Few items are more valuable in a pantry than quality salt. From bourbon smoked to chile spiked, here are six of the best from top American makers.

Soft Pretzel With Smoked Salt Recipe Here

Smoked Sea Salt // Bulls Bay Saltworks // McClellanville, SC

On every table, in every takeout bag, on every pantry shelf: shakers and packets, boxes and bags. Salt: ubiquitous and placeless. It’s everywhere, so it comes, it seems, from nowhere. But the funny thing about salt, is despite the industrial-scale machinations that dust it so liberally into our lives, it’s damn low-tech to make. One part seawater, two parts sun. Oh yeah, and the most important part — a person. At Bull’s Bay, that’s Rustin and Teresa Gooden, who wade out into the South Carolina seashore (a national wildlife refuge no less — the water’s filtered by delicious Bulls Bay oysters), to harvet seawater they then dry under the southern sun and smoke over oak chips. After all that work, these crystals deserve a proper setting: like a homemade artisanal pretzel.

BBQ Cauliflower Steaks With Smoked Salt Recipe Here

Summer Smoke // Laguna Salt Company // Laguna Beach, CA

The secret to steak is salt, and the secret to this salt is smoke. Made to taste like a summer bonfire, it’s cured over a mix of sweet and spicy woods, and adds a flame-slicked touch to anything from meat (make a quick rub with fresh-cracked pepper) to salad (sprinkle liberally), transforming the blandest to barbecued heights. Don’t believe us? Try cauliflower: slabs of the white-bread veggie turn downright steak-like when grilled. Just slice thick, drizzle with oil and salt, grill, covered, until nicely charred, and serve with your choice of sauce

Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt // Bourbon Barrel Foods // Louisville, KY

Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt is slow smoked in small batches by hand, using repurposed bourbon barrel staves. It’s rich, smoky flavor will upgrade anything from a burger to a pan of baked sweet potatoes.

Piri Piri Salt // The Chili Lab // Brooklyn, NY

Proper peppers should pack more than just heat — and no one knows that better than the Chili Lab, an iron-tongued group of adventurers who scour the Scoville scale for the world’s best, boldest sauces and salts. Swahili for pepper, piri piris have an herbacious, citrussy bite — thirty times as hot as jalapeños, but infinitely brighter and more nuanced. Give your grill some jungle vibes by tossing on a few salted pineapple slices, and serve diced with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

Blackened Chicken Tacos Recipe Here

Chile Lime Spice // Spiceology // Spokane, WA

It starts, of course, with spice. And when it comes to the best tacos, it’s never as simple as amping the Scovilles. The powders may seem basic — any spice rack has ’em, and any home cook can shake in an extra kick of cayenne — but the blend’s the thing, and the perfect mix is as sublimely intangible as that one, transcendent bite. The pros’ secret is out. This chef-owned company, long known for supplying the best in the biz, brings their expertly curated concoctions to the home skillet. Their Chile Lime blend is a taco-night favorite, with sweet-sour orange peel, lime zest, and a sprinkle of brown sugar to balance the heat. It’s perfect on grilled corn with butter, sprinkled over griddled chicken while it sears, or simply ringing a michelada beer glass.

Red Snapper Cocktail with Soul Dust Shrimp & Smokra Recipe Here

Soul Dust // Southern Soul BBQ // St. Simons Island, GA

Every state’s barbecue has its secret touch, from Kansas City’s sweet sauces to Texas’s slow-cooked brisket. Most, unfortunately, stay that way: tight-lipped pitmasters keep their tricks close to the vest. Not here. This gas-station-turned-grill is a mecca for Georgia’s famous dry-rubbed ‘cue, and lucky for you, happy to share. Their Soul Dust makes a perfect marinade, a lip-tingling replacement for the salt on your cocktail glass, or, if you’re crazy, both. Soak shrimp in olive oil and Soul Dust for twenty minutes and grill; then rim a glass with more Dust, fill with your favorite bloody mary, and garnish with shrimp.

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