Unless you cook often, you might not know there is both unsalted and salted butter. While the two can be interchangeable, some recipes require one butter type over the other for the best results. Understanding the difference between the two can make your baking and main dishes tasty.
Salted butter is cheaper due to the addition of salt. Salt, water, milk proteins, and butterfat make up salted butter, while only cream is in unsalted butter. The ingredients of salted butter cost less than cream alone, making the cost difference.
If you are a cook or merely interested in why there is a cost difference between salted and unsalted butter, keep reading. I will explain the different ingredients of each butter, specific uses of salted and unsalted butter, and what makes salted butter less costly than unsalted butter.
The Cost of Salted vs. Unsalted Butter
There are three main reasons why salted butter is cheaper than unsalted butter. As most cooks know, both butter types are readily available at the store, but store managers will tell you that they sell more unsalted butter. While salted butter is quite versatile, unsalted butter is not called for in recipes as often.
- The first reason is that the ingredients of salted butter are less costly than the cream only of unsalted butter.
- The second reason is unsalted butter has no preservatives, making it fresher and more prone to spoil.
What Is Unsalted Butter?
Unsalted butter is made entirely of cream with nothing added. Because the salt in salted butter acts as a mild preservative, unsalted butter is often a bit fresher than salted butter.
Unsalted butter has a creamy consistency and a slightly nutty flavor. While you can substitute salted butter for unsalted, you will need to pay attention to adding salt in the recipe and reduce the amount. In baking, you can’t substitute margarine or oil for unsalted butter since the butter is necessary for the right consistency of baked goods.
What Is Salted Butter?
Salted butter is a combination of butterfat, milk proteins, water, and salt. It has a salt content of up to two percent. Cooking with salted butter eliminates the need for added salt in many recipes.
As a general rule of thumb, when a recipe calls for butter (and does not specify which type), it means to use unsalted butter. Most baked goods recipes use unsalted butter to keep the cookies, pies, and cakes from being too salty.
When To Use Salted Butter in Recipes
Many cooks compare salted butter to all-purpose flour—you can use it in most recipes. This can be handy since most people have salted butter on hand and buy unsalted butter for specific recipes. Remember that using salted butter in cooking can require adjusting any salt added to the final product.
You can use salted butter to make delicious orange scones, peanut butter cookies, and classic yellow cake with buttercream frosting. Salted butter can bring the best flavor to dense, homemade bread, hearty oatmeal for breakfast, and sauteed vegetables.
Using Different Types of Salted Butters for Cooking
Different preparations of salted butter can bring a dramatic flavor shift to your recipes. Trying some new ways to use salted butter in cooking is fun and delicious. These kinds of butter are tasty for cooking vegetables, meats, and on pieces of bread.
Making Clarified Butter
Clarified butter can be called the secret weapon of cooking for its higher smoke point than regular salted butter. The butterfat is left when you boil away the solids and water, making it ideal for frying and sauteing.
Here are the steps to make clarified butter from salted butter:
- Use one stick of salted butter and melt over LOW heat.
- Simmer the butter without stirring.
- Watch the butter for foaming and bubbling, as this means the water and solids are cooking out.
- Observe the butter to see if the bubbling and foaming have stopped.
- Remove the butter from the heat and let sit for at least five minutes.
- Skim off any leftover foam with a spoon.
- Pour the butter into a cheesecloth placed over a large measuring cup.
- Store the clarified butter in the refrigerator for three to four weeks.
Making Browned Butter
Browned butter has a nutty flavor that adds a complex flavor to any dish. The taste is nutty and the caramel color looks enticing drizzled over mashed potatoes. Browned butter can also make chocolate chip cookies taste divine.
Here are the steps to make browned butter:
- Use one stick of salted butter.
- Locate a large frying pan.
- Add the butter to the pan.
- Melt over medium heat, stirring gently.
- Watch for frothing and bubbling as the butter melts.
- Look for the butter to turn a brown color (around five minutes). Pay close attention because the butter will burn quickly at this point.
- Cook the butter, stirring gently until it turns a beautiful golden brown color.
- Remove the pan from the heat immediately when it turns the brown color of an acorn.
- Use the brown butter for any recipe that calls for this butter type.
- Store the remaining butter in the refrigerator.
Making Compound Salted Butters
Compound salted butters combine add-ins like cranberries, fresh herbs, or garlic to flavor softened butter. You can use compound butters in any recipe, from topping a grilled steak with herb butter to spreading warm bread with cheesy garlic butter.
Here are the directions to make garlic compound butter:
- Soften one stick of salted butter.
- Mash with a fork in a bowl until smooth.
- Add two or three tablespoons (28 or 43 g) of goat or bleu cheese.
- Add two cloves of finely minced garlic.
- Add one teaspoon (5 ml) dijon mustard and one teaspoon (5 ml) Worcestershire sauce.
- Mix well and use right away.
- Place the mixture on saran wrap and roll into a log for a more festive shape.
- Chill until ready to use.
- Slice off butter as needed.
Salted butter is cheaper than unsalted butter due to the contents of salted butter that help it to last longer. In addition, salted butter is easier to use in both sweet and savory foods, making it an all-around helpful ingredient to have on hand.