Tips & Techniques

You're Not Crazy: There IS a Difference Between Morton's and Diamond Crystal

May  9, 2016

Chefs are anything but nonchalant about sourcing ingredients. Missy Robbins, who cooks at Lilia in Brooklyn, has been using La Valle tomatoes for the past ten years; when it was time to choose a cooking olive oil for their restaurant, she tasted fifteen types before landing on Monini; and they bring in Tutto Calabria jarred chiles from Italy.

Even the salt, an ingredient often taken for granted, is carefully chosen: At Lilia, they use only Diamond Crystal kosher salt—and if Morton's comes in, Chef Robbins says, it throws everything off. (When Food52's Test Kitchen Manager worked in the kitchen at Franny's, he remembers using "the red box"—that's D.C., too).

It's not just chefs who have an expressed preference for a certain name in salt. When we asked our Twitter followers what brand of salt they use in cooking (as opposed to finishing or garnishing), they showed an allegiance to Morton's:

But is this brand loyalty among kosher salts based on family biases and traditions—it's what your dad used, it's what you're comfortable with—or is there a real, taste-able difference between these two major players?

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I tried Mortons - Yuck! I tried a variety of sea salts - better than "yuck" but too salty. I screamed like a banshee, please, please bring back my DC. They did and now I'm living happily ever after. ?”
— Lynn
Comment

Turns out that there are visible differences at the level of the individual salt crystals. As Jill Santopietro reported for Chowhound back in 2010, Diamond Crystal and Morton's have different shapes: Morton's is made by flattening salt granules into large thin flakes by pressing them through high-pressure rollers, whereas Diamond Crystal is formed by a patented method in which "upside-down pyramids [are] stacked one over the next to form a crystal."

This process, according Edward Schneider of the New York Times, who also wrote about D.C. versus Morton's in April of that year, is the patented Alberger method (yep—that's the same process used to make Flavacol stick so well to popcorn): It results in "handsome hollow pyramid-shaped grains. This hollow structure accounts for the salt’s lightness, and the thin walls of the 'pyramids' for its crushability."

In each pinch of Diamond Crystal, there's more space between the grains of salt (because the crystals don't sit as snug against each other)—which makes it, writes Santopietro, lighter and less salty than Morton's (and fine sea salt or table salt)—"and therefore more forgiving in the kitchen." You're less likely to over-salt if you use Diamond Crystal. Switch from Diamond Crystal to Morton's without making adjustments and your food might burn a hole through your tongue.

Schneider recounts his own experience:

Suddenly, I lost my knack for getting the salt spot-on: everything was oversalted. Everything. Pound cake tasted like something you might serve with pot roast, and pot roast tasted like the barrel-preserved meat served on HMS Bounty. For heaven’s sake, the spaghetti was too salty—I was overdosing the pasta water.

If you're wondering about converting between the different kinds of salts, Santopietro and Schneider have done that research for us:

  • Schneider: 1 : 1.85, Morton's : D.C.
  • Santopietro: 1 1/4 : 1 3/4, Morton's : D.C.

Santopietro's rule of thumb? "Think of Morton's and fine salt as roughly the same" and substitute it with nearly twice the amount of Diamond Crystal.

But recipe writers frequently neglect to identify the brand of kosher salt (shame on us!), even though it makes quite a difference. So what's a home cook to do? "Pretend they used Diamond salt," says Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen: You can always increase the amount of salt later.

Are you a Morton's or a Diamond Crystal sort of cook? And why? Tell us in the comments.

39 Comments

Rachel S. January 17, 2018
I salt according to the amount of water not the amount of pasta. I use a 3 qt. pasta pot adding to it two healthy pinches of store brand kosher salt. In 2 qts. of water it would be about 1.5 teaspoons. Like the little old Italian grandmother said, "it, meaning the water, should taste like seawater" mine is not quite that salty but close.
 
