When I got married, my wife only used salted butter her entire life. As a lifelong professional chef and baker, I have only used unsalted butter in all my cooking and baking because that is how I was trained. I also grew up only eating unsalted butter and really didn’t know it existed until I went to culinary school.
There have been times when I would try and show my wife different recipes to cook at home and reached for the butter not knowing it was salted and usually ended up failing miserably with each recipe because of the salt content. Everything always came out way too salty.
Even to this day I have told her time and time again to never buy salted butter because it is pointless. You can always add salt but you will never be able to take it away. Now I always check to make sure what the butter is in the fridge before I use it and I am still afraid to use salted butter at times.
But the question is, is it ok to use salted butter in baking or even cooking for that matter? Well the answer is simple and you probably already know what it is. But we will go over a butter questions just to give you a good idea what to buy next time you want to bake or cook something.
What is Salted Butter?
When it comes to the comparison of salted and unsalted butter there is really only one difference between the two types: salt. Both types of butter are created by churning cream until the butter is formed. The only difference is that salt is added to the final product when you have salted butter. Unsalted butter contains no salt and only has the flavor of sweet cream which is very subtle. Of course, unsalted butter will taste better because of the addition of salt.
Some people also say that salted butter will have a larger water content than unsalted butter which will change the way the end product comes out. This is hard to tell because there is no water in real butter but that doesn’t mean that it may take on some water from the factory to your fridge. If perhaps it has taken on more water then it could change the texture of the breads or cookies you intend to bake, but if at all it will still be minimal and hardly noticeable.
When Should You Use Salted Butter?
In all honesty, you should never use salted butter in baking or cooking. The reason is because you are not able to control the amount of salt in the recipe. You also do not know how much salt will be in the butter either. Different brands of butter will differ from one another with the amount of salt in each so there is really no way to tell how much actual salt is in each tablespoon of salted butter every time.
However, there is a limit to how much salt that will be placed in salted butter. Most brands rarely if ever tell you how much salt is in the butter; they produce but there is a generic rule of thumb. Generally, a ½ cup of salted butter will be equal to a ½ cup unsalted butter plus a ¼ teaspoon of salt. There will never be more than a ½ teaspoon of salt in ½ cup of butter though. So, if you plan on using salted butter in a recipe that calls for unsalted butter, just subtract the amount of salt in the butter from the recipe using this rule.
When it comes to using salted butter in other aspects, there is some wiggle room. But never use it in cooking because salt is usually added to taste in most recipes and it is just best to use unsalted butter. They cost the same amount of money so there is no harm in buying the other type.
But if this is true then why is there salted butter in the first place? Well that is because salt adds flavor to the butter. Salted butter is usually intended to be used after something has already been created. Like spreading butter on warm toast or a muffin in the morning. Or maybe meting the butter and pouring it over freshly popped popcorn.
There are many uses for it this way but when it comes to using butter in recipes, it is wise to just not use it. But there are people out there that still use salted butter in their recipes and it works for them but that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.
What is The Shelf Life of Butter?
One of the upsides to salted butter is that it will last substantially longer in the fridge than unsalted butter. Since salt is a preservative, salted butter will last about 5 months longer in the fridge than unsalted butter which usually lasts about 3 months.
But there is a way around this if you still want to use unsalted butter and still have a longer shelf life. Just freeze the butter once you get it home from the store.
I’m not saying you should buy a pound of butter and freeze it once you get it home. Then every time you need to use butter pull a little bit out at a time and place it back in the freezer. This is more for buying multiple pounds of butter at a time.
Once you need another, pull it out and allow it to thaw in the fridge for at least a day so that it will soften up. Cutting frozen butter is like cutting into a brick with a butter knife, it just doesn’t work.