Butter for Baking: Which Kind Should You Use?


Our magazine, Sift, is filled with stunning photography and delicious recipes. But it’s also a great educational resource for bakers. From time to time, we pick out a reader’s question from Sift to feature here in our blog — like this one from our Spring issue:

Q: It seems to me the dairy aisle is getting more complicated by the day. When your recipes call for butter, what kind do you mean? European? Cultured? Whipped? Salted? Does it make any difference? – Cis Campbell, Denver, CO

In today’s world of ever-increasing choices, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when choosing a seemingly simple ingredient like butter. The grocery store shelves are crowded with different brands and varieties, yet most recipes call for simply “butter.” Choosing butter for baking can quickly become a conundrum.

If you ask any of our test kitchen bakers, they’ll tell you that baking is all about specificity: how much and what kind of ingredients you use determine the texture, flavor, and appearance of your baked goods. So what do we mean, exactly, when our recipes call for “butter”?

At King Arthur Flour, we use grade AA unsalted butter for baking

That means it’s 18% water, at least 80% butterfat, and 1% to 2% milk solids.

Why grade AA? It’s the most buttery in flavor of all three grades: AA, A, and B. It has a light, fresh flavor and smooth texture — a perfect butter for baking and using at the table.

Our recipes are developed using this type of butter, so if you’d like to replicate the same delicious results at home, we recommend using grade AA unsalted butter, too.

We use 1-pound blocks of Cabot butter in the test kitchen, but you can use whatever brand your local grocery store stocks. There’s a myriad of butter possibilities that await in the supermarket.

Take a peek at the labels next time you’re browsing the dairy aisle. You might be surprised at all the tempting varieties you come across when trying to choose the best butter for baking.

European-style

European-style butters have less water and are higher in fat, ranging from 82% to 86% butterfat. If used in a recipe not calling for it specifically, European-style butter can create a greasy, sometimes drier result than grade AA butter.

We decided to bake up two batches of our shortbread recipe using grade AA and a European-style butter to see if there was any difference in how “leaky” they were.

Butter for Baking via @kingarthurflour

Both shortbreads were left to sit on craft paper for two hours after coming out of the oven. The size of the grease stains says it all — the higher fat content of the European-style butter caused a greasier, sandier texture in the end.

Don’t write off European-style butter just yet, though. Some pastry chefs swear by it for making croissants. They think it makes their laminated dough more workable at colder temperatures, and also makes a richer pastry.

But there are also those who argue that just a little bit more water in butter can be a good thing. Water turns into steam in the oven, which helps create lovely layers in croissants, and a flaky texture in scones and biscuits.

We wondered if the water content would create a visible difference in the texture of scones. To find out, we baked our scones two ways, one version with European-style butter and one with grade AA.

Butter for Baking via @kingarthurflour

The European-style scone had more of a cakey texture, while the grade AA scone had that classic craggy, layered look. It also rose nicely, where the European-style scone looked slightly sad and slumped.

Butter for Baking via @kingarthurflour

If you ask me, I’d say save the European-style butter for spreading on a slice of chewy baguette at the table to really experience its velvety consistency.

Or if you’re determined to bake with this luxurious ingredient, try using slightly less of it (start with 3/4 of the amount called for), and chilling your dough before baking.

Whipped

Next up is whipped butter, another kind that’s more suited to being used at the table rather than in your baking.

Whipped butter is designed to be more spreadable, so it’s aerated with a special type of gas. It also contains additives like stabilizers or vegetable oil to keep it from oxidizing or going bad.

These qualities make it tricky to bake with, because 1/2 cup of whipped butter weighs notably less than a 1/2 cup of grade AA butter.

Butter for Baking via @kingarthurflour

Even though it looks full, the half-cup measure on the left didn’t quite weigh a full 4 ounces. Just another great example of why baking with a scale is important for accurate results — if I had just scooped out the butter and added it to my recipe without weighing, I would have been 1/8 oz. short.

You’d need to use about 2X as much whipped butter to equal the amount of grade AA butter, and there’s no guarantee that the texture or flavor would be the same. So best to save whipped butter for spreading on your toast and biscuits.

