When I was growing up we didn't use unsalted butter in the Darling household. It would have never occurred to MD to use anything but salted butter.
Then Julia Child came on the scene and woke up the American upper middle classes to the joys of French cooking, and people started to replace salted butter with unsalted. If you needed salt to flavor food—either when preparing it or eating it—the thought was that you could always add it. Besides, unsalted butter was so European, so it had to be better!
Well, that's fine, but that's not where it stopped . . .
Because in some culinary circles people lost sight of the fact that there are times when the use of salted butter is actually preferable to unsalted butter. And it became verboten to even consider using salted butter. For anything! Only cretins used salted butter!
Reggie, being a gullible chap, and with an admitted tendency to snobbery—whether it be social or culinary—got swept up in the anti-salted-butter hysteria, and he stopped buying or using salted butter at home. That's because he thought he wasn't supposed to like salted butter.
But he never could quite understand why it was that the toast he buttered in the morning just wasn't as yummy as he remembered it as being when he was a boy. Nor could he understand why the contents of the bread baskets that arrived in (most of) the restaurants he frequented tasted so delicious when he liberally spread said bread with the butter that accompanied it. He assumed it was because he was a bad, willpowerless person who couldn't stop eating bread (also vilified in certain circles these days—but that's a story for another day). Why was it so good, he wondered?
Because, Dear Reader, he has finally figured it out that it is far preferable to butter one's bread with salted butter—which is what most restaurants serve with bread (with the exception of Italian ones, which provide olive oil). If you haven't done so, Dear Reader, I suggest you try this little butter taste test: Buy a package of salted butter and one of unsalted butter, and see which tastes better on your morning toast, or English muffin, or whatever bread you choose to spread it on.
Not only is Reggie convinced that you will find the salted-buttered bread tastes better, but he believes you'll be surprised that the unsalted-buttered bread, in comparison, tastes as if it is has been coated with a mildly sweet, practically tasteless shortening spread.
Salted butter tastes better!
Now, I have a confession to make. Dear old Reggie didn't figure this out all on his very own. He owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Alex Hitz, who debunks the salted-versus-unsalted-butter myth in his highly entertaining, chock-full-of-mouth-watering-recipes cookbook My Beverly Hills Kitchen. Reading what Mr. Hitz writes on the matter was a Eureka! moment for Reggie:
"Always use salted butter . . . sneering purists will have you believe that if you use salted butter you might, perhaps, better control the salt in a dish by putting it in yourself. The result inevitably ends up tasteless. I have never yet tasted a dish whose salty taste came from salted butter."And that applies to when one butters one's bread, too!
I now exclusively use salted butter when I butter my morning toast, or when buttering other breakfast treats such as pancakes, french toast, or waffles (which I eat only very rarely). I do, though, still (mostly) use unsalted butter when I'm cooking. I may come around to Mr. Hitz's admonition on that score, but I'm not there . . . yet.
Tell me, Dear Reader, what kind of butter do you use?
Please note: While the photogenic packages of butter that illustrate this post do appear regularly in our kitchen at Darlington House, you would not be surprised also to find packages of Land O'Lakes butter in our refrigerator, should you chance to peek inside it.
All photographs by Boy Fenwick
Now I'm hungry! Must head out for some decent freshly baked, crusty bread and some raspberry or apricot preserves to enjoy with it. And thank you, thank you, thank you for daring to mention the upper middle class. In the ongoing and tedious discussion of the economic woes that, apparently, bedevil the now vast "middle class," everyone one else seems lost in the shuffle. Unless you count all of the venom and vitriol directed toward the so called one percent. Envy and resentment are such ugly things.ReplyDelete
Heinz-Ulrich von B.
I've always used salted butter for spreading and for most baking. I use unsalted butter when I am finishing a sauce or a risotto with butter.ReplyDelete
Always salted but I adore butter so I use different brands for different uses. I use president if I am having toast with a jam but I'd only toast with butter then I get the alpine Italian stuff. I can't taste unsalted butter at all.ReplyDelete
I feel so much better hearing that an authority, like Mr Hitz, agrees with me. I have never tasted anything was too salty because of that extra microgram of salt in the butter. I even use salted butter in my Paté Briseé.ReplyDelete
You are so right, Reggie. Unsalted is only used for baking due to the browning qualities of salted butter, which my be undesirable for many baking applications.ReplyDelete
Fresh, locally sourced unsalted butter is fabulous. Butter freezes well, so always keep some on hand!
