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Salted Butter Confession

I confess that I always use salted butter. I prefer salted butter for the table,and we go through so little butter I can't be bothered to purchase 2 kinds of butter. If the recipe calls for any salt at all, and unsalted butter, I simply reduce the added salt to compensate for having salted butter, usually at a rate of about 1/4 t. per stick of butter when I'm baking and going by measurement. With savory dishes, I always add salt to taste, so I don't worry about it. I generally tend to use start with less salt than recipes call for, and a few tablespoons of salted butter isn't going to rock the boat too badly. Anyone else a renegade about the current insistence on cooking with unsalted butter?

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  1. Nope only use unsalted but not a current thing, it is what my Mom used and grew up eating it...well that and I Cant Believe Its Not Butter, now that I got rid of the day I moved out! But when eating Crab legs, Lobster and Artichokes....has to be salted butter.

    1. We like unsalted, but I did pick up the bulk-store size pack of Salted butter once. I don't think anyone noticed but me. And we use minimal butter as a rule, unless my husband cooks and he thinks everything needs a lump in it. And he butters EACH individual pancake (the little darling!) which I find amusing as well as a tiny bit disgusting (ok, I find it REALLY nasty). I developed an unhealthy habit of cooking many things in both olive oil AND a small lump of butter, but I've toned it down.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Boccone Dolce

        is that strange to butter each individual pancake? How else do you keep that buttery flavor consistent in each bite?

        1. re: hyacinthgirl

          agree, every pancake must be buttered, thoroughly, allowed to melt into the pancake.. and the syrup should go on each pancake as well.

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            I poke holes in the top of mine to make sure the butter melts INTO the pancake and doesn't get wasted running off the sides!

          2. re: hyacinthgirl

            It's the obscene amount of butter he uses. We aren't frequent pancakers, so when he gets them, he goes for it!

            1. re: Boccone Dolce

              a proper pancake deserves to be treated to at least three pats of butter.

        2. "Current" insistence? It's pretty longstanding for baking.

          In US supermarkets, unsalted butter is generally fresher (it spoils faster, since salt is a preservative, and so it can't be kept on market shelves as long and thus it less likely to pick up off odors from the surrounding goods, et cet). Americans follow the Anglo-Irish preference for using uncultured (aka sweet) cream, which may be too bland for those who prefer the more complex flavor of, let's say, French-style butters.

          I think there are many who only buy unsalted butter and add salt to their taste (adding a nicely textured natural salt is a wonderful compensation for this minimal amount of effort).

          18 Replies
          1. re: Karl S

            Unsalted cultured butter for me. I'll actually leave some out at room temp so that it develops a tanginess akin to a ripe brie.

            1. re: mrbozo

              mrbozo, i saw your mention of this on a different thread and am quite intrigued. does this work for salted butters, too? i have to confess that i'm a salted butter fan, as well -- for everything, including baking. i run a fair amount and sweat, so i do love my sodium.

              1. re: cimui

                I don't believe this type of "aging" would work with uncultured or salted butter since it is the bacteria that are encouraged to do their thing.

            2. re: Karl S

              I do that. Buy unsalted butter and add salt if I need to. Good butter with some fleur de sel transforms bread and butter to a new level.

              1. re: Karl S

                "Current" -- I am showing my age, back in the 60's and 70's, you were lucky to find a baking recipe that called for butter at all, usually crisco or margarine was the default fat, and the few recipes that called for butter never specified, but everyone used salted butter back then. Guess I am showing my age!

                1. re: dkenworthy

                  My mother used butter and lard. But then, she and my father were new arrivals to this side of the pond.

                  1. re: dkenworthy

                    Agree with dk that everyone used salted butter in the 60's and 70's, but not that "you were lucky to find a baking recipe that called for butter at all." Pretty much all the butter back then was salted. A quick check of versions of Joy of Cooking and the 1975 edition, when listing butter as an ingredient, just specifies "butter." The next "new and Improved" Joy that came out in the 80's always specifies unsalted butter in baking recipes. I think unsalted butter just became chic in the 80's. I'm willing to bet it was a Martha Stewart thing....

                    So, if you are using an older recipe that just asks for butter, you should use salted.

                    By the way, my name is Clamscasino, and I only buy salted butter. Mr. Clam puts unsalted better in the "pay more, get less" category.