Cultured

Speaking of flavor, cultured butter is my favorite when it comes to taste. It’s slightly tangier than traditional butter and has a super creamy mouth-feel. Sounds romantic, right?

Well, here’s the science: Cultured butter is inoculated with live bacteria that release lactic acid, creating its zippy taste.

Butter for Baking via @kingarthurflour

There are many companies that make cultured butter — Organic Valley and Vermont Creamery are often found in my fridge. (Vermont Creamery even sells its cultured butter in a cute little basket, adding to the appeal!)

Although cultured butter is undoubtedly delicious, it’s not the best butter for baking. Instead, slather it onto warm baked goods as they come out of the oven. You’ll be thanking the bacteria for all the delicious work they do!

Salted

My love for salt dominates almost all other flavor cravings at times. But when choosing butter for baking, I always use unsalted, and we recommend you do, too.

Salt acts as a preservative and masks any potentially funky flavors, so salted butter often sits on grocery store shelves longer than unsalted does. To ensure you’re using fresh butter, choose unsalted.

Another plus: you’re able to control the amount of salt in your baked goods when you bake with unsalted butter. You determine the ultimate flavor. Using unsalted butter is a win-win.

Hint: If you’re like me and love a salty kick in your sweet treats, increase the salt just a bit by heaping your measuring spoons rather than leveling them off.

Butter for Baking via @kingarthurflour

But if you find yourself stranded in a kitchen with only salted butter, it’ll work in a pinch. Most brands add about 1/4 teaspoon salt per 1/2 cup stick, so adjust your recipe accordingly.

Let’s return to Cis in Colorado and the initial butter quandary. Does the kind of butter make any difference in baking?

A: It definitely makes a difference! All butter is not created equal when it comes to baking.

Butter for Baking via @kingarthurflour

As we like to say in my family, “There are no bad options.” Butter is one of the creamiest, most delicious ingredients out there, and by using butter in baking you’re already on the right track.

You’ll likely experience differences in the flavor and texture of your baked goods if you use something other than grade AA unsalted butter, but you’re welcome to do a bit of experimenting until you find your favorite butter for baking.

Beyond butter

Now some of you might already be thinking beyond butter — what about margarine? Or shortening? Check out our blog post on Cookie chemistry to see what effect these ingredients can have on your baked goods. (There’s even a part two for those of you that really want to delve into the subject.)

What about using coconut oil? Or even vegan butter? We’ve got you covered there, too. Check out my fellow blogger Alyssa’s post, Substituting fats in gluten-free baking. Even if you’re a gluten lover, you can learn something.

Let’s do something with all this butter knowledge and bake! What are your favorite buttery recipes to bake? Please share them in the comments below.

Thanks to photographer Nic Doak for taking the pictures in this butter-filled blog; and to Sift editor Susan Reid for talking butter with me as often as I asked.

Kye Ameden
About

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always had a love of food, farms, and family. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became an employee-owner at King Arthur Flour and is a proud member of the Digital Engagement Team.

comments

  1. Lorraine Fina Stevenski

    Which butter is better in my baking? I do experiment with all the butters on the market shelf and find that I do like Cabot butter too for the best results. European butter like President and KerryGold tend to make my cookies spread more and do not produce as good a crumb in my cakes. But European butter spread on my toast is the best in taste for me.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      We’ve found the best better for baking to be unsalted, grade AA butter. We like to use Cabot, but you can use whatever brand your local grocery store stocks. Happy buttery baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Judith Rice

      I totally agree.I LOVE Cabot butter.for everything….,and I use nothing but King Arthur flour….and have talked a lot of my friends into changing over and they all love it.Who would rather eat bleached flour.?Not I.:)

  2. Jared

    I tend to agree with using the American style butter. However, I enjoy the European in biscuits with lots of baking powder added for rise. My favorite formulation is from “Huckleberry” cookbook. Most other things are to rich for me with the European. I do keep European in a butter bell jar for spreading.

    The best butter I have found was from my local dairy. It has around 86% fat and had the tangy cultured flavor. It was like $8 for a pound, while not unattainable not something I can keep around all the time.

