Alright, so after some comments on last week’s post about “Himalayan salt” flavoured potato chips, I decided to do a little taste test. I’m a big fan of iodized salt because I don’t eat a ton of fish and I’m lactose intolerant and so iodized salt is the easiest place to get iodine (and because nobody’s a fan of goiters). Now, I can tell you for certain that there aren’t any health benefits to pink salt over not-pink salt, and that anyone who tells you pink salt is better for you is either lying to you or just plain old run-of-the-mill wrong.
People say there are differences in the taste of different salts. I was skeptical, but willing to see for myself, so here we go: a barely exploratory mostly unscientific n=1 one-subject single-blind (technically single blindfold) taste test of three kinds of salt.
The salts I picked are as follows: (1) Stop-and-Shop iodized salt, (2) Morton coarse kosher salt, and (3) Sherpa Pink Himalayan gourmet salt.
Look upon my salts, ye mighty, and despair:
Yes, I bought five pounds of Himalayan Pink. It was something like eight bucks for a small shaker and twelve for five pounds and I just couldn’t resist.
As you may or may not be able to tell (look below if not), there’s a not-insubstantial difference in the size of the crystals between the iodized and the other two. So I decided I’d do three types of taste test: “dry,” “wet,” and “on egg.” For the dry, I’d be blindfolded and taste a pinch of each salt put on my tongue; for the wet, I’d be blindfolded and sip a strong solution of 0.5tsp salt to 2.5 tsp water. My lovely wife took notes from my reactions as she gave them to me in whatever order pleased her.
Test 1: Dry
Morton coarse kosher salt: “It’s salty, I don’t really know how else to describe it. This might be a terrible idea. Let me try one more little pinch. [I spat in the sink] It doesn’t taste like the seaside? A little bit of an aftertaste that I can’t identify.”
Stop&Shop iodized salt: “Oh, that one has a much more intense salt flavor. It’s a little tangy-er? Ok, a big pinch. [Another spit in the sink] I think there’s a little less of an aftertaste with this one, though I’m not really sure what the aftertaste was with the last one, but there’s less with this one.”
Sherpa Pink Himalayan gourmet salt: “Mm, so the crystals take a lot longer to dissolve, because they’re bigger. So I suspect this is the Himalyan one. [I really spit a lot during this taste-test] It’s saltier. It rests on your tongue longer in, like, sharper points. It’s like salty pop-rocks.”
Verdict: If you’re going to put a pinch of salt directly onto your tongue, and you like the idea of salty pop-rocks, this might be a win for el pinko; otherwise it looks like the kosher salt is a little milder and less all-encompassing-salty than the iodized, and it’s all probably because of the size of the crystals.
Test 2: Wet
Unlike Joe Barkson, I wasn’t interested in “reasonably salty,” like a 1% solution, I was interested in entertaining my readership through self-harm, so I mixed half a teaspoon of salt with two and a half teaspoons of water and stirred a lot and then sipped the vile salty concoctions out of espresso cups.
Sherpa Pink Himalayan gourmet salt: “Ok, that is INTENSELY salty. Like wow, holy cow, is that salty. Not a lot of aftertaste, though.”
Stop&Shop iodized salt: “Urghhh [more spitting] That tastes almost medicinal. It’s really salty, like really intensely salty. If I had to guess, I’d guess that’s the iodine in the iodized salt. Wow, that’s kind of foul.”
Morton coarse kosher salt: “It doesn’t have the aftertaste, so it’s a lot more like the first one. Really salty – all three are stupidly intensely salty. I guess I can’t really taste the difference between this one and the first liquid one. The second one – there’s a distinct difference with that one, like a weird medicinal aftertaste, but 1 and 3 didn’t.”
Verdict: Round two goes to the roughly equivalent (in my mouth) Pink and Kosher, but more than that the iodized was awful. They were all equally salty tasting, but the iodized had a nasty aftertaste and I won’t ever do that again.
Test 3: On egg
Now, being of good British stock, there’s nothing I like more than a good cold hard-boiled egg, shelled and dipped in salt (actually there are a lot of things I like more, but it’s pleasant enough as a food, you should try it). For the egg, I’d forgotten the blindfold so I just took some notes.
The three tasted very very similar. In fact, I’m not sure whether, on even a food as bland as egg, I’d really be able to tell the difference if I weren’t paying a lot of attention. It all tasted like salty boiled egg. But the fine, iodized salt dissolved in my mouth faster and produced a more uniform salty experience, fully coating my tongue all at once. The coarser kosher salt seemed a little milder but with nice highlights of saltiness. And, actually, I did get hints of salty pop-rocks with the Pink.
Verdict: I think this one’s pretty much down to the texture again, and I think I prefer the coarse kosher to the fine iodized or the pop-rocks pink. For flavour they were (to my tastebuds) identical, and it was just a difference of how the flavour was delivered.
Overall, I’d say that from where I’m standing there’s not enough of a difference in the actual flavours of the salts to do much for me, though if I were going to make a salt solution to swish around my mouth I might opt for the kosher, just because uuugh god what even was that in the iodized? Is that what iodine tastes like? Ugh.
But I’ll probably end up using all the salt I have, maybe saving the kosher for finishing because it seemed the most pleasant of the three (probably because it’s in my personal salt-crystal-size goldilocks zone).
And anyway, with five pounds of the stuff, I guess I’m pretty glad I don’t mind the Himalayan Pink.
Anybody need a little salt?
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.