The other night I was preparing to brine some chicken and had to measure out 1/4 cup of salt. As I poured it from the box with a spout into the measuring cup, trying to pour just enough to be able to level it off and have an exact quarter cup but not too much extra that would be wasted, it occurred to me that I’ve never really come up with a good way of measuring salt. Because salt containers always have these spouts on them you have to pour out of, instead something you can open up and scoop out of like with flour or sugar. Why is this? I’m guessing it has to do with do the need to fill a salt shaker, but you don’t fill your salt shaker with coarse kosher salt and even this kosher salt box had the spout, and the vast majority of the times I use salt it’s for cooking, not sprinkling on my food. Why don’t they sell salt in bags or boxes with a top you can open and scoop from using your measuring cup or measuring spoons? What exactly are you supposed to do when you need to measure salt?
I cook multiple times a week. For every time I have needed to measure out 1/4 a cup of salt there are at least 20 times I have used a measuring spoon instead, which the spout doesn’t make difficult. I doubt my experience is too unusual. Have you considered putting salt in a moisture proof wide mouth container or canister?
Since this is IMHO I’ll take a stab:
- makes it easier to pour into salt shakers
- a well equipt kitchen will have a salt pig
- Morton Salt, one of the biggest providers in America had the motto “when it rains, it pours” so it made sense to sell it that way.
The spout allows for easy pouring right into a salt shaker. If you scoop it instead, then what do you do with that scoop of salt? I guess you could try to pour it from the scoop into the salt shaker, but you’d spill a lot more than you would if you poured it directly through the spout on the box. In other words, it makes no sense.
I think this is a change from traditional American cuisine with its salt and pepper shakers and very frequent usage of both. It’s only been in the last few decades that it’s been generally accepted that “too much salt is bad for your health”. And of course the traditional salt package is over a century old so it would reflect the earlier tradition.
I do a lot of cooking and I have used multiple cups of flour and sugar many times, but have never once used 1/4 cup of salt for anything, although I’ve never brined a chicken either. (I never measure salt except if it’s for baking pastry or bread or something where the chemistry might matter.) If you use salt like that you may want to check into restaurant supply services–maybe they come in a different kind of dispenser.
In addition to the above answers, one reason salt comes in a container with a spout is because you can pour it easily, unlike say flour.
for example, characterises salt as very free flowing, flour as sluggish, milk powder as sluggish and so on. If it’s very free flowing then a spout makes sense.
Yep, just get a salt pig. They’re handy for more than just measuring specific amounts of salt. But even so, I haven’t found pouring from the box into a measuring spoon to be a terribly difficult task.
We have a few salt shakers around, but I can’t remember the last time I used one. The pig is the way to go.
My kosher salt (Morton’s, by the way) comes in a container with a mouth large enough to get a tablespoon in, which makes it quite easy to pour into a measuring cup. It also has shaker holes. No spout at all.
It sounds like you think the specific volume of salt is important in a brine. It’s not. Being a teaspoon (or two) over or under is probably no big deal. “Around” a quarter of a cup is fine. No need to level off the scoop. The specific amount of salt matters a lot more in baking, but I’d suggest weighing your ingredients for those applications. You can get a kitchen scale for under $10.
In neither case do you need to flatten off a scoop of salt to get an exact volume measurement. Also, remember that different types of salt have different volumes. A teaspoon of table salt is equivalent to probably two teaspoons of kosher salt. Yet another reason to use a scale when precision matters.
It also seems more sanitary to pour it. Having people place fingers in it all the time for a pinch doesn’t seem like something some people would feel good about.
Or the salt cellar, for those who like a more chromed look (or are Alton Brown fans.)
Semi-childproofing is my guess, in addition to making it easier to fill shakers. Having a container that opens easily could enable a child, or some other person who may be mentally impaired, to eat it by the handful.
If the top of the lip of the opening was straight rather than curved it would work real swell-like for leveling measuring spoons. I bet someone makes one like that.
When I am cooking I pour salt from the salt box directly in my palm. I never measure (unless baking, of course). I havn’t used a shaker in years. I have them, somewhere. I don’t like the pigs. And, for the table, I prefer a little jar with a small scoop hanging on the side.
BTW, you can buy salt in square boxes from a restaurant supply. I think it may be in a plastic bag inside the box.
No one’s mentioned the obvious: salt cakes when moist. A spout seals better and lets less moisture in when opened.
If you used one of those salt pigs where I grew up, it’d become a salt clump in a few days.
Almost all commercially available table salt has had anti caking agents since before WWI. So unless you live in Atlantis, you should be ok.
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, which many cook-type people prefer, has no anti-caking stuff.
Cook’s Illustrated gives (of course) different measures for different kinds of salt in brine.
(Warning: PDF but it loads in your browser)
I know it doesn’t hugely matter getting level cups or tablespoons for this purpose, but I like having it as a rough guide.