    Reply
    1. AJ Hubeny

      Prior to this cookie baking season I always used Cabot unsalted. This year only the salted is in my grocery store. I tried he new higher fat land o lakes European style and my cookies came out all flat and grainy. I should have read about butters before baking! I thought the “premium” butter would give “premium results” which it definitely did not! Tried again with an American butter but brand name since unsalted Cabot wasn’t available😟 My cookies have turned out better again, but I am going to go elsewhere till I find Cabot unsalted again! It seems that was the choice yielding my best baked goods to date.

    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      That’s a great question! And the answer is yes, all brands of grade AA butter bear a shield-shaped label that marks them as “AA.” The brands you’re probably most familiar with- Land o’ Lakes, Cabot, Organic Valley- are all grade AA. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Sarah

      I was shocked to find Country Crock listed below as AA grade butter.
      Country Crock is not pure butter. They make margarine and ‘spreadable butter’ which is mixed with canola oil.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re right–thanks for pointing this out, Sarah. The comment has been corrected to reflect this. You sure know your butter! Kye@KAF

  3. Bonnie

    I’m a baker, and I bake goods all the time. This is a VERY GOOD subject for me. I have used grade AA, grade AA organic butter, cultured pasteurized organic butter, and cultured organic butter as well. They all have been unsalted, of course. I use salted, and whipped butters for my compound spreads, for example,homemade garlic spreads. However, I did find that the grade AA organic butter made my baked goods very dry and not enough butter flavor. Now, I only use the organic cultured pasteurized butter because it works the best in my kitchen. I just wished it wasn’t so expensive. I highly agree with this article.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      Thanks for the positive feedback, Bonnie and we’re glad to hear you’re passionate about baking with butter too! You bring up a great point about using whipped, salted butter for homemade compounds. All types of butter seem to have their time and place to shine. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. Amy

    I have not been able to find Cabot butter in my grocery stores here in South Western Pennsylvania. Has anyone tried Land O’Lakes (this is what I find most around here) or any other brands? I tend to buy the grocery store brand but now that I’m baking more & using higher quality ingredients, I would also like to use a high quality butter. Thanks for your help! Happy baking everyone!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Amy, I’ve always liked Land o’ Lakes butter; we find it to be a high-quality product, and I’m sure it would be excellent in your baking. And happy baking to you, too! PJH

    2. Christopher Smith

      I have used Land-O-Lakes in the past but to tell the truth, the store brand (I shop at Shaw’s and Hannefords) are just as good when I bake.

    3. Angie

      I use Giant/Peapod brand and it’s just as good as Land O’ Lakes in my opinion, but less expensive. Both are rated AA. I use premium ingredients where they count but I haven’t seen a big difference in these butters.

  5. Sue Hamilton

    Kye, I appreciate this lesson. I always equated cultured butter with European style butter. Now I know better. Were you in the kitchen whipping up delicious treats served at Snow Walkers?

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      Whipping up treats, most definitely! These shortbreads and scones were courtesy of our test kitchen and therefore served to our lucky employee-owners in the break room. Thanks for reading! Kye@KAF

  6. Dawn

    Great article! The only time I use salted butter in baking is when making traditional shortbread. Using salted butter and omitting the salt from the recipe prevents those surprise little bursts of undissolved salt granules.

    Reply
  7. Rachel

    I often make faux puff pastry and have found that the higher butter-fat content of European butter works better in this application than regular American butter.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s interesting, Rachel. We’ve found that the little bit of water that is in grade AA butter helps create steam in the oven and makes the layers puff more than a European-style butter. Perhaps you’ve found just the right high-fat butter to make the pastry both rich AND flaky. Nice! Kye@KAF

  8. Judi Wilson

    When I make a very simple cookie like shortbread or spritz, I love grade AA unsalted. It’s a bit harder to find Cabot butter out here in CA (tho the cheese is around a lot– longer shelf life perhaps?) I use Land o’lakes and Trader Joes. Thanks for the clarifying info on European and cultured. Never heard of the cultured butter before. Sounds like something fun to try.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We think you’ll love the tangy flavor of cultured butter if you give it a try. It elevates simple toast to a delicious, flavorful experience. If you come across it in the store, go for it! Kye@KAF