There comes a time in one's life when one has to do what one feels like doing. At my age, I wear what I feel like wearing, eat what I feel like eating and see who I feel like seeing. In the case of butter, and as far as toast is concerned, if salted butter is what you prefer, go for it. I. on the other hand, prefer unsalted, specially with a baguette. And I will tell you why. For a long time I wondered why I always enjoyed the bread basket at good restaurants and when I traveled in Europe more than I did at home and finally realized it was their use of unsalted butter. The bread already had salt, why do you want more. The salted butter seemed to compete with the bread, while unsalted didn't. That's why I started using unsalted and I really prefer it that way. I had no idea it was Julia that started the whole thing and as you know she sits at the right hand of God as far as I am concerned.ReplyDelete
Unsalted butter is also better for cooking and I do agree that it helps control the salt in the dish. What difference does it make if the salt comes from the butter or separately. Salt is added during cooking, not at the end, and this is important so it cooks and blends with the rest of the ingredients. You wouldn't use salted flour so why salted butter. Salt is a separate ingredient. When recipes use ingredients which are naturally salted, like bacon, ham or salmon you have to take it in consideration. Imagine if you added salted butter.
Now dear Reggie I have listened to you on the ban of yellow mums and Retail Red Christmas decorations and have suffered an insipid looking black front door for the last three Christmases. But this year, I am rebelling and putting a big red bow on my wreath. Not inside, Retail Red is staying at the front door, but it is making a comeback, for sure. So you see, these things are a matter of taste. With a brick house that is far from the road and a black front door, never mind the dark greens of the foliage, pine cones etc the only color that works for me is red. Believe me, I've tried them all. At Darlington House it probably does not. So it is with salted butter.
Although I adore you and think you are the cat's meow and an arbiter of good taste, always and forever, when it comes to salted butter and Christmas wreaths, as the French say, chacun a son gout.
P.S. Been thinking about you all week and dreaming of fettucine with white truffles.
This is all very interesting, being a subject that very few have bothered to discuss. Julieta's point about sweet unsalted butter on good bread is well taken---but when it comes to cooking with butter, the salted version seems to me to contribute more flavor. Taking mashed potatoes as one example, unsalted butter supplies a very flat tasting result. Yet for baking, sugary butter icings, etc it is Un-salted butter all the way--at least in my corner of the kitchen.Delete
Sorry, Reggie, this time I have to disagree--with me, it's unsalted butter all the way. Nothing equals the fresh taste of good quality, sweet (i.e., unsalted) butter. The problem is that salt debases the flavor of butter when left in for a long time.ReplyDelete
If you like salt, you can sprinkle some on afterwards, an especially tempting prospect in these days of gourmet salts. Or, you can work some salt into sweet butter, as you would herbs, and use it within a few days. (Try this, then compare with bought salted butter.)
You are lucky to have so many butter options--good butter is very hard to find in Taiwan.
I'm with you! Food snobism is fine unless it makes the food taste bad:).ReplyDelete
Salted....salted and salted. Unsalted way to flatReplyDelete
The ITALIAN husband demands salted butter!ReplyDelete
A true Italian would NEVER put butter on his bread nor should it be served with pasta!Bread is a filler if you do not have enough food to go around!That is when it is served with the meal................just for your info!
Having been raised by a father who was a rather spectacular chef, and who would use nothing but salted butter in everything that required it (why add salt when cooking, if it's in the butter anyway), I readily agree with you. The most particularly delicious thing in my mind is any form of bread covered in a generous smear of good salted butter, 'Anchor' being the preference here. Even today, we enjoyed a lovely Spanish tapas in Bournemouth, that came with, yes, crusty bread and salted butter. Put the rather strange and bland tasting unsalted stuff in the bin I say!
Always, always salted butter on bread, english muffins, etc. Unsalted butter alone tastes cloying and even has a greasier texture - no matter the brand or quality.ReplyDelete
Another anonymous lurker here who has been flushed out by this very obvious statement of truth. Salted butter DOES taste better. At least it does to me. And of course salt-sweet combos are very in vogue these days (bacon and chocolate, etc.), so I cannot think why even foodies would use the unsalted.ReplyDelete
I grew up with unsalted Land o' Lakes butter in NYC, but upon moving to the rural west when I married about 20 years ago, where I found that unsalted butter was considerably more expensive, we switched to salted. Now we use it for almost everything except for buttercream frosting and my Viennese grandmother's recipe for Vanille Kipferl.ReplyDelete
That said, if I could find unsalted Plugra for the same price as the salted store brand here, I would buy it in a heartbeat!
