Butter does not require an introduction. It’s most likely in some form in your refrigerator right now. What precisely is butter? It’s a fat emulsion with water scattered throughout. On a microscopic level, fresh milk or cream is simply small fat bubbles suspended in liquid. Each bubble is surrounded by protein membranes that prevent the fat from adhering together. When you agitate the liquid, however, the membranes are broken, and all the small pieces of fat separate and stay together.
There are many various types of butter, each of which plays a unique function in making a recipe the best it can be.
When you’re caught in the dairy area of the store trying to decide which butter to buy, being aware of some of the most common varieties of butter will help you. I’ve compiled a list of a few types of butter that you should get familiar with.
1. Unsalted Butter
Unsalted butter has a delicate sweetness that is ideal for baking. Because it isn’t salted, you get the pure taste and flavors of churned cream, allowing you to keep the flavors in your baking recipe under control.
This butter, sometimes known as “sweet cream butter,” is the most versatile. It will help you with every aspect of cooking, from baking to sautéing. It comprises at least 80% milk fat—the fatty particles in milk that are sorted away to form cream—and is made entirely of milk or cream (or sometimes both).
2. Salted Butter
For every 4 oz. of salted butter, around 1/4 teaspoon of salt is applied. Even though it appears to be a modest amount, it makes a significant change in flavor. The added salt brings out the flavors in your recipe while also keeping your butter fresher for longer.
3. Clarified Butter
Butter is a mixture of fat, water, and milk solids that forms an emulsion. When you slowly heat butter, it begins to separate into three components: white milk solids, foam (which is water evaporating), and bright yellow clarified butter fat. Clarified butter is pure fat that is free of milk solids and water, making it richer and more shelf-stable than regular butter.
It has a distinct toasted flavor and a higher smoke point, making it suitable for high-heat searing and roasting, as well as finishing foods. One well-known variety of clarified butter is ghee.
4. Sweet Cream Butter
Sweet cream butter, often known as pasteurized fresh cream, is prepared from just sweet cream. Some butter are created with cultured or sour cream, and their flavor is very different from sweet cream butter. Before buying sweet cream butter, double-check the label to see if it’s salted or unsalted, and be sure it’s the butter your recipe calls for.
5. Grass-Fed Butter
The milk or cream comes from grass-fed cows, much like regular butter. It takes on a yellower hue and a brighter, green flavor as a result of this. Furthermore, grass-fed butter is said to be far healthier than conventional butter, possibly equaling olive oil in terms of omega and fatty acids. The same basic guidelines apply to salted or unsalted grass-fed butter as they do to normal butter.
6. Whipped Butter
To make it less dense than regular butter, air or another gas, such as nitrogen, is added, so a little goes a long way with this variation. Because of the increased volume, there are fewer calories per tablespoon (typically half), and the texture is lighter. Whipped butter is best for spreading on toast and finishing meals, but not for baking or cooking.
7. European Style Butter
To reach 82 percent, European butter is churned for two minutes longer than American butter, and those two percentage points make a tremendous impact! European butter is not only easier to spread and creamer, but it is also richer and flavorful. It’s best used in pie crusts and pastries, where the butter flavor shines through.
The texture, color, and flavor of butter vary greatly depending on where the milk comes from throughout Europe. Climate, processing, and cow breeds can all have an impact on butter.
8. Plant-Based Butter
For people with dairy sensitivities or who follow a vegan diet, they are a game-changer. Plant-based butter, such as avocado, olive, or almond oil, has a buttery flavor and may be used in place of dairy butter in all of your favorite recipes. They come in both tubs and sticks, so you can bake and cook with them as well as spread it on toast or bagels.
9. American Butter
Butter in the United States is precisely what you think of when you think of butter: stick-shaped and available in both unsalted and salted forms. The USDA mandates that American-style butter have at least 80% butterfat, giving it a more neutral, gentler flavor than other butter variants.
American unsalted butter is great for baking, but American salted butter may be used in almost any dish because it enhances the flavor of whatever it’s put to.
10. Irish Butter
Irish butter, like other European kinds of butter, contains 82 percent butterfat. Kerrygold butter, a prominent Irish brand, is often regarded as a buttery pot of gold and with good cause.
The brilliant golden hue and rich flavor of Irish butter set it apart from other versions. What’s the secret? Those lovely green Irish fields! The grass is high in beta carotene, which is found in the milk produced by grass-fed cows. It is responsible for the butter’s rich color and flavor.
11. Goat Butter
Goat butter is similar to regular butter, but it is manufactured from goat milk rather than cow milk. Goat milk is lactose-intolerant-friendly, and it has a richer flavor that elevates cooking and enhances flavor in dishes.
12. Smen Butter
Smen is a fermented Moroccan butter that has been manufactured and consumed for ages in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines. Butter needed to be kept before refrigeration; therefore, a large amount of salt was added to melted and scraped butter, kneaded together, and stored in an airtight container.
To maintain optimum temperature stability, Smen is traditionally buried in the ground. This fermenting method produces a flavor and scent that is robust, peppery, and cheesy, making it ideal for cooking.
13. Amish Butter
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, as the saying goes. That’s why we enjoy old-fashioned Amish butter so much. Amish butter is traditionally created by churning cream with a high dairy fat content. It has a creamier texture than European and American butter due to the high butterfat level (about 84 percent).
But don’t worry, you won’t have to drive to Amish country today to get this butter. In its customary one- to two-pound log shape, Amish butter can also be found in most big-box supermarkets.
14. Compound Butter
Compound butter is made from ordinary butter that has been softened and then flavored with herbs, spices, and/or sweets. You’ll have a creamy spread with a lot of flavor that you can easily add to sauces, meats, and savory sides. You might even make a sweet compound butter to serve as a finishing touch on warm sweets.
15. Browned Butter
Browned butter is made by heating melted butter until the milk particles are toasty. The end product is an amber-brown color with a caramel, toasted, and nutty flavor that elevates baked items, enhances flavor profiles in dishes, and is simply the best when cooled, refrigerated, and spread on toast.
16. Spreadable Butter
This product, which is made up of ordinary butter and vegetable oil (as well as various flavorings and fillers), keeps its soft texture even after being refrigerated. It should not be used in baking or cooking.
17. Light Butter
Because it has less milk fat—40 percent at most—it has half the calories of regular butter. Water, lactic acid, and other fillers make up the rest. It should not be used in baking or cooking.
Best Butter for Baking
Unsalted butter is the best butter for baking. Any unsalted butter, whether European-style, sweet cream, grass-fed, cultured, organic, plant-based, Amish, or browned butter, is excellent for baking. Using unsalted butter instead of pre-salted butter allows you to adjust the taste and salt levels.
Best Butter for Cooking
Simply put, solid butter is the best butter for cooking. What is the more difficult answer? It all depends on what you’re preparing. There are many different varieties of butter with varied flavors, salt levels, and smoke points, and while these differences normally do not alter the flavor, or cooking application of your food, they can sometimes.
Does Butter Go Bad?
Only leave unsalted butter out at room temperature for up to six hours. At room temperature, salted butter will keep for a few days due to the additional salt. Unsalted butter will keep for about a month in the refrigerator, whereas salted butter will keep for a couple of months due to the preservation properties of salt. Butter, both unsalted and salted, will last about six months in the freezer. The butter’s oil might become rancid and even moldy once these dates have passed.
Anything may be mixed with butter to make something entirely new. To make the greatest garlic toast, mix minced garlic with butter and spread on bread. For one of the more pleasantly simple twists on a tried-and-true classic, combine rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano in butter and serve on top of a steak.