  9. Carol Ann

    What determines the colour of the butter? Some are very yellow and others are almost white. Maybe it depends on what the cows are eating perhaps?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Some brands add artificial color to their butter to make them appear more yellow than they really are, but the color of unmodified butter is determined by a cows diet. Pasture-raised cows that eat most grass, hay, and silage will produce butter that is more yellow because of the carotene in their diet. Cows that eat grains, cereals, and corn tend to produce butter that is more white in appearance. It reminds us that butter has agricultural origins. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  10. Barb Schukt

    Adding a curveball to the questions: what if I want to use/eat butter from grass fed cows? Which butter then, that would still meet the AA standard? (I do not believe Cabot Creamery, which sources from many dairies, is grass fed). There are health reasons for my question- milk, butter, cream, yogurt, cheese, from grass fed cows is inherently healthier for you.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re welcome to use grass-fed butter both for baking and using at the table if you can find it in your area. There are some brands (like Organic Valley and Kerrygold) that make butter from mostly grass-fed cows. If you’re looking for 100% grass-fed butter, you may need to check your local co-op or specialty food store. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  11. C-Marie

    We love Irish Butter which comes in one pound blocks. It makes the best Birthday Cake frosting and is great on bread and toast!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We bet the frosting is luxuriously smooth and velvety! What a great idea! Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We use Cabot butter in our test kitchen because we like to support our fellow Vermont-based B Corps. However, you can use whatever brand of grade AA unsalted butter your local grocery store stocks. Land O’ Lakes is just fine if you choose their grade AA, unsalted variety. Kye@KAF

  12. JoyceB

    I love to bake. I always use Grade AA Butter, but l never “taste” it in my finished product. I do taste the butter in other bakers cakes. If creaming for a pound cake, l always beat the butter until smooth then slowly add sugar while still mixing. This process usually takes about eight minutes. The batter always looks and smells “right” so it must be my beating times. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Joyce, creaming butter and sugar together should only take about 2-3 minutes max. We have a helpful video on our website here that illustrates how to properly do this. Check it out here. I think that will help! Kye@KAF

    2. EL

      Yes, but don’t you use a mechanical (KitchenAid) beater to do this? Not everyone has them and it takes longer to beat the butter and sugar together properly when mixing by hand.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      EL,
      Creaming butter should only take about 2-3 minutes when using any kind of electric mixer — albeit a handheld mixer may need a bit more time than a stand mixer, but not much. We don’t recommend creaming butter and sugar together by hand alone; you need the high speed of a mixer to properly beat the sugar into the butter to create the necessary pockets of air that become the foundation of your baked good. I hope that clarifies. Kye@KAF

  13. Sue

    As a former buyer for a major supermarket chain in the midwest, I question your statement that “salted butter often sits on grocery store shelves longer than unsalted does”. Salted butter outsells unsalted by a wide margin which leads to faster turnover. The only way to check freshness at the store is to look for sell by or use by dates on the package. Even a sale price can work both ways … markdown for a slow seller or a special brought in because the manufacturer has a large (fresh!) supply.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your insight with us, Sue. It’s always interesting to hear from people who see the other side of the supply chain in supermarkets. You make a great point about checking the best by dates on packages to make sure you’re using fresh ingredients. Appreciate your thoughts! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Clarified butter really does have quite a delicious flavor, doesn’t it Dawn? Browned butter is another favorite of ours! Happy butter baking! Kye@KAF

  14. Ms. Kyle Z. Bell

    I am a bona fide amateur at baking, so this post is merely passing on info.

    We attended an interview with Christina Tosi, chef, founder, and owner of Momofuku Milk Bar. She was asked about butter and she replied that she swears by Plugra butter. I’ve compared Plugra to Kerrygold and prefer Plugra. Sadly, the only Cabot products available here in NOVA is it’s shrink wrapped pepper cheese. I can get Organic Valley milk.

    Availability does have a major influence I what any of us use. (The people from whom I used to get leaf lard have lost their USDA certification.)

