If you’ve ever watched Food TV or spent any time around professional chef’s you’ll notice an awful lot of them use a very course sea salt when cooking, the sea salt that is preferred by chef’s is Maldon Sea Salt. As someone who’s watched a fair amount of Food TV I was curious what all the hype was about, I knew it was expensive for salt, I knew it was coarse and uneven but I was curious if it was any better, or was it just different? I picked up a two pack, it was cheaper to buy two and what if it really changed my life, I didn’t want to wait to get more. I had to order it online, I looked at my local markets and none of them carried it, I guess it is sort of high end for salt, but come on it’s just salt! I ordered mine from Amazon but with some further digging Salt Works seems to have a better price.
At first glance I was shocked to say the least, see the picture of Maldon below
A nice, high quality box of premium sea salt – this is the stuff dreams are made of! Now look below and see the shocking part, a side by side image of my trusty old Morton’s Kosher salt next to the new dog in town, Maldon.
I’m thankful the big mean Morton box didn’t step on our new British friend, because it was laughable seeing the two boxes next to each other. Maldon is a British company, the salt is imported and has an interesting legacy behind it, read more about it on their site. Once the laughter wore off I was almost sick to my stomach, I just paid $8 for this tiny little box of salt compared to the $3 and change I normally pay for the giant Morton kosher salt. I don’t mind sending more if I’m getting something special and I don’t even mind splurging from time to time for something special, I just wasn’t expecting such a difference. The best way to put it the Maldon cost me roughly $0.94/ounce the Morton cost my around $0.08/ounce that is a huge price difference for “salt.”
Next came the appearance of the Maldon, this too was shocking.
Click on the image to see it full size, the variety of the individual grains is pretty extraordinary, it looks just like it does on TV! It varies from an almost powder like salt to little “nuggets” larger than a pea. Of course I had to try it and not to surprisingly it tasted salty! Though there was an enjoyable crunch present, unlike some other extremely large salt crystals I’ve had in the past these were enjoyably crunchy, normally large pieces of salt are like munching on shale, not in this case they taste light and fragile despite their “don’t mess with me” size.
Below is a picture of Maldon next to my regular Morton Kosher Salt – the Maldon is on the left/top and the Morton is on the right/bottom
Visually the difference is striking, the Morton is whiter which comes from it being “pure” salt, Maldon has natural minerals and natural additives/flavorings. Though keep in mind both salts are at least 97% sodium chloride so the minerals and additives in in the Maldon are minimal. Next comes the grain size, while Morton’s Kosher salt is no slouch in this department it is dwarfed by the king kong of salt crystals, unfortunately I didn’t have any iodized (table) salt in the house for comparison.
Now onto the taste, Morton is my staple, I’ve used probably 10lbs of it in the last 5 years, I know this salt very well, it’s versatile, affordable and a wise investment for any chef or cook who wants to explore beyond iodized salt (which I find to have a very sharp and unpleasant taste.) Kosher salt as a rule offers a mellower flavor than iodized salt, it’s more relaxed, not as sharp tasting and thus gives you a greater range of seasoning you can apply which is a great thing when cooking. Which brings me to an interesting and note worthy point, when heavily cooking or dissolving Maldon I can discern no difference in flavor, the wonderful crunch vanishes and it tastes just like the Morton’s. So when cooking, anything that will dissolve the salt entirely I would not recommend spending the premium on Maldon.
On the flip side, Maldon is GREAT when you can tell it’s still there. When finishing a dish, grilled steaks, broiled seafood and the list goes on and on, I find Maldon to be amazing. It’s even mellower than Morton’s kosher salt, it has a very light and crisp taste that is delightful. I know we are only talking salt here, but if you try both back to back you’ll see what I’m talking about. Yes it is a luxury but it’s an affordable luxury, I think most people can swing $8 on something that will last them for a year or two and it’s a great product to try and see if you really enjoy it. Some luxuries in the culinary world are absolutely insanely priced, this is insanely priced for salt, but it’s still an affordable luxury to try. We’re not talking about $1,600/pound white truffles here, but it is a nice treat to reward yourself with if you enjoy cooking.
To recap, Maldon Sea Salt is the rock star of the salt world, I think it even wears sun glasses. It’s extremely expensive by salt standards, nearly 12 fold the cost of regular kosher salt but not an expensive luxury item to try. I don’t recommend it to season soups or other dishes when it will be dissolved and essentially vanish. However, if finishing a dish before serving and applying some seasoning, or any other instance that the salt will hold up through the cooking process I think it’s well worth trying the Rolls Royce of the salt kingdom.