Why Every Kitchen Needs a Salt Pig (or Two)

These small salt containers are essential for a good kitchen setup.

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Hand reaching in to grab salt in an Emile Henry salt pig

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Straight to the Point

Salt pigs (a.k.a. salt cellars) are a worthy addition to your kitchen. They keep grit from getting into your salt and moisture from clumping it up. Our editors like the Emile Henry Oak Salt Pig and the Zero Japan Bee House Salt Box, among others.

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 on salt 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.

collage of four different types of salt storage vesicles
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.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

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. (A couple Serious Eats staffers are fans of this salt box, which comes with a lid and is a touch cheaper.) 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.

Also available at Emile Henry and Sur La Table.

Price at time of publish: $45

bee house blue salt box

Price at time of publish: $28

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 (although this highly-rated model is way cheaper).

Price at time of publish: $49

Totally Bamboo Salt Cellar

Price at time of publish: $11

Now, 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.

YW Plastic Lidded Pint Containers (48-Count)

Price at time of publish: $17 for 48 count

Tiger Chef Ninth Pan

Price at time of publish: $43 for pack of six

FAQs

What's the best way to clean a salt cellar?

The best way to clean a salt cellar will depend on the material your cellar is made of. Some salt cellars are hand-wash only, calling for soap and water. Others are dishwasher-safe. We suggest checking the manufacturer's care instructions prior to cleaning.

How long does salt last in a salt cellar?

Plain salt won't truly expire, whereas iodized salt has a shelf life about 5 years. This means that salt will last in a salt cellar for far, far longer than you'll go through it. If grease or oil gets into the salt (which could easily happen if, say, the salt is positioned next to the stove), consider replacing it or, instead, just invest in a salt cellar with a lid. 

Why is it called a salt pig?

This fun name for a salt container supposedly comes from the old Scottish word for pot, which is "pig." So a "salt pig" is really just a "salt pot" with a Scottish accent.