Dear Reggie, I have now used unsalted butter for so many years, my tastebuds may explode not that you have me convinced to go back (at least try) the salted butter on my morning treats!ReplyDelete
The Arts by Karena
Oh I tried and tried to post a comment yesterday but I got the spinning wheel of death. Suffice to say I agree with Lindaraxa and Parnassus.ReplyDelete
Salt is added to further the shelf life of butter and increases the water content, so you get a better result when baking with fresh sweet butter. I prefer a good unsalted butter and then I can add my own choice of salt later.
Maybe it's because of the biscuits and corn bread we eat in the Deep South, but I prefer unsalted butter on bread. But I suppose it truly is a matter of taste.ReplyDelete
Well gentle readers, the mere fact one is willing to eat butter vs I can't believe it's not butter or that crock of ---- is a major accomplishment. Ha!ReplyDelete
I have to say - I always use salted, other than for baking. Always. I find I agree with Mr Hitz. And I'm a pretty good cook, if I do say so myself. Never let group opinion sway your tastes. If you like it, enjoy it.ReplyDelete
I also prefer salted butter, much more delicious!ReplyDelete
I use organic butter now and I find the unsalted goes "off" very very quickly, I'm going to start ordering the salted. Thank you for freeing me from this unsalted business!
I agree with lindaraxa on every point. I have cooked with unsalted butter since early 70s. I prefer its cleaner, fresher taste and the ability to control the salt in a dish. Unsalted Plugra is all you will find in my kitchen.ReplyDelete
I switched to unsalted over 30 years ago because it was reported then that unsalted butter (from the supermarket) was made from fresher cream. For the most part, went the argument, salt was used to hide the lack of freshness. Back then it wasn't at all snobbish -- plus it took a determined effort to find the packages of unsalted butter in the dairy case.ReplyDelete
I made butter a few summers ago with some delicious heavy cream that was left over from a dinner, and i added a pinch of salt to it. I think that it brings out some of the other flavours. For my everyday usage, I prefer Kerrygold butter, since it tastes like grass and cows.ReplyDelete
I am French and I always had and have salted butter. In my twenty years in the US, I ignore any recipe calling for unsalted butter and I have not felt the penalty. In the US Kerrygold is one my favorite as well but I will gladly buy any new england local salted butter too.ReplyDelete
I believe it should be a personal choice, I use both and love both depending on what I am cooking, eating, etc. Enjoy!!!ReplyDelete
Great post as usual! My better half broke me of the salted butter habit but i too prefer it on baked goods. I think I will reintroduce it to our kitchen.ReplyDelete
Salted...so freeing to say. Here in Charleston nothing better than salted butter on White Rice!ReplyDelete
Love you Reggie!
Good post. I am a big fan of Président butter, it's yummy. Thought from left field-- I remember growing up that my brother made butter in Boy Scouts (why, I have no idea. Is there a dairy badge?) and it tasted rich and marvelous, like nothing I have tasted since. I suppose that most butter in the U.S. these days is made from the milk of Holstein cows because they produce a lot of it, and can also be used for beef. But Jerseys and Guernseys produce much richer creamier milk, just not as much. Plus they are prettier. :) xo, NGReplyDelete
I'm a little late to the butter party, but I can highly recommend one salted butter that I find extraordinary. Glenfals Irish Creamery butter. It has an incredible grassy taste and is always spreadable even when first removed from the fridge. Outside of this particular one, I prefer unsalted butter.ReplyDelete
Now Reggie, let's change courses here. Can you give your readers some encouraging words on light bulbs.
Thank you for your comment. I must be on the lookout for Glenfals butter! Thank you, also, for suggesting a Reggie post on light bulbs. It is a brilliant suggestion, and a subject that I have decided views on...
Salt, sweet and fat are the holy trinity of cooking, and eating is no different. Salted butter always!ReplyDelete
Salted butter's where it's at.ReplyDelete
I will buy salted next time and do a taste test, although I pretty much know I'll prefer the salted on my morning toast! Loved the reference to Alex Hitz and the post about your stay at the Four Seasons Atlanta. Feeling very 7-shades-of-Kevin-Bacon; I live walking distance from the Four Seasons (in Ansley Park--did you have a chance to explore our pretty neighborhood while in town?), and Alex and I went to college together in Virginia (he was a couple of years ahead of me but we were both English majors and I recall riding in his vintage BMW to an English dept. outing on the Blue Ridge Parkway one beautiful fall afternoon).ReplyDelete
I agree - salted butter is much better. My mother told me that the reason one would ever use unsalted butter is so that when you're cooking you have more control over the exact amount of salt that is put in a recipe (I think this is especially true for baking). So, unless a recipe specifically calls for unsalted butter, I am a salted butter kind of girl!ReplyDelete