For most people, table salt or sea salt are the go-to choices for seasoning. But did you know there is a whole variety of high-end salts that can add unique flavours to your dish?
Ask any professional chef about high-end salts, and the firsts that come to mind are likely to be fleur de sel and Maldon. But how different can these two luxury salts be? Isn’t salt just… well, salt?
The main factor that separates fleur de sel and Maldon is their rarity. Maldon salt is only harvested from the Blackwater estuary in Maldon, but the estuary has been a constant provider of the salt for centuries. Fleur de sel can only grow under specific conditions, making it much rarer and harder to harvest.
What is Fleur De Sel?
Fleur de sel is a rare French salt with a name that means ‘flower of salt’. The salt is harvested differently, being collected from the top of sea water pools that have formed along France’s coast. As the salt rises to the pool’s surface, it crystalizes in a flower-like pattern, hence its name.
It takes very specific weather and environmental conditions for fleur de sel to form, which only adds to its rarity. The salt also needs to be harvested by hand so that it doesn’t break apart or dissolve, leading to a heftier price tag.
Due to being harvested directly from seawater pools, fleur de sel salt is obviously very salty, but not more so than other salts. It is similar to that of a brine rather than a typical salty flavour.
The fleur de sel’s flavour sticks to your taste buds long after your first bite as it has a significantly high amount of moisture in each flake. This makes the flakes stick together, ensuring its flavour last longer in your mouth.
Such a high moisture content means that fleur de sel may dissolve into and overwhelm your dish before you can serve it. That is why the salt should be sprinkled on top of your dish just before it is served.
What is Maldon?
Maldon salt has been used in British and European cuisine for so long that it even has a mention in the Domesday Book, written in 1086. The salt is specifically harvested from the Blackwater estuary located in Maldon, Essex, hence the salt’s name.
Maldon is harvested now similarly to how it was for centuries. Water from Blackwater estuary, which is a natural source of salt water, is evaporated until only the salt remains.
The estuary that Maldon salt is harvested from directly affects the salt’s taste. Blackwater estuary is not entirely a seawater estuary, so the resulting salt that is harvested from its waters has a less intense salty flavour than other salts.
Some argue that Maldon salt has a slight sweetness to it.
Such a savoury-sweet balance means that Maldon salt is the perfect finishing salt to use in salted caramel or on top of buttery dishes. Though the flavour is short-lived, the lightness makes it a must-have seasoning.
Since 1882, there has been 1 primary Maldon salt manufacturer under the name of Maldon Crystal Salt Company. You can find their salt in nearly every supermarket, but will be hard-pressed to find a different Maldon salt manufacturer.
Differences Between Fleur De Sel and Maldon
Despite fleur de sel and Maldon falling into the high-end salt market, there are some critical differences beyond their price tag that sets them apart from each other:
- Price Points – There is a big price difference between the two salts. Maldon is fairly pricey but is not as rare or hard to harvest as fleur de sel, which can retail for as much as $30 per pound.
- Place Of Harvest – Where Maldon salt has to be harvested is much more specific than fleur de sel. Only salt from the Blackwater estuary in Maldon, Essex can be called Maldon salt. On the other hand, fleur de sel can be harvested anywhere in France. The coast of Brittany has the best conditions for the salt to grow, but there is no exclusivity to the salt’s location.
- Lasting Flavour – Fleur de sel is a delicate salt, both in taste and structure. It is one of few moist salts, sticking and dissolving on the tongue quickly and making its flavour last longer. Maldon salt is a dry salt with a milder and shorter-lasting flavour.
- Harvesting Techniques – It takes specific conditions for fleur de sel to form, which is why each grain of salt is hand harvested to prevent the salt from breaking apart. However, Maldon salt is much easier to acquire through evaporation, a common salt harvesting technique.
Similarities Between Fleur De Sel and Maldon
It can be hard to see how different fleur de sel and Maldon are when they are both salts. Here are a few more similarities between the two seasonings:
- Luxury Uses – Because fleur de sel and Maldon are more expensive than regular table salt, they should not be used as seasonings but as finishing touches to your dish. A few sprinkles too many of either of the salts could change the flavour of your dish and drain your wallet.
- Sea Salt Varieties – Though they are much more pricey than regular sea salt, fleur de sel and Maldon rely on salty seawater to form their harvestable salt crystals. As such, both salts have a flavour closer to sea salt than table salt.
- Elevated Regular Salt – Fleur de sel and Maldon add flavours to a dish that regular table or cooking sea salt fails to provide. Between the savoury-sweet Maldon and delicately briny fleur de sel, these high-end salts can provide a burst of flavour to similar dishes without being overpowering.
Fleur De Sel vs Maldon: Which Wins?
It might not be a choice you thought you’d ever have to make, but let’s pit these two posh salts against one another: It’s fleur de sel vs Maldon (or France vs Britain):
Do You Prefer Fleur De Sel or Maldon?
Fleur De Sel and Maldon FAQs
Do you still have questions about fleur de sel and Maldon salt? Then check these FAQs out:
Yes, generally, no one can tell which salt variety you have used, especially in your cooking. When used to finish dishes then there can be some textural changes but it won’t have a huge impact on your finished dish.
Fleur de sel might be pricey but it is not the most expensive salt in the world. Korean bamboo salt, Bora Bora salt and Icelandic salt are all more expensive.
Where we obtain our information and verify the facts in this article:
Acacia may be a freelance writer by day, but they are a food fanatic by night. They are always trying out new recipes or finding different ways to elevate classical dishes. But their biggest culinary aim is to educate others on the basics of the kitchen so that they too can enjoy delicious food.