MP November 26, 2017
I recently finished an "vintage" box of Morton's Kosher Salt. It was truly flake like and I could easily rub it between my fingers breaking it into smaller bits. The new box of Morton's is hard and difficult to crush. Has anyone had a similar observation? I have not tried Diamond salt products.Is it more flake like?<br /><br />Thank you.<br /><br />MP
 
SK October 12, 2017
How does David's Kosher Salt fit into this? Does anyone know? TIA
 
Adrian S. June 8, 2016
Diamond's and Morton's kosher salts have different weights for the same volume. I discovered this years ago when I was playing with brines. For 14g (just about 1/2 oz), Morton is barely 3 tsp, Diamond is 4 1/4 tsp. That is why in my brining recipe I use weights rather than volumes. https://cre8ov.com/2013/01/roasted-chicken/
 
Cookin' C. June 5, 2016
I much prefer Diamond over Morton's Kosher. Like another responder, I too read the article from Cook's Illustrated. The difference is huge in brining! I use DC kosher for cooking and prefer to use Maldon for finishing. Also like La Baleen coarse crystals freshly ground in my salt grinder.
 
Lex June 5, 2016
I thought it was only me! I too have over salted using another salt (mortons) after years of familarity with diamond crystal's size and "salt heft". Long live Diamond Chrystal!
 
MollyAnne June 4, 2016
I use Penzey's Kosher or Himalayan salt.
 
Kate's K. June 4, 2016
Diamond is my preferred.
 
Onegr8singer June 4, 2016
HAIN iodized SEA SALT is my everyday go-to salt!
 
Sally G. June 4, 2016
Diamond!
 
Jeanelle June 4, 2016
Any David's Kosher in the house? That's my go to for most cooking, though I use Morton's coarse for rubs, etc, then 365 fine sea salt for baking (easier to measure and more consistent texture).
 
Janet M. June 4, 2016
I once read in Gourmet Magazine that, if you want to bake bread with absolutely even consistency, use sea salt. It works! Whether I'm baking Italian Easter Dove Bread or French baguettes, I use freshly ground sea salt. After developing hyponatremia in response to prescription medications, I learned that the sodium in table salt is not physiologically retrievable, but the sodium in sea salt is. Bleached sea salt does not deliver the sodium our nervous systems need to run our bodies, so a sea salt that retains its color is preferable. I am fond of Himalayan pink sea salt.
 
Laura415 June 3, 2016
I keep a variety of salts around for different uses. Maldon is my favorite for finishing salt. I found a Korean sea salt locally that has the texture of DC and use that exclusively as my salt for seasoning. I stopped using DC when the anti-GMO legislation lost because the company that makes DC was a supporter of the groups against GMO labeling.
 
Eric R. June 3, 2016
Diamond C for me too, and when I can't get it, Alessi. But I wish I knew why all contemporary recipes don't as a matter of course include weights for every ingredient of which one needs more than a small-fingered pinch.
 
cfelten June 3, 2016
Completely agree. These days I tend to reject cookbooks in which weights are not included.
 
JaniceB June 3, 2016
DC for all the reasons stated plus I prefer how it handles too. Much easier to control.
 
Jeff June 3, 2016
This article doesn't really define which Morton's salt they're talking about except for the description of being crushed through rollers. News flash - if your preferred salt crystal is a different shape, it's going to affect the measurements in your recipes. Any chef should know that, and the one complaining about his recipes seeming 'off' should have known better.
 
Karen June 3, 2016
I've been using mostly Penzey's flake salt for cooking (not for baking) for a couple of years now. I don't know how it compares to DC, but I plan to check that out.
 
melissa C. June 3, 2016
Diamond crystal for life! Mortons is clunky and consistency is key in this business! But always a sprinkle of Maldon at service.
 
Douglas June 3, 2016
I have in my recipe database a note I collected from Cook's Illustrated some years back (Nov issue, 2010):<br />1 tsp table = 1.5 tsp Morton kosher = 2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher. 2-oz. wt. Morton salt is exactly 1/4 C; 2-oz.wt. Diamond Crystal is 1/2 C.
 
nouveauchef June 3, 2016
I'm definitely in the Diamond Crystal camp!<br />