    Again, as a pure amateur, I am not supporting one butter over another, just passing on info. Happy baking!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You lose the delicious flavor of cultured butter when you bake with it, plus it tends to have variable water content in it. So it’s best to save for toast, biscuits, and waffles… anything that will allow you to experience the tangy, yummy flavor. Kye@KAF

  15. Carla in Kansas

    After reading this, I immediately went to my fridge to see what I have. Found 5 (!) pounds of butter. All of it bearing the Grade AA shield and unsalted – we went to that when my husband was put on a salt-restricted diet, and I find that I like the flavor, although it doesn’t QUITE taste like the unsalted we used to get in Europe. Still don’t know why the difference? Theirs was very unique and so good! Anyway, I found that I did have a pound of Organic Valley Cultured, so I grabbed a Sharpie and wrote “Not for cooking – eat only!” all over the outside so I wouldn’t make a mistake. I’m on my way to the grocery store now to try to find some nice fresh bread, and will have the cultured butter on it for a taste-test to educate my palate some more! Thanks for this very informative article today.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      5 pounds of butter, you’ve got a stocked supply! The European-style butter available in grocery stores here may have a slightly different flavor than true European butter because of a difference in the animals’ diets and the processing techniques that are used to make the butter. My favorite European-style butter is Lurpak- it has quite a delicious, creamy flavor. It’s great to hear you’re using this article to create a set of “butter rules” for yourself in the kitchen that will help you get the most out of each kind of butter. I think you’re going to love the tangy flavor of cultured butter once you try it. Happy buttery baking! Kye@KAF

  16. Shalryn

    Very interesting, but did you know that the brand of butter matters as well? I live in Canada, so our brands are not the same as yours, but I know from three years in California that brands matter as much in the USA as they do north of the 49th. For USA butter, Tillamook was my go-to. In Canada, the brand I use depends on what I’m planning to do with it. Some are better for bakery-style goods, while others are better for roasting. One makes decent pie crusts but they are not very flaky, while others make the flakiest, best-tasting pie crust ever, but the crust sticks to everything except itself and doesn’t hold together. All of the butters are the same type (one pound, unsalted, creamery butter), but they definitely do not all act the same. I keep ingredient notes, so I can keep track of which butter is best for which purpose. Finding out is a matter of doing and experimenting.

    Reply
  17. Eddyswife

    I’ve used a lot of unsalted AA butters for baking. So far in my area, Los Angeles, Traders Joe’s unsalted organic is the best. Land ‘o Lakes runs a close second. I don’t think Cabot is sold this far west!

    Reply
  18. John the 3rd

    European butter in a pie crust recipe is disastrous. The crust was greasy and the bottom of my oven a smoking mess. Put it ON stuff, not IN them!

    Reply
  19. Carleen

    Great article! I’m an Australian who lived in the US & ive just had my ‘aha moment’ about why my cookies & pastry never work out too well between the two countries when I cross recipes and ingredients. Soooo what to do if I want to make an American recipe when I only have Australian butter to choose from? Can I do math & decrease the amount of butter by weight to get the correct amount of fat and then add extra water or maybe milk by weight? It’s so frustrating when you use great ingredients, and take the time to make really nice things from scratch and they turn out so-so. But at least I’ve now realised why my baking is so unpredictably inconsistent as I regularly use recipes from both countries. Thanks, Carleen

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      We’re glad to hear this article caused you to have some helpful insights about why your baking hasn’t turned out as expected in the past. You may need to do a bit of research to figure out what the water content of the butter you’re used to baking with is, so we can compare it to what’s available in stores here. Once you gather this information, feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call. We can come up with some strategies of how to adjust your recipes. It will likely take a bit of experimenting to get it right, but it will be delicious experimenting at that. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  20. Connie Menard

    Regardless of which real butter any of you great bakers use, I, as a proud American Dairy Farmer want to say a great big Thank You!!! I bake a lot and only use real butter. Thank you for supporting us and buying REAL dairy products.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We should be giving you the thanks for making such delicious products! Thanks for reading and happy butter baking! Kye@KAF

  21. Lorraine

    I bake an all butter crust pie I usually use plugra or European style butter. Last time I was out so I used sweet cream butter. The crust literally shrunk in the pan due to what I found to be too much water in the sweet cream butter. I’ll stick with the European style unless anyone has some feedback

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The shrinking crust may also have been due to the amount of rolling and manipulating the crust went through. When the crust is worked, the gluten is activated and therefore causes the crust to tighten and shrink. Be sure you allow the crust to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before baking so the gluten relaxes. This, along with using your favorite kind of butter, should help. Kye@KAF

  22. Will Francis

    Great information and discussion about butter grades. To learn more about the USDA butter grading program, please see more information here: https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/butter-grades-and-standards
    and more generally for other dairy products, here: https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/dairy-official-quality-shields

    By looking for the USDA Grade Shield, bakers can connect with America’s dairy farmers and be assured of high quality dairy products. Enjoy!

