Chefs' Favorite Salt Splurges

Ippei Wakita / amanaimages-Corbis

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new dietary guidelines say many people—especially those over 50 and African-Americans—should limit their daily sodium intake to the equivalent of 12 pretzel rods. But rather than cut back across the board, perhaps it's time to start treating salt, as with other good things that can be bad for you, more like a luxury to savored. With that in mind, we asked a handful of top chefs to tell us about their favorite salt, along with a dish to maximize the pleasure from that occasional sodium binge.

Chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin (N.Y.C.), host of PBS's Avec Eric

Dish: Smoked yellowfin tuna "prosciutto"

Salt: Smoked Viking sea salt. "The smoked sea salt elevates the dish, and also ties the flavor of the tuna with the accompanying crispy kombu and Japanese pickled vegetables."

Master Chef, the Wolfgang Puck Cos. (100 restaurants worldwide)

Dish: Bone-in New York strip steak

Salt: Fleur de sel. "It has a very distinctive flavor that accents grilled meat. I also like it with caramel for dessert."

TV chef, author, Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners

Dish: Sliced cherry tomato hors d'oeuvres

Salt: Maldon sea salt. "Growing up, my mom had a big hit doing this with Lawry's seasoning salt. My own modern version is sprinkled with Maldon salt from England and some chopped fresh herbs. The salt heightens the tomato flavor and also provides a fun crunch."

Chef and owner, Lola, Lolita, Roast, and B Spot (Cleveland), an iron chef on Food Network

Dish: Braised short ribs

Salt: Cyprus Flake, by Artisan. "I love it as a topping on braised items. It adds a nice texture, and the salt helps cut through the rich meat."

Chef and co-owner of Moto and Ing (Chicago), host of Discovery's Future Food

Dish: "Edible charcoal briquette," served with pork

Salt: Terra Spice's Hiwa Kai Hawaiian black lava salt. "It's my play on Southern barbecue. I dip cubes of white bread in squid ink, deep fry them, and add liquid nitrogen to make it look like smoke is coming off it. Finally, I sprinkle the black salt on all sides, which visually makes it appear more like an actual briquette—and intensifies the flavors."