Salt and Its Many Uses
Salt is an important ingredient in cooking. In fact, salt is one of the oldest elements known to mankind. The saltiest known to man is salt. Its name, naturally, is table salt; hence, it’s a salt made up mostly of salt chloride.
Salt, as we know it today, is produced through a series of processes starting from mining and then harvesting and then milling. Salt is used for almost everything from cooking and baking to medical treatment. Salt’s defining features make it one of the most useful materials around. Among these features are its ability to have a softening effect on food, its ability to maintain or add flavor, its ability to produce a sensation of saltiness (which some people don’t like), its ability to create the sensation of moisture when sprinkled on food, its ability to create an intense flavor and many other attributes.
There are three basic salt types: coarse salt, fine salt and sea salt. Each type has its own distinguishing characteristics that set it apart from the others. Crayon salt, especially, is considered to be a coarse salt due to the lack of molecular structure that makes up salt. Fine salt, on the other hand, is much like the salt mentioned above, but it has a larger molecular structure that makes up salt.
Salt is used extensively in cooking and baking, particularly for seasoning foods and also for preparing snacks and desserts. We use salt in a wide variety of ways from sprinkling it on our foods and preparing a dish to cooking with salt and using it as a preservative for food (that we bake in the oven). As may be expected, we need salt in much greater quantities than we do other mineral-rich substances, hence we must buy salt in much larger quantities than we do other minerals. For example, we need tons of calcium chloride for making our bones stronger. However, sea salt is much saltier than rock salt.
Salt’s molecular structure is unique among all minerals. Its molecules have gaps between each other that make it susceptible to damage if it comes in contact with any surface molecules, particularly water and other organic substances. Thus, it loses its saltiness and becomes hazy. The process of losing saltiness is triggered by the presence of oxygen molecules on the salt’s surface. However, if the salt is subjected to heat, then these molecules tend to escape and re-condense the salt into a crystal structure with a crystal lattice that produces a sharp, clean sheen. This sheen accounts for the distinctive taste of sea salt.
It’s no wonder then that salt has been linked to the taste of many foods, particularly meats. The taste of salt varies depending on where it was derived. Sea salt, being the saltiest of salts, has the most prominent and distinct taste, whereas table salt is the least salty and thus less likely to give you a taste problem. However, this salt varies greatly in its quality, and it has often been said that it tastes just like chicken salt. Similarly, powdered salt can be likened to the consistency of pudding – it has no taste.
Salt has two major properties that distinguish it from other chemicals: its molecular weight and its crystal size. The salt molecule is much larger than the mineral substance it’s made up of; therefore, the salt has a very different composition from other substances. Salt crystals are either coarse or fine grained, depending on the crystal’s size and texture. Fine grains generally add a salty taste to the food, whereas coarse grains contribute an herbal or salt aroma. Generally speaking, coarse salt tends to be cheaper than fine salt and is frequently used as a promotional salt in sports teams, restaurants, hotels and resorts.
Salt’s crystal structure is also quite different from other elements, with its repeating pattern of large alkaloids, salt, oxygen and other elements. Crystal salt has been found to retain its crystalline structure even after years of processing, implying that it is not affected by oxidation and is in fact more pure than other salts. The importance of salt’s crystalline structure has also been established through laboratory studies where salt’s ability to preserve its essential elements and its various uses are well known. It was found that salt crystallization occurs at lower temperatures and in higher pressure than other elements, indicating that salt’s use could in principle be extended beyond the range of natural sources.