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Salted or Unsalted: Which Butter Should I Use When?

When it comes to baking and cooking, do you know the difference between salted and unsalted butter? Our Test Kitchen experts explain the difference between the two and recommend when you should use each. Take it from the butter experts.

Our Test Kitchen experts have developed and tested hundreds of recipes using butter, so you better believe they know a thing or two about when to use what type of butter and why – after all, they are the butter experts.

 

What’s the Main Difference Between Salted Butter and Unsalted Butter?

Both salted and unsalted butters are made of the very same Grade AA quality butter, but salted butter has salt added to it— that’s it! Both salted butter and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably in any recipe, but if the recipe calls specifically for unsalted butter, it’s probably because the recipe has been tested with it and it’s the preferred butter for that particular recipe.

 

There are a few reasons why you may want to choose one over the other, so here’s where you’ll want to pay attention:

When to Use Unsalted Butter

Unsalted butter gives you complete control of the overall flavor of your recipe. This is especially important in certain baked goods where the pure, sweet cream flavor of butter is key (butter cookies or pound cakes). As it pertains to cooking, unsalted butter lets the real, natural flavor of your foods come through. Have you ever noticed that some recipes call for using unsalted butter and then to add salt? Without the added salt in the unsalted butter, the pure sweet cream taste comes through and you can add the exact amount of salt you want in the recipe.

When to Use Salted Butter

Salted butter is all-purpose. It’s perfect for spreading on bread, topping veggies and pasta and using in recipes where you’re not looking to have so much control over the amount of salt in a recipe. Maybe the salted butter will even add a little something special! Try adding a pat of salted butter to your morning bowl of oatmeal…it really takes it from an ordinary boring breakfast to a delicious treat. After all, a teaspoon of butter only has 4 grams of fat, and it adds great flavor. Be sure to see our Test Kitchen’s favorite salted butter recipes for inspiration!

 

Can I freeze butter?

Freezing stick butter will not alter taste or texture. To maintain freshness, butter is best frozen in its original carton and in an airtight, resealable freezer food bag or wrapped tightly in aluminum foil. It can be frozen for four months from the time of purchase.  Once the butter has been thawed, it should be used within 30 days.

 

Can I substitute unsalted for salted butter in a recipe?

Salted and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably. Unsalted butter has all the benefits of salted butter without the added salt, it gives the cook control of the overall salt addition in a recipe.

 

How do I measure butter?

2 cups = 4 full sticks = 1 pound

1 cup = 2 full sticks = ½ pound

½ cup = 1 full stick = ¼ pound

1/3 cup = 5 1/3 Tablespoons

¼ cup = ½ full stick = 4 Tablespoons

 

How do I soften butter for baking?

Properly softened butter is recommended when baking to deliver the best baking results. Here are three ways to soften butter.

  • Let stand at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
  • Cut the butter into small chunks and let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Small chunks soften more quickly.
  • Place butter stick in resealable plastic bag or between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper and use a rolling pin or meat pounder to flatten. As the butter is being flatten it will warm to room temperature.

We do not recommend softening the butter in the microwave for use in baking. Microwaving the butter often leaves a cool exterior to the butter and a molten interior. Melted butter if used in baking will affect the texture of your finished baked good.

How do I soften butter for spreading?

Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. If you choose to soften butter in the microwave use the defrost setting (30% power). Check sticks of butter every 5 seconds so that they do not over-soften or melt.

Is it safe to keep my butter on the kitchen counter so it is always soft?

We recommend that you follow the “keep refrigerated” directions printed on the butter packaging. This follows USDA and FDA guidelines that state most dairy products should be stored in refrigerated conditions. We also recommend butter be used by the date stamped on the packaging.

 

My recipe calls for cup butter. How much is that?

⅓ cup butter is equal to 5 ⅓ tablespoons.

 

Once I open the butter package, how should I store the butter sticks?

Once opened, refrigerate butter in its original package in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door. To further protect stick butter, store in a resealable plastic food bag. For further protection, store butter away from foods with strong odors, such as onions, garlic, or fresh fruit.

 

The butter I was softening for cookie dough melted. What should I do?

If butter is accidentally melted while softening it for baking, we recommend using it for another purpose such as sautéing, or to toss with cooked vegetables or pasta. The physical properties of butter change when melted, which prevents butter from being mixed properly with the sugar and flour in the cookie dough.

 

What does the date on the package mean?

For best quality, we recommend using your products by the expiration date marked on the package.

 

What is the best way to cook with butter?

It’s best to cook over medium heat to allow butter to caramelize & perfectly brown to enhance natural flavors of the food you are cooking. High heat will burn the milk solids and produce a bitter flavor.

 

Why should I use butter for cooking?

The pure, sweet cream taste of butter complements and enhances the flavor in your favorite dishes. Butter provides a smooth and creamy texture that is especially important in sauces.