                    1. re: clamscasino

                      unsalted butter costs more in your area?
                      it's the same here, but i prefer the unsalted for taste reasons (and add natural sea salt to my own taste).

                      1. re: dinaofdoom

                        Yeah, it costs more - significantly more, actually. But I admit that I haven't looked lately. But I will.

                        1. re: clamscasino

                          that is so weird...
                          here in austin, when i buy unsalted butter at HEB (big local grocery chain) i could swear it's the same price...

                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                            I just checked online at several of my local supermarkets, and LOL salted/unsalted butter are both the same price, as are their store brands and Cabot brand. I've never heard of unsalted butters being significantly more expensive than salted.

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              I checked yesterday at the local grocery and, I was wrong, there was no difference....but when unsalted butter first hit the shelves, years ago, it was more expensive.

                              1. re: clamscasino

                                If theywere the same price here (Toronto), I would use more unsalted. But unsalted here is more expensive.

                                1. re: Sooeygun

                                  "But unsalted here is more expensive."
                                  I guess they have to pay someone NOT to put in the salt, hence the additional cost.

                                  1. re: Rmis32

                                    Salted butter is more expensive because they must use better ingredients and move it faster because it doesn't have the salt to cover up off-flavors and act as a preservative.

                                    1. re: Kelli2006

                                      I think you mean unsalted, and I don't exactly agree. I find it very hard to believe that any "brand name" butter does anything different in preparing and packaging their salted and unsalted butters other than add salt to the salted one. Granted, salted will keep longer so that may add to the price of the unsalted since there'd be more spoilage, but even that appears to be a limited regional thing these days. I can't recall seeing salted and unsalted of the same brand at different prices in the US in many years.

                                2. re: clamscasino

                                  Yes, when I first started cooking, unsalted butter was more expensive (and usually only came in half-pound packages). But now I think it's almost always the same price.

                                  As for "paying more, getting less" -- when you add salt, that means there's less butter in your pound of butter. Since salt costs less per pound than butter, you're getting less value when you buy salted butter. ;-)

                                  I think the original reason for the price discrepancy was that it was a "specialty" product and it sold more slowly/smaller volume, both of which make a product more expensive (especially since, as noted, unsalted butter spoils more quickly, and thus if it sells slowly, there's going to be more spoilage). Now that more people are buying unsalted butter, I think there's no reason for the differential, and it has for the most part disappeared.

                                  1. re: clamscasino

                                    Unsalted butter is actually *less* expensive from my primary grocery source (in NYC).

                    2. I am. I only buy one kind of salted butter and I use it for everything. I rarely bake, but when I do, I don't even make allowances for the extra salt in the butter like you do. I've never noticed a difference and no one's ever said anything about it...but then, I like salt.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: akq

                        I only use salted butter for cooking, and I have only rarely gone out of my way to purchase unsalted butter for baking. I adjust my recipes by simply using less salt when I add it later on to either season my food, or when it comes time to add the usual teaspoon of butter to the cookie dough I am mixing. I have never noticed a difference. I think it is because you just learn to adjust the seasoning to taste. We don't like using unsalted butter on bread, so it is highly likely to sit unused unless I have gone out of my way to buy it for a recipe and plan to use it all. We are as likely to use a high quality domestic or even European salted butter on bread as we are a grocery quality. It all depends on where I went shopping, and that might be Sam's or Costco if I have holiday cookies to bake. I have never noticed freshness issues, and butter is generally packaged well enough to prevent food odors from entering unopened packages and sticks. I also keep it in the top little drawer in the fridge, away from anything that might impart a bad flavor, like tuna salad (which is always in Tupperware anyway).

                        I realize that all of the television cooks and authors of cookbooks since time began have specified unsalted, but I can't be bothered with the double inventory because the unsalted goes to waste in my house. I think we just don't use enough butter to make a significant difference in the salt required for most recipes.

                      2. I definitely prefer salted.

                        1. Gosh, salted butter is my default for everything. Even when baking I hadn't ever thought to take into account the already existing sodium and adjust the added salt (whacking forehead with heel of hand)! I am a bit of a salt addict though and will notice if I accidentally buy unsalted butter after I grimace in the morning because my toast doesn't taste right. I *should* at least use unsalted in my baking - especially if I add the salt the recipie calls for. All these years, man.

