Why Every Kitchen Needs a Salt Pig (or Two)

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

When it comes to kitchen equipment, most people are focused on cookware and knives. Those are indisputably important, but they can sometimes distract from one of the most useful things in any kitchen: a salt pig. That's just a goofy name for a large salt cellar, and if you don't have one—and maybe more than one—you should.

One of the most common things I see in the home kitchens of friends and family is salt that's way too inaccessible. It's either squirreled away in a cabinet or sealed inside a shaker that dispenses salt in frustratingly slow sprinkling. But salt is the single ingredient we use more frequently than any other, and we often season whatever we're cooking multiple times in any given recipe. It needs to be within easy reach at all times, more so than oil, vinegar, pepper, or anything else we're likely to routinely grab.

One of your best options is a dedicated salt pig, which is a ceramic container designed just for this purpose. They tend to have wide openings that make it easy to reach in and grab big pinches of salt (we recommend using kosher salt for most of your day-to-day salting needs; if you want to know why, check out the article and video here). An overhanging top helps keep dust and other unwanted particles from falling inside. They're also large enough to hold a decent supply of salt, reducing the frequency with which you'll have to top up.

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You can buy a dedicated salt pig (top left) or large salt cellar (top right), or save your money by using an inexpensive plastic or metal container.

I own this ceramic one by Emile Henry, which I like and recommend, though it is admittedly a little pricey for such a simple device. Be careful, though, as some of the more affordable salt pigs on the market have openings that are too small for most hands, forcing you to use an included spoon instead. Unfortunately, spoons don't give you the control your fingers do.

I also own an olive wood salt cellar with a swing-top lid that serves a similar purpose. The lid makes access a hair slower, but it still works well. It's priced similarly to my salt pig (Kenji's preferred salt cellar is even cheaper).

It may sound odd that I have two of these things in my kitchen, especially considering that mine is a tiny galley, but immediate access to salt really is that important. I keep one on each side of the kitchen, so that I never have to turn around just to get the salt. Depending on how your kitchen is set up, you might want to consider having salt in more than one place, too; generally it's most useful right by the stove, and then wherever you do most of your prep work.

And, of course, there's no need to spend a lot of money. Plastic pint containers and hotel ninth pans are good and very cheap alternatives—ninth pans in particular are what were used in every restaurant I've ever worked. Every station had one filled to the brim with salt at the beginning of the night, alongside everything else needed for service.

Your kitchen should, too.