Pink salt typically refers to either Himalayan pink salt or curing salt, also known as Prague powder. Himalayan pink salt is used for cooking, in brine and in bath salts. Curing salt is used to preserve foods and to pickle meat as part of the sausage-making process.
Himalayan pink salt is known for its bright pink coloring and unique flavor. The salt's pink coloring is caused by a mixture of chemicals and carotenoid-producing bacteria that are unique to the region where it is produced. It sometimes has a reddish hue, and some crystals may be off-white or clear. The difference between Himalayan pink salt and regular table salt is that pink salt is mined in Peru and the Himalayas rather than created using an evaporation process. The salt is typically kept in large grains that provide both texture and flavor to dishes. Blocks of the salt are also used as serving dishes, and the blocks are sometimes slowly heated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and used to cook food.
Curing salt is known by a variety of names, including tinted curing mixture, tinted cure and pink salt. Unlike naturally occurring Himalayan pink salt, pink curing salt is dyed to achieve its coloring. The curing salt is dyed so that it blends better with meat and to differentiate it from regular table salt. There are two types of curing salt, Prague powder #1 and Prague powder #2. Both types contain a mixture of sodium nitrite and table salt. Prague powder #1 contains 6 percent sodium nitrite and 94 percent table salt, while Prague powder #2 contains sodium nitrate in addition to the other ingredients. The sodium nitrate gradually breaks down over time and converts into sodium nitrite. Both sodium nitrate and nitrite inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and preserve the color of cured meats, such as hot dogs and corned beef.