                          1. Add me to the salted butter camp. When recipe calls for unsalted butter and salt I just cut back on the salt. I use cultured for the dishes where the butter makes a huge difference and the cheaper "regular" for things like baking.

                            1. The cultured butter from Vermont Butter & Cheese, which is about as good as butter gets in the US, is lightly salted, and is totally delicious. Yet when I end up cooking with it, the balance is a bit off, and it's not just a matter of adjusting the salt at the end. A decent unsalted butter - Land o' Lakes is just fine - almost always works better, and if you really go through so little of it, it freezes like a dream.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: condiment

                                I have to admit, I can't taste the difference in the end. I am curious as to what kind of food you are cooking that is so delicately flavored that you can taste the difference? It may just be that my food is spicier or has other more powerful flavors, but there is no appreciable difference in my food when it comes out. I am much more of a cook than a baker, but of those things I do bake, like butter cookies, I can't tell the difference in the finished product. Maybe I just don't have the taste buds to do it.

                                1. re: condiment

                                  Small problem with the Vermont butter. On their website, it's $4.50 for 8 oz., but the shipping is $62.00. I'm afraid i cannot see paying $66.50 for a half pound of butter. They are in Vermont. I am in California. Are they sending a traveling personal courier to my house with the butter in a velvet bag?

                                  1. re: RosePearl

                                    That's a big shipping cost. It is pretty available in California, though, at cheese stores, Surfas, and even Whole Foods.

                                2. I only buy unsalted butter, and if adding butter to veggies, or to dip crab, lobster, or shrimp in, I just add a little salt.

                                  1. Always salted. And when served unsalted butter I always reach for the saltshaker. Having grown up on salted butter there was never a possibility of changing.

                                    1. Always salted here too. However if I did a lot of baking (well, ANY baking - I don't bake) I would probably have both on hand.

                                      1. My mother always kept a butter dish w/ butter in the cupboard. Several years ago I had bought some unsalted butter and put a stick in my butter dish in our cupboard. We used it one day and thought something tasted odd. What was it? Tasted like blue cheese. Hmmmm. Sniff, sniff - EEK! It twas the butter!

                                        Unsalted butter will not keep in the cupboard - duh!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: lynnlato

                                          Mmmm, tangy goodness spread on fresh or toasted baguette.

                                        2. Once I made the switch to unsalted butter a few yrs ago, I never looked back. There is nothing like freshly baked bread w/a smear of unsalted butter, topped w/a sprinkle of good quality sea salt. I only have unsalted butter in the house.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: JaneRI

                                            See, this makes no sense to me. Why would you salt the butter? why not just use salted butter?

                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                              Unsalted butter gives you the option of making salted butter but salted butter doesn't give the option of making unsalted butter.

                                              Handy if you want the sweet taste of good butter and/or are watching your level of sodium intake.

                                              1. re: mrbozo

                                                And because salt acts as a preservative, salted butter tends to be older than sweet butter. So you generally have fresher sweet butter on the shelves.

                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  Yes, my grandmother, who grew up churning butter on the family's small dairy farm as a girl in Ireland, preferred sweet to salted butter (and she was a salt lover, I should add) and had the nose to tell whether and how good it was.

                                                  And, as a side note, Land O'Lakes stupidly diminished the gold standard of US butters a few years ago when it decided to cease wrapping its unsalted butter in foil....

                                              2. re: rockandroller1

                                                Better quality butter (fresher), better quality salt (good sea salt) makes for better overall taste. I can control how much salt.....and this might be a personal quirk, but I love that I get a bit of crunch to the salt, it hasn't all melted in by the time I'm eating the food. It began as a desire to make the best cookies possible at Christmas.....and to me that means buying the very best of every ingredient on the list, and taking the advice of all the best bakers/cooks (if Maida Heatter swears by unsalted butter, who am I to argue?)

                                            2. We're a two-butter household - I love Kerrygold salted for toast and melting on vegetables, my wife sticks with Kate's unsalted, which I will use for cooking.

                                              Beyond the taste (which is wonderful) Kerrygold also is more spreadable right from the fridge than any other butter I've ever tried, possibly because of a lower moisture content.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: BobB

                                                We do the two-butter thing, too - my husband likes the Kerrygold salted for his toast as well. I grew up on unsalted and that's what I like, on bread, veggies, whatever.

