Ingredients

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?

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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."

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Top Comment:
“However, I am experimenting with both Morton's and Diamond Crystal Kosher Salts for other recipes and have a preference for Diamond Crystal which tastes much more refined. I would depict the difference between Diamond Crystal and Morton's like the difference between white and black pepper. Morton is the black pepper, in your face salty and gives the punch, whereas Diamond Crystal is the white pepper, layered and nuanced and much better at salting through without oversalting. I would also appreciate if recipe writers would include their preference with the ingredients. It makes all the difference, especially with something as overpowering as salt where a little too much will ruin the recipe. ”
— Licia
Comment

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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dale Wood
    Dale Wood
  • Walter Jones Jr
    Walter Jones Jr
  • MuskokaWolfePack
    MuskokaWolfePack
  • Carol Conti
    Carol Conti
  • Bkhuna
    Bkhuna
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.

54 Comments

Dale W. March 15, 2021
I started using Morton's when I was doing some home canning, and I bought it because it was the cheaper brand. And for home canning, and for dry brining a turkey, it's perfectly good. But I've acquired a stack of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, and I've learned the hard way that when she calls for kosher salt, she's talking about Diamond Crystal, and if I use the same amount of Morton's kosher salt, things are going to be too salty, because her measurements are based on Diamond Crystal.
 
Walter J. March 9, 2021
ONLY DC! I do keep about a dozen other salts for finishing, but I do not allow Morton in the door! The Morton Kosher salt has anti-caking additives - to which several friends have an allergy! WHY? Diamond Crystal tastes so good; it is so forgiving; why use anything else?! Recently, it has become difficult to get it at the grocery store chain which dominates Florida. I have requested they special order for me. No response yet. So, I have resorted to purchasing on Amazon. I buy several boxes at a time to save on shipping - even give some to friends! There is NOTHING quite like Diamond Crystal. If a cook isn't using it, it's only because they have not yet tried it!
 
MuskokaWolfePack March 9, 2021
Windsor Coarse Kosher Salt for Gourmet Cooking in Canada is equivalent to Morton’s and includes the anti-caking agent. Cannot always get Diamond Crystal.
 
Luke W. March 26, 2021
Is the Windsor salt non-iodized? The hospital told me that all salt in Canada is iodized so we need to order from the states.
 
Carol C. March 8, 2021
I knew there was a taste difference between DC vs Morton
Mom used DV iodized for all her cooking
I can find it here in Florida
Unless they changed the packaging.
 
Bkhuna December 13, 2020
It wouldn't be a problem if recipe writers would start using weights for dry ingredients. A of either type of salt will contain the same number of sodium and chloride ions.

Same with liquids. If it's important enough to call for a volume, it should be precise. Saying "one quarter of a cup plus two teaspoons" is ridiculous". Especially in baking.
I know it doesn't matter in all situations, but it does often enough to deserve consideration.

Give us milliliters and grams and questions about salt equivalences become and such are rendered moot.
 
Licia July 17, 2020
I use La Baleine fine salt for most cooking, La Baleine coarse salt for salting water or brines, Maldon's sea flakes for finishing touches (cookies, cold dishes where you want that crunch). However, I am experimenting with both Morton's and Diamond Crystal Kosher Salts for other recipes and have a preference for Diamond Crystal which tastes much more refined. I would depict the difference between Diamond Crystal and Morton's like the difference between white and black pepper. Morton is the black pepper, in your face salty and gives the punch, whereas Diamond Crystal is the white pepper, layered and nuanced and much better at salting through without oversalting.
I would also appreciate if recipe writers would include their preference with the ingredients. It makes all the difference, especially with something as overpowering as salt where a little too much will ruin the recipe.
 
Das E. December 4, 2019
Just got my first box of Diamond Crystal K.S. and it is fine like table salt - very disappointed.
Something funny going on because my salt is not course. I went online to learn if there is a difference because the DCKS did not do it for me like Mortons KS. Kosher salt should be course.
 
Cecilia April 13, 2019
I’m a fan of diamond crystal. I don’t end up oversaIting my food and it sticks to food better.
I travel for work and stay in various locations for extended periods of time on assignments. Lodging in most cases is apartments or “extended stay” hotels with kitchens. I discovered that diamond crystal salt is not readily available and the kitchen wares in apartments and hotels are of poor quality so I pack my diamond crystal in my “travel pantry/kitchen” along with my no 8 field cast iron skillet, a couple of other skillets/pans, knives, cutting board and a few cooking utensils. Creating a meal away from home is relaxing and comforting when I’m able to use my core ingredients and kitchen wares.
Thanks... 🤓
 
Kate's K. January 11, 2019
I haven’t been able to find Diamond at my grocery stores over the past year - it’s my favorite.
 
Connie B. April 28, 2019
Whole Foods!
 
gayle S. January 11, 2019
I can’t get diamond in the Chicago suburbs. It’s only Morton
 
Dale W. March 15, 2021
They sell it at Penzey's Seasoning. I was skeptical... Morton is like $2 for a big box, but DC is like $5. Now I know why.
 
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?

Thank you.

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.
 
Dale W. March 15, 2021
Penzey's has a kosher salt? My Penzey's store sells Diamond Crystal in the box.
 
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!