Salted vs Unsalted Butter

Did you know, that when a recipe states “butter” as an ingredient, it really means “unsalted butter.” WHY was this not explained to me earlier!? Bakers just assume that everyone knows this. You could be sabotaging your baking and not even know it! 

So what is the deal? Should you use salted or unsalted butter? Here is an easy guide to understanding the pros and cons of each.

 

Salted Butter:

Pros: tastes yummy, excellent for buttering savory items like warm corn on the cob and it is easy to find in the grocery store.

Cons: Every company is different and there is no “standard” amount of salt per stick of butter. So you don’t know exactly how much salt is in the butter, which makes it hard to calculate the impact of the salt in a given recipe.

 

Unsalted Butter:

Pros: Most recipes are written with unsalted butter in mind and ingredients reflect this. So if your recipe requires salt and you are using salted butter, then you are already starting with too much salt.  The pro to this is that it is much easier to control the amount of salt in your recipe if you start off by using unsalted butter and just add salt from there.

Cons: There are times when salted butter simply tastes better. For instance, when I make Chicken Marsala, I notice a distinct difference in the flavor of my sauce when I use unsalted butter instead of salted butter. In this case, I prefer using salted butter.

 

What to do if you only have salted butter on hand:

A general rule of thumb is to decrease the amount of salt your recipe calls for by 1/4 teaspoon for every 1/2 cup (that’s one stick) of butter. Of course, my recommendation is to use unsalted butter whenever possible, but at least now you have a handy guide to help you be the best baker you can be. 

 

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