HAVE you ever tried to follow a recipe that specifically calls for kosher salt? And then you realized you can’t find it in any store?
Unfortunately, kosher salt isn’t readily available in many places.
And ordering online is not a solution, as it’s often way overpriced.
Where to find kosher salt outside of the US:
First, let’s pretend you’re like me, located in a place almost free of Jews, in my case Vienna, Austria where such a thing as kosher salt is hence evidently almost unheard of. We’re not talking about some over-the-top, hand-picked fleur de sel1 finishing salt, which, on the contrary, is easily available here, ever since salt became the new olive oil.
For kosher salt, this exotic ingredient, first you should try to have a look at a Jewish supermarket. In Vienna, one would first turn to the handful of small kosher grocery stores in the 2nd district, like supermarket Ohel Moshe, Padani, Shefa or Malkov’s. That’s where you are likely to find very coarse salt or table salt from Israel. Kosher it is, but it’s no kosher(ing) salt. (More about koshering salt in a moment.) There’s no kosher salt because nobody does the koshering of meat at home anymore. That there are almost no Jews left in Vienna since the extermination of the European Jews certainly is the most obvious reason.
The next obvious step would be to pay a visit to your local gourmet epicurean emporiums. In Vienna, they’re to be found in the city’s center and are called Meinl am Graben, Merkur am Hohen Markt and Billa Corso am Neuen Markt. For this post, I checked again: Still nothing, not even at the famous Naschmarkt.
Conclusion for Vienna: Nothing even remotely resembling kosher salt is to be found in the whole city!
After you’ve visited every grocery store you can possibly think of and have seen the shocking online prices of kosher salt, you may be thinking:
Why use kosher salt anyway? Do I really need to?
Kosher salt gets its name from the traditional process for koshering, or salting, meat to remove blood and impurities under Jewish religious law. Physically, kosher salt crystals are not cubes, but flakes, and only a bit bigger than table salt crystals. Because of their size and shape, they are easy to pick up and tend to stick less to your fingers. (This larger crystal size is precisely why bakers strongly dislike kosher salt, who mostly use iodine-free table salt as an alternative.)
And since they don’t dissolve so quickly, you can visually assess whether your sprinkling is enough and whether you need to apply more. Hence, big star chefs use kosher salt. Also, as its crystals are bigger than table salt, it looks better on camera. (The two main brands, Morton and Diamond Crystal, are very different, Morton being coarser and saltier.)
So yes, you do need kosher salt—at least for the camera—, but you’ll have to substitute for your cooking anyway:
Substitute kosher salt with iodine-free table salt:
- Simply use plain iodine-free table salt! Don’t use salt containing iodine, like regular salt, as this will result in a bitter and metallic taste. You’ll find iodine-free salt in most organic supermarkets and the like.
Alternatively, you could search for a salt with coarse cornmeal-texture, between the typical gravel-like “coarse” and the “fine” like superfine sugar.2
- Generally divide amounts by two, as most food writers use the Diamond Crystal brand nowadays, which has very large crystals.
To be exact, one would have to weight the salt, since crystals vary in density and shape. But most people do not have scales sensitive enough to measure such small quantities, so we have to rely on volume.
1 teaspoon Morton’s Kosher Salt = 3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Salt = 1/2 teaspoon table salt3
- More than ever, taste as you add salt!
- Try to live with the fact that because the salt’s texture is too fine, it will always stick to your fingers and will not be so nice to pick up.
In short: “Can I use regular salt instead of kosher salt?” Yes, as long as it’s iodine-free and you use less.
Want to know more about salt? Read Gil Marks’ entry on salt in his “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food”
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- David Lebovitz blogs about my favorite salt of all Fleur de sel de Guérande .
- Judy Rodgers, in her Zuni Café Cookbook, gives valuable insights into her choices of salt. The medium grade she used is between “coarse” and “fine,” sold in a bulk bin and simply labeled “sea salt.”
- I adapted these measurements from Not All Salts are Created Equal by Deb Perelman from The Smitten Kitchen, Morton’s salt conversion chart, and Ask The Food Lab: Do I Need To Use Kosher Salt?, as well as my experience and a handy, small scale.