    Reply
  23. carmen rodriguez

    Just wanted to let you know that this information regarding butter was so helpful…Had one question, I noticed that the food scales that you use are by “SALTER” could you do a segment on “food scales” and what to look for when buying one… so confusing for the starter baker…which one do you recommend. Thanking you

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Carmen, we’re so glad you found this helpful! Thanks also for your suggestion to do a feature on food scales. We know it can get confusing with so many options out there. We currently carry five different scales on our site: http://bit.ly/1HRwNKU, all of which we highly recommend. Which you choose will depend on what you’re looking for in a scale. Looking to weigh out large amounts of ingredients? The KD-7000 Digital Scale or the Extra-High Capacity Scale will do the trick. More concerned with measuring small amounts precisely? The Mini-Precision Scale’s the one for you. Looking for a scale with the built in capacity to convert between volume and weight? Try the Volume and Weight Scale. Looking for an affordable, utilitarian option? We like the Essential Digital Scale. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

  24. Geri Cicero

    I am butter nut. I always stock on on both salted and unsalted AA butter when it is on sale and store in the freezer. The price of butter has quickly escalated over the past few years. It can range from $2.99 on sale to $7.00 a pound.

    Reply
  25. Evan

    The suggestion to use only 3/4 as much European butter seems really, really odd. Let’s say the recipe calls for 100g of butter. With typical AA American butter, that’s 80% * 100g = 80g of butterfat. Reducing to 3/4 and using European style butter, that’s at most 86% * 75g = 64.5g of butterfat. That’s a full 20% less!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Evan,
      We’ve found that the recommended amount of European-style butter varies based on what you’re baking. If you’re making something like shortbread, where butter makes up a large volume of the recipe, you might need to use the full amount. However, if you’re melting butter to make a streusel topping for instance, we found that about 3/4 of the amount created just the right mouth-feel. The suggestion to start with less European-style butter was meant more as an anecdotal reference rather than a hard and fast rule — apologies if this didn’t come across. We hope you’re able to find the right butter and the right ratio that works for you! Kye@KAF

  26. Jeané

    I have used unsalted kerrygold in a variety of recipes with no difference, but I usually use regular AA unsalted. Never really thought about the differences in butter, but I find it fascinating.

    Reply
  27. Jon

    Thank you for this article. You did not address proper storage of your butter, though. Butter tends to pick up a lot of off flavors if stored in the refrigerator for too long. It is best to store your butter in the freezer until needed. I’ve also found that Land-O-Lakes butter wrappers tend to seal out those off flavors better than most brands wrapped in parchment, including Cabot. But if your butter is fresh and will be used quickly (and your fridge is clean), it probably doesn’t matter too much. Just something to keep in mind.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      We appreciate you sharing your thoughts Jon and bringing butter storage into the discussion. The scope of this blog was more about which butter to choose for baking, but we certainly agree that in order to have great tasting baked goods, your butter should be stored well. No one wants butter that tastes like all the leftovers in your fridge! Agreed. Kye@KAF

  28. Carol

    Is there a difference between butters that are sold cheaply at off brand stores? I’m thinking of the percentage of water? Does the amount of water increase with cheaper butters?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Carol,
      I’ve come across a few studies that reported notably different moisture contents among brands of butter. The differences can be as wide as 12.5% to almost 17%. So the answer is yes, brands can vary, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that less expensive brands have more water. You’ll need to do a little bit of research about the specific kind (and brand) of butter you’re interested in. You can also poll our knowledge on the Hotline by calling 855-871-BAKE(2253) if you have something you’d like to try. I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  29. Deb

