Cypress flake salt from the Mediterranean (photo courtesy SaltWorks).
Angsley salt from the sea around Wales (photo by River Soma | THE NIBBLE).
 Maldon River salt from England. It forms unique pyramid-shape crystals (photo courtesy Stephen Upson).
 Kosher salt, from underground mines (photo courtesy WiseGeek).
Do you have a container of flaky salt at home? If you cook, you should.
In the world of culinary salts, flake/flaky salts are coarse-grained salts with large, visible grains (the flakes).
It’s a favorite for what chefs, who use it as a finishing salt (after the food is cooked or otherwise prepared), for what they call a pop of flavor and crunch.
SEA SALT VS. MINED SALT
Salt is harvested from either sea water or rock-salt deposits in salt mines, which aeons ago were underground seas.
Sea salts are produced over the world, and flake salts—flat flakes—are a subset. While fewer areas produce them, they are evaporated from Angsley (Wales—photo #2) and Maldon (England—photo #3) to Cyprus (photo #1), France, Australia and New Zealand.
To produce salt from sea water, the water is evaporated by the sun and wind from surface pools: barriers or containers that are constructed to contain the water. The evaporated salt crystals are then scraped from the top.
The shape of sea salt crystals is determined by the sun and the wind.
Not all coarse salts are flake salts. Some can evaporate into lumps or other shapes.
In the case of Maldon salt from England (photo #3), the crystals form unique pyramids instead of flat flakes.
In Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin, the flake salt is an alluring pink color, thanks to carotene, a red pigment that here is secreted by algae in the water.
Coarse salts are processed into fine salts.
With salt mines, salt can be mined directly, or water can be pumped into the underground rock deposits and then evaporated. The salt crystals can then be processed in many different ways, including into flat flakes.
Mined salt can optionally be treated with anti-caking additives and/or iodine.
Kosher salt is a mined salt. It is coarse grained like flake salt, although it isn’t a flat flake. However, some chefs use it as such, as a finishing salt.
Mined Salt/Land Salt
Meat: Chefs particularly like to sprinkle it atop grilled or seared meats.
Tomatoes: Most people salt tomatoes. Flake salt makes them taste even better.
Chocolate bars and caranels: Salted chocolate bars typically use flake salts like sel gris or Fleur de Sel (a sel gris—gray salt—from a particular are of the French sea coast).
Chocolate baking: Use flaky salt to garnish any chocolate dessert: brownies, cookies, fudge, icing, truffles especially. The sweet-salty dynamic continues to grow in popularity.
Whether a sea salt or a land salt, the crunchy flakes dissolves quickly atop foods, resulting in a “pop” of flavor.
HOW TO USE FLAKY SALT
Kosher salt (photo #4) is a coarse-grained salt made from the same mined salt as table salt. It’s evaporated in a way to make the grains larger. As with sea salt, the evaporation process determines the salt’s final shape. But with mind salt, the company, not Mother Nature, controls the evaporation process.
The large grain size makes kosher salt popular for sprinkling on top of meat, to deliver that pop and crunch.
Another benefit: Kosher salt dissolves quickly, making it a popular all-purpose cooking salt—and it’s far less expensive than sea salt.
Most brands are flat grains, but some brands evaporate their kosher salt into the elegant pyramidal in structure, emulating the famed Maldon salt.
Substituting Kosher Salt
You can’t simply substitute one type of salt for another: Measurements will be different between kosher salt, table salt and sea salt.
That’s because the different size of the grains make different salts more or less “salty.”
Here is a conversion chart from Morton.
Kosher Salt Trivia
Any salt can be kosher if it’s produced under kosher supervision. But that’s not how kosher salt got its name.
Coarse salt’s original purpose was to kosher meat, which means to remove the blood from the butchered meat, a requirement of kosher law.
Wordsmiths may wonder why its name is not koshering salt. Very astute!
Way back, some American company labeled the boxes “kosher salt” instead of koshering salt. The shorter name stuck.
CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALT
Our Salt Glossary has a complete education in the many types of salt.