodium levels on a can of soup or a box of macaroni and cheese before? A pinch of salt added to a pot of oatmeal will not skyrocket your blood pressure but it affects the taste of the cooked grain so much that I can actually tell on the first bite if I have accidentally left it out. To make your food taste good, you need salt, it brings out all the other flavors in your food. Get a salt cellar, fill it with your favorite salt, and sprinkle accordingly, please. At least I know what to get my in-laws for Christmas this year.
I use this salt cellar and I fill it with either pink Himalayan salt that I buy from the bulk bins at Whole Foods or sea salt from Trader Joe’s. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a difference between sea salt and table salt. Sea salt comes from the evaporation of sea water and retains some trace minerals, while table salt comes from underground salt mines and most of its minerals are lost through the processing. The most important difference to me, however, is that there are anti-caking additives in table salt such as sodium aluminosilicate or magnesium carbonate to make it free flowing. This is why a can of Morton’s salt will pour out in a smooth, clean line, whereas a can of sea salt you almost have to squeeze and shake it out. If the little bit of extra moisture bothers you in sea salt, I have heard of people putting grains of rice in their salt dishes to absorb some of the excess moisture, but it never bothers me at all. I will take a small texture difference over strange chemical additives any day.