    I didn’t see Challenge butter mentioned at all which here on the west coast is one of my all time go to butters for baking…especially things like short bread when the flavor of the butter is so important.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      Hi Deb,
      Thanks for bringing this up! One of our bakers who is originally from the West Coast shared that Tillamook, Rose Valley, and Challenge are all respected brands, all great for baking. Organic Valley too! She also mentioned the numerous smaller creameries that make small-batch butter available in some local co-ops, although these might be best enjoyed at the table instead of used in your baking. Thanks for writing in! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      There’s quite a bit of controversy over what makes Amish butter authentic. Some people think that real Amish butter can only come from cows that are pasture-raised and grass-fed, and that the butter must be handmade and processed right there on the farm. This butter is known for being gloriously yellow and flavorful. Some brands are taking this into consideration and selling Amish Country Roll Butter. This usually just means that the butter was rolled into its packaging by hand, but is not likely all that different from the other butters on the shelves. Bottom line, if you find a butter that pleases your taste buds and works well for your recipes, stick with it. But if you’d like to use what we test and bake with, use a regular grade AA unsalted butter. I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  30. alexdarc

    I prefer European Butters for making pie crust. It makes the super easy to roll out, and the flavor is wonderful.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’ve had very good luck freezing butter for longer term storage! The trick is to make sure it’s wrapped up nice and airtight — think plastic wrap or foil and a ziplock bag. Butter packaging is usually pretty porous, and you want to keep it from taking on that lovely fridge flavor. Mollie@KAF

  31. Angie

    Thank you for this – I’ve often wondered if I should be putting my more expensive butter into my baked goods. I’m glad to hear that I’ve been doing it right 🙂 I’ll save the President cultured butter for melting into a delicious roll, croissant, piece of toast…not that I like breads at all 😉

    Reply
  32. Jennine Quiring

    Thank you for this article on butter. I will admit I am(was) a sort of butter snob thinking the European butter must be best. I enter about 20 to 25 baked items a year at the California State fair. I am looking forward to more blue ribbons with the switch.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Sure, Helen; understand that you’ll lose that buttery flavor, and the fat content of the bread will be higher due to vegetable oil being 100% fat, while butter isn’t. Also, since oil is liquid, your dough will probably be stickier to knead. I’d suggest you cut back the oil by about 20% compared to butter, to counter both of these. So if the recipe calls for, say, 5 tablespoons butter, use 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) vegetable oil. Good luck – PJH

    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      Carmen, while cultured butter is delicious, it tends to have a unique flavor that’s not always welcome in all recipes. Consider your favorite pumpkin bread or chocolate chip cookies; the zippy tangy might seem out of place. It also tends to be more expensive than Grade AA butter, so we like to save it for putting on top of baked goods when we’ll be sure to enjoy the flavor to the fullest. Kye@KAF

  33. JoAnn

    I tried European butter in my xmas butter cookies. I did not like the flavor at all. I thought it would be better since it was more expensive. I am sticking to land o lakes from now on !!!!

    Reply
  34. Mitchell

    I used kerrygold unsalted butter in my cheese straw recipe. It made them flat! If I cut back and use less than the whole brick would it work??

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Mitchell, you can try cutting back on the amount of butter you use to make the dough, but your cheese straws will inevitably be less flaky with this kind of butter (European-style). The small amount of water that’s in Grade AA butter helps make the layers in pastries like these. You might want to save your Kerrygold for toast and get some butter for baking! Kye@KAF

  35. Janice

    What is the difference baking with butter, shortening and butter shortening? Have friend says not to use butter. She says cookies doesn’t rise with butter.

    Reply
  36. Monica

    I have discovered recently that “more expensive” doesn’t necessarily mean “better” when it comes to butter. I found this out the hard way while melting butter in my microwave. Every time I tried to melt Hotel Bar butter or Breakstone butter (both among the more expensive brands), they would spatter all over the microwave, while this did not happen with the store brand (Shop Rite). Lo and behold! The Shop Rite butter is clearly marked with the Grade AA shield, while the other two expensive brands are not. The only A A butters in my super market are Land O’ Lakes and the store’s own brand! Obviously the non-AA brands have considerably more water in them. Sam’s Club’s own brand of butter is also Grade AA, so I’ve been using Shop Rite and Sam’s for all my baking unless there’s a great sale on Land O’ Lakes, and they all work equally well, and taste good too. I only keep a couple of sticks of butter in the fridge at a time and store the rest in the freezer-usually three or four pounds worth. I NEVER want to run out of butter. Too much baking to do!

