What Is The Difference Between Sea Salt and Traditional Table Salt?

In recent years, the salt industry has exploded in popularity. What was once a simple decision of choosing to use salt on your food during or after cooking or to not use it, has turned into the question of which type of salt to use. When you walk into a Whole Foods to grab some salt for your pantry, you will be confronted with a large range of colourful salts that all have different textures, coarseness, and price ranges. In this article, we will take a look at the difference between the coveted sea salt and your average traditional table salt that most recipes call for.

What Is Salt and Where Does It Come From?

Although it may be very easy to believe that some types of salt are unique to others, it’s very important to remember that all salt comes from seawater and that all types are sodium chloride. With regards to sea salt and table salt, sea salt is extracted from oceans while table salt can be extracted from rock salt (halite) which forms in the mineral beds of drying water bodies.

What Is The Main Difference Between Sea Salt and Table Salt?

The main difference between sea salt and table salt is in how they are gathered and processed. Sea salt is obtained by evaporating sea water either by open-air solar evaporation or by vacuum evaporation. If you choose to be unrefined sea salt, it will have undergone very minimal processing and will, therefore, contain impurities and trace minerals from the ocean water. Trace minerals such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium are commonly found in unrefined sea salt. If you choose to buy refined sea salt, it will have undergone a washing process, which has stripped away the trace minerals and sediments from the ocean and will be very similar to table salt in its chemical makeup, and will just look a little flakier and larger.

Table salt, on the other hand, is mined from salt deposits and does not come directly from ocean water but instead from rock salt or halite which are found in mineral beds where ocean water has dried up. The salt is either harvested through cut and blast mining, with continuous mining, or with solution mining.  When solution mining is used, water is injected with tremendous force into the bore-wells that are drilled underneath the salt layers in the halite. The salt dissolves into the water and the brine is extracted and sent off to a purification plant where the trace minerals are stripped away and the salt is purified. Then the brine will go through an evaporation process (steam) which leads to the formation of salt crystals.

Is There a Difference in their Chemical Make Up?

Although there is a difference between the two, it is very minimal. Sea salt is 97% sodium chloride, 2% potassium chloride, and has about 1% trace minerals. Table salt, on the other hand, is about 97.5 to 99% sodium chloride and 1-2.5% anti-caking agents.

Is There a Difference in Texture, Colour, and Flavor?

The obvious difference between sea salt and table salt is the texture of each. With sea salt you have a lot of coarseness when it is unrefined. However, when sea salt is cooked or dissolved, it loses all of its coarseness. With table salt, it has a fine texture and is free-flowing due to the anti-caking agents.

In terms of the flavor, table salt is very salty or biting effect on the tongue due to the additives present, whereas, sea salt has a sweeter and more pleasant taste when you place a little bit of it in your mouth. The flavor of the sea salt is also stronger and less salty.

Finally, table salt is pure white due to the bleaching process that it goes through. Sea salt, however, can have various different colors depending on the mineral and algae content. Generally though, you will see sea salt in white and various greys.

It is important to note that both sea salt and table salt contain almost the same amount of sodium chloride and so neither are better than the other when it comes to health problems associated with excessive intake of salt. Regardless of which one you prefer, consume in moderation.