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Salted vs. Unsalted Butter: Key Differences in Cooking

Salted vs. Unsalted Butter: Key Differences in Cooking

Visit the supermarket's cold section, and you will find an assortment of dairy products. Among the shelves of probiotic drinks, cheese, and yogurt are blocks and tubs of butter. To the everyday cook, all these bars are the same. But a closer inspection tells a different story. One is a tale of unsalted butter and the other of the salted variety.

The big question is, what is the difference between unsalted and salted butter? And do these distinctions matter? Do you also know that there are other butter substitutes you can find in the market? Spoiler alert: mayo is one of them!

Read on to know which one to pick the next time you do your grocery shopping.

Butter: What Is It?

Butter is a dairy product made from churned cow's milk. The finished product is a solid substance that contains a combination of fat and protein. In the past, manufacturers add salt to preserve butter. But these days, mixing in salt is only done for taste.

Many people use butter as a spread, while some melt it for use as a condiment. Its fat content makes it an essential ingredient in baking, pan-frying, and sauce-making. Butter is a versatile pantry staple used in savory and sweet dishes.

Salted vs. Unsalted Butter

The main difference between the two types of butter is their salt content. Unsalted is all cream, while salted butter has salt in the recipe. Although, the amount of sodium added to each block varies for every manufacturer.

Salted butter has a five-month shelf life, while the unsalted variety lasts only three months. The good news about this? You can always expect the unsalted butter in supermarkets to be fresh.

But before grabbing a stick or bar, you should know which type to use in the recipe you're preparing.

When to Use Each Type of Butter?

Sometimes a recipe from a cookbook or a show doesn't specify which type of butter is needed. When faced with this situation, you shouldn't rely on guesswork for an answer. These are the things you need to know about salted and unsalted butter for cooking.

When to cook with salted butter

Salted butter is versatile and has countless uses in the kitchen. Because salt is an umami flavor, it boosts the overall taste of many dishes. Salted butter is perfect for sauteing veggies, whipping up sauces, or making roast chicken delicious and golden brown.

When to use unsalted butter for cooking

Baking is a precise method of cooking. Therefore, achieving the right texture and flavor relies heavily on exact measurements. Many recipes for baked goods call for unsalted butter. Its neutral and creamy taste makes it the perfect base to build on other flavors.

More importantly, recipes for baked goods already include salt, which acts as a flavoring and leavening agent. If you use salted butter for baking, you risk altering the final product's taste and consistency.

When the type of butter in a recipe is unspecified, your safest bet is to choose butter without salt.

What Alternatives to Use When You Don’t Have Butter?

Finding substitutes for butter is different for cooking and baking. Use margarine, fat, or grease as a salted butter substitute in cooking. As for unsalted butter, you can opt for any neutral oil.

When baking, staples like yogurt, olive oil, applesauce, avocados, and Lady's Choice Real Mayonnaise can take the place of butter. These ingredients work because most have similar fat content to the dairy spread. Using these replacements requires a trial-and-error process, especially when the original recipe does not mention alternatives. But generally, these ingredients are ideal for cakes, muffins, cookies, and brownies. 

Salted or unsalted butter is a fool-proof way to add indulgence to any food. Butter lends flavor, fat, and creaminess to many dishes. And who says there's something wrong with that? Pick the right kind, and you're bound to elevate food exponentially. Because in the words of Julia Child, "With enough butter, anything is good."

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