Over the recent years I have given much more consideration to the seasonings I use. Particularly Salt & Pepper (S&P). As someone who grills over a 100 days a year, S&P is so important, particularly the quality and style of both.
One of the greatest flaws in food preparation, IMHO, is the improper use of salt and the quality and type of salts used. Now I am no salt aficionado and chuckle at some of the esoteric salt sources and types. For grilling though, my go to is coarse sea (not mined) salt. I don’t think you have to go specialty and find that Mortons Kosher coarse sea salt in the blue box fits the bill for every use. The grains are big enough to stand up to olive oil or any other liquid on a food surface. I have yet to find a coarse sea salt that performs any better. Otherwise, as a mineral, to me fine ground cooking salts are all the same.
Now finishing salts are a whole other world and application. I have tried some pretty cool salts like black volcanic that where a perfect match for certain meats and fishes but their limited use keeps me from keeping them in the pantry. Maybe I need to explore these further. Have not yet figured out the craze for pink Himalayan salt.
Beyond salt, pepper is my most beloved seasoning. For so long I did not give it much consideration beyond McCormicks or Kirkland black peppercorns. Fresh ground is obviously light years better than pre-ground. But the quality spectrum of available peppercorns is wide. I stumbled upon a purveyor of the highest quality black Tellicherry peppercorns imported from Wayanad India. The power and complexity is amazing. It adds such complex flavor to any dish demanding pepper. I could never go back as it would be like drinking 2 buck chuck.
As with all food ingredients I believe the best quality results in superior results. I have now stepped up my S&P game.
I don’t grill much any more and I fell in love with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and Pepper way back in 1971, when the salt contained MSG. Food I found to be boring came alive with flavor. Still use Lawry’s though it’s not the same/as good. Trying to determine the appropriate amount of MSG to add or use.
They may all be the same in terms of quality, but they are not the same in terms of saltiness. You have to be careful if you ever use recipes, for instance, because Mortons Kosher (blue box) is much saltier than, for instance, Diamond Kosher (red box), which is what most restaurants use (to my knowledge) and what most cookbooks use as their reference. Some very good cookbooks will point out that quantities need to be adjusted if you are using the blue box as opposed to the red. Nothing wrong with blue box, you just need a different quantity than with red.
Fleur de sel sparingly, Tellicherry pepper after grilling so the pepper won’t burn.
Morton’s Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. My palate is yak like, I guess.
For pepper, I love Penzey’s Extra Bold Black Tellicherry - imported from India, and only 10 pounds out of a ton make this grade.
As an aside, the owner is a maniacal liberal, and his emails are way over the top IMO. Just a warning, not taking a position.
I use the same penzey’s. And it’s good to see a mania level liberal once in a while. And Bill’s been giving a lot of free stuff away as well
I totally agree with Sarah. We use Diamond kosher and have occasionally subbed Morton’s. You have to be careful with it. We also keep a box of regular salt for stuff like pasta water, and we have a few finishing salts that we serve at the table, mostly just the regular and smoked Maldon. We have fleur de sel as well but I really like the thin Maldon flakes.
For pepper we have Telicherry. I also use Piment D’Espelette in addition to black pepper in many cases where I would grind pepper into oil. At the table I use shichimi in some cases instead of or in addition to pepper.
I was not aware of the difference between Mortons blue and Diamond red. I wonder what makes for the difference given the amount?
Yes, Maldon has a unique texture and flavor that I need to keep in the hutch.
I source my Tellicherry from The Reluctant Trading Experiment. Good to know about Penzey’s.
I guess you would say Diamond is “hollower.”
Thank you Craig. Your response was worth its salt! I salute you
I use Tellichery from The Spice House here - their selections are superb overall. I also use a variety of salts rom them, leaning towards the Pink Himalayian most frequently but my son and daughter swear by their Vulcan Salt mix which I have to ship to them on a regular basis.
Re measuring equivalent amounts of salt, a gram of Diamond should be as salty as a gram of Mortons. The discrepancy arises when measuring by volume.
That Pink Himalayan salt was formed (precipitated from seawater) in a shallow sea on the margin of Gondawanaland about 500 million years ago. The pink color is from iron impurities. About 100 million years ago the Indian tectonic plate started moving northward, carrying what is now the subcontinent of India and this salt deposit northward. The Indian Plate eventually ran into Asia, creating the Himalaya Mountains. In a broad sense you can think of this as “Gondwanan sea salt.”
A little OT but they are the same family as the Spice House, which was recently sold in a private transaction. My friend is the new CEO.
I hear change in smoking habits also changes taste for salt. Chef’s that smoke tend to over-salt more commonly, etc.
I will be interested in seeing if this aspect of your palate will change after stopping smoking!
I think that was right, but I had heard they were feuding cousins. I like them both.
And I use Morton’s as my regular salt. I used Diamond for a while, but the boxes didn’t fit in my shelves. I also use fleur de sel and Maldon frequently for finishing
Nanny lives with us and has some heart issues, so it has been quite a while since I got to play with salt.
I like to shop at Spice Ace in SF and Local Spicery in Tiburon…
We like the Chardonnay Oak Smoked Fleur de Sel, Danish Viking Smoked Sea Salt, Applewood Smoked Sea Salt, and the basic Fleur de Sel - Ile de Re.
Murray River Salt from Local Spicery is good, as well.
For peppers, we are all over the place.
Wow, that was interesting. I always use Diamond simply because that’s what my mother used. I’m still annoyed that they changed the packaging though at least the box is still red.
Penzey’s Tellicherry here for black pepper. I found an old bag of white peppercorns while unpacking after getting my furniture but it’s been so long I have no idea where I sourced it.
An otherwise black-and-white matter gets so complicated.