                                                There was a problem with this once - over the holidays I'd purchased a LOT of butter (for baking and such) and, in the early hours one morning, made a VERY buttery chocolate buttercream with salted butter by mistake. There was no other salt called for in the recipe, but that frosting was definitely salty. I couldn't bring myself to use it. Which was a terrible waste of perfectly good chocolate and butter, and a real heartbreak at 4 o'clock in the morning.

                                                Yeah, I realize that many would appreciate the addition of the salt to the chocolate, but this was for a birthday cake and I can guarantee that the recipient would not have been pleased.

                                                1. re: auburnselkie

                                                  Auburnselkie, same thing happened to me, but luckily not at 4AM! I too had to remake a batch of butter cream frosting. This is probably the only time I've ever noticed an issue using salted/unsalted. I like to follow all recipes exactly, so I will buy whatever type of butter is called for. I always keep unsalted butter in the freezer (they keep up to 4 months) just in case. For buttering toast or muffins I always prefer salted. If I'm out of salted butter for my toast I use the unsalted, I just add a bit of salt.

                                                  1. re: Axalady

                                                    I'm glad to hear it - not that it happened to you, but that you understand. Since I had no witnesses, the people to whom I told the story kept asking, "Are you sure it was really too salty?"
                                                    Yes, I certainly was!

                                                    1. re: auburnselkie

                                                      Happened to me as well. I like the Dirty Banana Cake from Food & Wine, it has a very rich buttercream. Made it once with salted butter and it was way too salty.

                                                      Buttercream is probably the only baking item I've noticed a huge difference between using salted or unsalted butter.

                                              2. I have always bought salted butter only. I don't bake.

                                                I have enjoyed reading this.

                                                1. I've always bought unsalted, since most recipes call for it. When I started cooking, I followed recipes to a T so to speak, and so just bought what was called for.

                                                  I don't eat butter on anything directly (toast, etc.). I can see how unsalted butter and a good sea salt would be better than just salted butter on bread.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                    "I can see how unsalted butter and a good sea salt would be better than just salted butter on bread."

                                                    Not necessarily. As any good cook knows, salt has different effects when added at different points in the cooking (or other food prep) process. Added (judiciously) during the making of a dish it enhances the essential flavors - in this case, that of butter. Added at the end, you taste the salt itself more distinctly. One may or may not prefer that, but it doesn't inherently make it better.

                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                      If you're talking theory instead of vs real life, well yeah. But I can vouch for the fact that it IS better.

                                                        1. re: JaneRI

                                                          I hope you're not trying to say that what you like, everyone likes. De gustibus non disputandum est.

                                                          But then, if that were truly observed, where would Chowhound be?

                                                    2. We're a two salt household. Usually Cabot's but sometimes, Plugra or Kate's. The packages are kept in the freezer and taken out one stick at a time as needed.
                                                      My mother used both also. She called the unsalted "sweet butter" and it was delicious schmeared on Italian bread fresh out of the oven..

                                                      1. I buy store brand unsalted butter and use it for everything.

                                                        1. I buy both, but I find that I use salted butter in a lot of baking applications (vanilla cakes, shortbreads) anyways because I prefer the taste. Which is weird. This thread is just making me want to bake dorie greenspan's world peace cookies, which are wonderful and chocolate-y and salty.

                                                          1. I'm the same as you; only buy salted butter (although I do have some unsalted sticks in the freezer for baking). I cut back on the amount of salt used in a recipe if using salted butter.

                                                            1. I buy unsalted because I prefer it. But the OP has the salt content correct: Alice Medrich, esteemed author of baking books, writes that American salted butter has about 1/4 teaspoon per stick.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                I use both. Unsalted for baking and cooking and salted for toast .

                                                              2. I grew up on margarine, and only had butter at my grandparent's. At the time, I really didn't like it. When the benefits of butter vs. margarine came out (and I didn't live with my folks), I started buying butter.

