Kosher Salt: Where to Buy & How to Substitute #CookingInVienna

Kosher Salt Where to Buy & How to Substitute #CookingInVienna

 

HAVE you ever tried to follow a recipe that specifically calls for kosher salt? And then you realized you can’t find it in any store?

Unfortunately, kosher salt isn’t readily available in many places.

And ordering online is not a solution, as it’s way overpriced.

Where to find kosher salt outside of the US:

First, let’s pretend you’re like me, located in Vienna, Austria where such a thing as kosher salt is evidently almost unheard of. We’re not talking about some over-the-top, hand-picked fleur de sel1 finishing salt, which, on the contrary, is easily available here, ever since salt became the new olive oil.

For this exotic ingredient, first you should try to have a look at a Jewish supermarket. In Vienna, one would first turn to the handful of small kosher grocery stores in the 2nd district, like Kosherland. That’s where you are likely to find very coarse salt or table salt from Israel. Kosher it is, but it’s no kosher(ing) salt. (More about koshering salt in a moment.) There’s no kosher salt because nobody does the koshering of meat at home anymore. Though, that there are almost no Jews left in Vienna since the extermination of the European Jews certainly is the most obvious reason.

This Israeli salt, "coarse" like gravel, although religiously kosher, is not a kosher(ing) salt.
This Israeli salt, “coarse” like gravel, although religiously kosher, is not a kosher(ing) salt.

The next obvious step would be to pay a visit to your local gourmet epicurean emporiums. In Vienna, they’re to be found in the city’s center and are called Meinl am Graben, Merkur am Hohen Markt and Billa Corso am Neuen Markt. For this post, I checked again: Still nothing, not even at the famous Naschmarkt.

Conclusion for Vienna: Nothing even remotely resembling kosher salt is to be found in the whole city!

Incredible online prices in Germany for Morton kosher salt and Diamond Crystal kosher salt
These were the prices not so long ago. Yes, it got better, a lot better even, but it’s still way overpriced for regular cooking salt. Here the incredible online prices in Germany for Morton kosher salt and Diamond Crystal kosher salt from 2016.

After you’ve visited every grocery store you can find and have seen the online prices of kosher salt, you may be thinking:

Why use kosher salt anyway? Do I really need to?

Kosher salt gets its name from the traditional process for koshering, or salting, meat to remove blood and impurities under Jewish religious law. Physically, kosher salt crystals are not cubes, but flakes, and only a bit bigger than table salt crystals. Because of their size and shape, they are easy to pick up and tend to stick less your fingers. (This larger crystal size is precisely why bakers strongly dislike kosher salt, who mostly use iodine-free table salt as an alternative.)

And since they don’t dissolve so quickly, you can visually assess whether your sprinkling is enough and whether you need to apply more.  Hence, big star chefs use kosher salt. Also, as its crystals are bigger than table salt, it looks better on camera. The two main brands, Morton and Diamond Crystal, are very different, Morton being coarser and saltier. But this larger crystal size is also precisely why bakers strongly dislike kosher salt, who mostly use iodine-free table salt as an alternative.

So yes, you do need kosher salt, but you’ll have to substitute anyway:

Adapting to a world without kosher salt: Iodine-free table salt, "fine" like superfine sugar.
Adapting to a world without kosher salt: Iodine-free table salt, “fine” like superfine sugar.

Substitute kosher salt with iodine-free table salt:

  1. Simply use plain iodine-free table salt. Don’t use salt containing iodine, like regular salt, as this will result in a bitter and metallic taste. You’ll find iodine-free salt in most organic supermarkets and the like.
    Alternatively, you could search for a salt with coarse cornmeal-texture, between the typical gravel-like “coarse” and the “fine” like superfine sugar.2
  2. Generally divide amounts by two, as most food writers use the Diamond Crystal brand nowadays, which has very large crystals.
    To be exact, one would have to weight the salt, since crystals vary in density and shape. But most people do not have scales sensitive enough to measure such small quantities, so we have to rely on volume.
    1 teaspoon Morton’s Kosher Salt = 3/4 teaspoon table salt
    1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Salt = 1/2 teaspoon table salt3
  3. More than ever, taste as you add salt!
  4. Try to live with the fact that because the salt’s texture is too fine, it will always stick to your fingers and will not be so nice to pick up.

In short: “Can I use regular salt instead of kosher salt?” Yes, as long as it’s iodine-free and you use less.

Want to know more about salt? Read Gil Marks’ entry on salt in his “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food

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Footnotes

  1. David Lebovitz blogs about my favorite salt of all Fleur de sel de Guérande .
  2. Judy Rodgers, in her Zuni Café Cookbook, gives valuable insights in her choices of salt. The medium grade she used is between “coarse” and “fine,” sold in a bulk bin and simply labeled “sea salt.”
  3. I adapted these measurements from Not All Salts are Created Equal by Deb Perelman from The Smitten Kitchen, Morton’s salt conversion chart, and Ask The Food Lab: Do I Need To Use Kosher Salt?, as well as my experience and a handy, small scale.
Nino Loss
Hi, I'm Nino, an unbridled foodnik blogging from Vienna, the city of dreams and Sigmund Freud. I'm cooking up a therapy with recipes and stories from Viennese cuisine and its eclectic influences – Jewish, Italian, Hungarian, Bohemian... – with an armchair psychoanalytical twist.

7 Comments

  1. Thank you for this illuminating yet direct & simple post on kosher salt. We are an American family living in Italy, and I was wondering how to substitute when in a pinch. In the states, Kosher salt is in all the medium & large grocery stores, so not finding it easily (or cheaply!) was a surprise.

  2. We are Americans living in Europe now for 8 years and we have the same issues. You can now get Diamond Crystal kosher salt on Amazon.de for around 7.50 EUR. Still expensive but cheaper than flying to the US to bring it back. Still cannot find Morten’s Kosher salt which is what we prefer…. Good luck!

  3. Stupid question but: in my personal search for kosher salt i actually checked if there were kosher groceries and markets in vienna and found a few. Did you check these too for sourcing? (I might if i get around to it)
    Or maybe they might know where you can get some.

    https://www.misrachi.at/index.php/koscher-in-wien/18-lebensmittelgeschaefte

    also one amazon link is here for now:
    https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B0011BPMUK/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A3KNTD7SP8R8GN&psc=1

    1. Shiro,

      Thanks for stopping by. In my post, I write precisely about the kosher groceries stores in Vienna and why kosher salt, meaning religiously kosher salt, is something different from salt for koshering (which might be religiously kosher, too). I also say why most Jewish kosher grocery stores do not sell salt for koshering any longer (spoiler: nobody does the koshering of meat at home anymore).
      I also mention the Amazon offers, which are nonexistent or way overpriced.
      But do not fear, in the article, I tell you how to do without kosher salt.

      Hope to see you around,
      Best, Nino

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