    Reply
  37. Carole

    I always use regular AA butter with good results, but lately results are poor for both baked items and savory ones. It almost seems as though the butter is made with oil. Baked goods are flat, some other items are swimming in oily liquid. A neighbor has noticed the same thing, and we’re wondering what the manufacturer could be doing to change the butter. I started with all fresh ingredients, but I am really disappointed.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re surprised to hear that, Carole. You might consider trying a different brand to see if it’s a problem you’re experiencing with just one particular kind of butter. Using an organic butter might also ensure you get the fresh, creamy taste you’re looking for. Also be sure to check the best by dates on the package to ensure the butter is fresh! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We love home-made butter, Miyoko! We just wouldn’t recommend it for baking since you’d have little way of judging the actual water vs. fat content. Plus, it’s so delicious that we’d prefer to reserve it for use when the flavor can really be savored, as on toast. Mollie@KAF

  38. Sophie

    Oh man, this makes so much sense. I used Kerrygold butter to make my signature nutella cupcakes, a recipe I’ve made and even sold a million times and it turned out dry. I thought premium butter would translate into premium taste. It did smell wonderful while mixing. Then I realised the last time I used President butter it also made my cake rather dry. Now, I know to reserve it for eating.

    I wonder, would adding more milk to the recipe help to offset the dryness?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Sophie, it sounds like a light bulb went off for you! Baking conundrum solved. You’re more than welcome to try adding a bit of additional milk next time to see if that makes your cakes more moist, but we think you’ll find that surprisingly, using Grade AA butter is key here. If you do any comparisons, we hope you let us know which version you prefer. Kye@KAF

  39. Barbara Whitehead

    The hint about salted butter staying on the shelf longer I find amusing. Probably because I live in the South, in any case the salted butter sells much faster than unsalted. If the ‘good stuff’ goes on sale, the shelf for salted butter will be empty quickly while the unsalted supply lags far behind. Literally everyone uses salted butter (and everything else I think).

    Reply
  40. Modeane Collins

    what about using lard and what adjustment do I need to make when subbing for butter or shortening? I’m talking about my home rendered lard, not store bought.
    thanks

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      Hi Modeane, lard is 100% fat, whereas butter has some liquid and milk solids in it as well. This means that your baked goods might be slightly more dry and possibly a bit more tender/crumbly if you replace the butter 1-for-1 with lard. You might be interested to read this article on using different fats and liquids in biscuits, which has a full section about lard. It tends to work best in savory recipes, and you might consider using slightly less lard than the recipe calls for and also adding a few tablespoons of butter. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  41. Nancy Robinson

    I found the blog and comments on the best butter to use in baking most interesting and helpful. However, I have long been wanting to know if when a recipe calls for just butter and doesn’t designate salted or unsalted, whether to assume it is salted butter and adjust the salt in the recipe accordingly when using unsalted butter or vice versa?

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden , post author

      Hi Nancy, if the recipe doesn’t specify, you can assume that the butter should be unsalted. This is quite standard across baking resources, as most bakers are eager to add their own salt and control the final flavor in your baked goods. Kye@KAF

  42. Bob

    I worked at Walmart for a while after I retired. I could scan an item and find out where it was made. At that time the Great Value butter was made by Cabot. Same butter, cheaper price

    Reply
  43. Hartsky

    What happened to Crisco…it’s half and half and doesn’t make flakey pie crusts any more…Don’t they make real Crisco like I had in the past…

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It’s true that sometimes brands reformulate their products as manufacturers evolve, which happened with Crisco in 2007 when they eliminated trans fats from their products. If you aren’t achieving the same flaky texture you once were with Crisco, you might consider using it in conjunction with another fat like butter, lard, or coconut oil to see how you like the results. Each fat has unique flavors and textural qualities that it imparts, so you may want to do some experimenting and see what combination your taste buds enjoy best. Good luck! Kye@KAF

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