                                                                I'm not sure when I started looking for unsalted only, but that's what I buy exclusively now, much to the chagrin of my SO, who salts everything before tasting it anyway. I just smile and nod at his requests for salted butter and proceed to buy unsalted.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: tracylee

                                                                  My experience of butter vs. margarine is the opposite of tracylee's. I first had margarine (out of a tub and spreadable!) in the 60's and went home to tell my mother to start getting this stuff because it didn't tear up your toast. She replied that we only used butter in our house and she wouldn't buy something "that's not really food." :-)

                                                                  Now I keep both kinds of butter in the fridge and/or freezer. I started looking for unsalted butter in high school after I'd made friends with a gal straight from Italy and eating at their house. They couldn't stomach salted butter and had the same view of salted butter as my mother had on margarine - "not really food."

                                                                  I guess a lot of it depends on what we grew up on. For me I prefer salted in almost everything but sometimes use unsalted in baking and always on fresh bread straight out of the oven. I'm also a salt fiend, though.

                                                                2. I think on toast, salted butter lacks that special kick. And I totally agree. I buy whatever is cheap/on offer.

                                                                  In the UK, butter has gone up quite a bit; from about 70p to £1+ at one point. I think it's sliding back down now though

                                                                  *edit* just checked, and if you can get it for £1, you're doing well. Many brands are up to £1.20+

                                                                  Now I know shortages occur, but how the fuck has butter become scarcer? I'm a bit angry about that. I'll make a topic.

                                                                  1. I ALWAYS cook with salted butter. I think it tastes better. I think many sweets and desserts are underseasoned, if anything, and I usually salt to taste anything I'm cooking. We use salted butter on toast, and that's what we have. Nobody has ever said "Whoa, these cookies are too salty."

                                                                    I do like occasional sweet butter on a good chewy country bread, or with radishes, but I usually sprinkle salt on it.


                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                      Usually use salted butter on bread except the magic of sweet butter on a salted bagel or a salty biscuit.

                                                                      1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                        Salted butter tastes different than unsalted butter + salt, so it's not just about the total amount of salt in a dish. I use unsalted butter for most things, because I like the sweet creaminess of it, but for some things salted butter is essential. If I have a recipe that calls for margerine I almost always use salted butter -- to my taste it's much closer in flavor profile to margerine.

                                                                        I actually bought some margerine the other day to use in vegan baking -- first time I've bought margerine in decades.

                                                                        1. dkenworthy: you and me both! i can't deal with keeping two kinds of butter around. and i like salt.

                                                                          1. Now that I am 65 I use butter with salt and when a recipe calls for 35% cream I just say "what the heck"and use it.
                                                                            Having said that, I do try to eat responsibly and healthily. Indugences are just THAT and not something to be done every day.One must not be too hung up on the little details .Live a little.

                                                                            1. I always use salted too, plus the regular amount of salt the recipe requires, if not more if I find it too bland. Blood pressure's been fine so far lolll :P

                                                                              1. Margarine upbringing also. As I got older, I bought whipped butter for my dinner rolls.

                                                                                I am a salt fiend, but I did switch to unsalted butter to allow for others' personal preferences. cuz the salt shaker is right there.

                                                                                Unless I am following a specific recipe, I usually don't add salt in the cooking process. So yes, I salt before tasting because if it is my own cooking there is no salt added yet. And steaks and fries just soak in the salt and can take another shake.

                                                                                I could go off on the tangent of my weird likes/dislikes of butter + food combos. Not on toast or seafood or my steak. Yes on corn, popcorn, rice and pasta and untoasted bread. Lol and it is either butter or jam on the bread, not both.

                                                                                1. Well I do use it a lot in baking and cooking and I eat bread as is or dipped in sauce and soup so I have absolutely no use for salted butter. think the insistence is good, you don't know how much salt is in the salted butter =/.

                                                                                  1. Very difficult to find unsalted butter so salted butter for me too. We occassionally have butter shortages here, so for thos ewho have freezer space, you'll find packets stored away for an emergency.

                                                                                    One of my favourite childhood memories was coming home after a long school day, getting fresh crusty bread that has just come out of the oven (my dad was a baker), smothering this in salted butter that would melt on touching the bread. Adding fresh honey or sweet jam preserves (homemade) and drinking a glass of ice cold milk that had been delivered to us in the morning only an hour after milking.

                                                                                    1. I always use salty for NOLA style foods. Sweet for everthing else, especially baking.