Which salt is best?

How to be the best consumer you can be.
April 26 2005 4:38 AM

Worth One's Salt

From fleur de sel to kosher, which salt is best?

(Continued from Page 1)

Three tests were performed on nine salts (from each of the four salt varieties) by eight tasters in New York City: the finger dip (self-explanatory), salt atop a slice of fresh cucumber, and salt used in pasta sauce made with unsalted canned tomatoes. (I made Marcella Hazan's classic tomato sauce.)

While the East Coast results were interesting, I felt they were inconclusive. Thus, I embarked on Round 2, which took place in Los Angeles at one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, the Edendale Grill in Silverlake. The restaurant kindly agreed to cook French fries and steaks for a group of eight testers, using each of the same nine salts.

In both rounds, testers were asked to blindly rate the salt from 1 to 10 and comment on its taste. The scores from all five rounds were averaged together for one final "taste" score. (Click here to view the results of each individual taste test.) Salts were also assigned an aesthetic rating based on the packaging and the look of the salt itself, since appearance is often as important as taste. As Malcolm Gladwell says in Blink, "We shouldn't be at all surprised that Pepsi's dominance in blind taste tests never translated to much in the real world. Why not? Because in the real world, no one ever drinks Coca-Cola blind."

The Results (from worst to best)

Click image to expand.
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Nu-Salt Salt Substitute, $1.95 for 2.5 ounces ($0.78 per ounce)

Category: Not technically a salt, though it's designed for table use.
Taste: -1.02 (out of 10) Note: Due to its revolting taste, several people went so far as to give Nu-Salt negative scores.
Appearance: 6 (out of 10)
Packaging: 1 (out of 10)
Total: 5.98

Serving Suggestions: Torture.

I've never knowingly tasted poison, but Nu-Salt tastes as close to eating poison as I'd like to get. Made from potassium chloride, potassium bitartrate, silicon dioxide, and "natural flavor derived from citrus fruits and honey," its phoniness is obvious. Tasters referred to it as "an unswallowable, rancid imposter," and one hardened New Yorker described it as "Living hell! I'd rather lick a subway rat's tummy." Nu-Salt is designed for people on low-sodium diets and is made by the Cumberland Packing Corp. (the folks who made the world a little sweeter with Sweet 'N Low).

It earned a 6 for looks because the grains are intriguingly spherical; upon close examination, they float around the plate like air-hockey pucks.

Click image to expand.

Iodized Diamond Crystal Salt

, $.99 for 26 ounces ($0.04 per ounce)

Category: Table Salt

Taste: 3.89

Appearance: 5

Packaging: 2

Total: 10.89

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