If you think that butter makes everything better, and want to know about different types of butter available, you are in the right place. From all-butter pie crust to finishing your favorite pan sauce with a lump of butter to make it look glossy and taste delicious, butter is an essential item to all areas of cooking and baking.
However, these days, the butter section of a grocery store can be confusing. There are several varieties available, including cultured butter, American butter, European butter, ghee, vegan, etc. And yet most of the recipes you see on the TV or YouTube call for either salted or unsalted butter. Here’s a handy guide to different types of butter:
Unsalted vs. Salted
Most recipes call for unsalted butter because this way you can control the amount of salt in your dishes. Salted butter makes an excellent option for breadstuffs, especially English muffins or morning toast. You can keep your salted butter in a butter bell, which is designed to keep your butter soft at room temperature so you can easily spread it on your toasts in the morning.
Commercial butter in the U.S must contain at least 80 percent of butterfat, which is considered sweet cream butter. It is made from fresh pasteurized milk, not cultured or fermented milk. So, basically salted and unsalted are made the same way with only one difference, which is “salt”.
Unlike other types of butter that are made from fresh pasteurized milk, cultured butter comes from fermented cream – and this is because aged cream brings out some really tangy and sometimes mild cheesiness to the butter. This type of butter is available in logs or rolls. Cultured butter makes a great option to serve on a cheese platter or your dinner table with sliced bread to accompany your meal.
Most cultured butter nowadays isn’t made naturally like the old days. Butter manufacturers add bacteria instead of letting the cream ferment naturally. However, the end result is not just the same but also has a more buttery taste. You can use cultured butter just like your regular butter in terms of cooking, but again, there are salted and unsalted varieties that you should bear in mind before buying cultured butter.
In short, cultured butter is arguably the most “real” of all the butters due to its finest quality and the fact that it has been used for hundreds of years. If you want to add an extra tang to your dish, you should opt for cultured butter.
Goat and Sheep Butter
As the name suggests, this type of butter comes from goat’s or sheep’s milk. This butter is considered to be the first butters ever made from either goat or sheep because both sheep and goat were domesticated about 1000 years before cows. However, goat or sheep butter doesn’t taste the same as the butter you are used to. It tastes a combination of mild goat cheese and butter and is a great option for people who are lactose intolerant.
Moreover, just like there are several benefits of sheep milk, eating sheep or goat butter also seems to share those advantages.
European butter is known for its higher fat content, which also makes an excellent choice for using as a spread on your morning toasts. Due to being imported, European butter costs higher than your usual American butter. So, you should get this type of butter only for special occasions.
This is European-style butter made in America, and not actually imported from Europe. It is American butter that has a higher fat content just like European butter. Consider this: it is just like European butter but with a lower price tag. It can be used for almost all your butter needs in cooking and baking. It is available in salted and unsalted and comes in both rectangular slabs and solid bricks to choose from.
Due to European-style butter’s higher fat content, it is an ideal choice in baking, including biscuits, puff pastry, rough puff, pie crust, or for other things like caramel.
True to its name, American butter is one of the most common types of butter used in the American household. The type of butter you will normally find in your fridge is American butter. It can fulfil both your cooking and baking needs. It is available in half and full sticks, making measuring easy for you when following a certain recipe. You can use American butter to make cookies, cakes, and brownies it doesn’t just add fat but also a buttery flavoring to your baked items.
Clarified Butter or Ghee
Clarified butter or ghee has a much higher smoke point compared to other types of butter. This is because milk solids have been strained off to make ghee, which allows it to have a slightly nuttier flavor. Plus, it doesn’t burn like regular butter.
You can use clarified butter or ghee in various savory applications, such as blooming spices, sautéing, or searing meats. Ghee is a staple of Pakistani and Indian cookery, and what makes it best is that it’s shelf-stable. Also, you can easily make it yourself using regular butter.
To make clarified butter from regular butter at home, you need to heat it until the water evaporates and the milk and liquid are separated from the fat. This way, milk solids are left behind on the surface, and the remaining is your ghee or clarified butter.
As the name suggests, this type of butter isn’t made from cream or milk. It comes from a blend of vegetable oils, vinegar, plant-based milk, salt, and some other ingredients are added for flavor and color, such as turmeric and nutritional yeast.
You might not want to use vegan butter unless you have a dairy allergy or are lactose intolerant. This is because vegan butter isn’t a better substitute for regular butter due to being still high in calories and saturated fat. You can make vegan butter at home, and find it at most grocery stores these days.
However, before buying vegan butter from the supermarket, make sure to read its label and see there are no hydrogenated oils added in it. If you see hydrogenated oils written on its label, you should leave it and look for vegan butter by some other brand that doesn’t have hydrogenated oils.
This one is just regular butter but is made from milk or cream that comes from grass-fed cows only. This gives grass-fed butter a yellower hue and a slightly grassy flavor. Also, most people say that this type of butter is much healthier than regular butter, and this is true because the cows that make this butter aren’t fed animal feeds with pesticides in it.
The best thing is that you can also get grass-fed butter in salted or unsalted.
These were some of the most popular types of butter used worldwide. Now, following is the list of some things that you should not confuse with butter:
Margarine is a spread that was created in the 1800s as a substitute for butter in baking and cooking. While the original margarine was made from animal fats like beef tallow, these days it comes from refined vegetable oils, emulsifiers, salt, and sometimes milk. Because vegetable oil is liquid at room temperature and is low in saturated fat, margarine manufacturers use complicated processes to make margarine thick and have a butter-like consistency.
The most controversial process of making margarine is through hydrogenation, which has been proven to increase the risk of diabetes and coronary artery diseases when consumed. Thanks to the FDA, they have mandated the margarine manufacturers not to produce trans-fat during food processing. Now, margarine producers have little or no hydrogenated oils in their products.
Although there is no 100% healthful option when it comes to choosing margarine or butter, what we recommend is using regular butter instead of margarine just to be on the safe side as it doesn’t have trans-fatty acids.
This fluffy spread is common in the UK, where people use it as a spread on scones. Clotted cream is not very shelf-stable, hence the reason why it has not gained much traction around the globe. However, you can make your own at home easily as long as you have high-quality, high-fat cream available.
Peanut butter and other nut and seed butter aren’t made by churning like sweet cream butter. Nonetheless, they are smooth, have an amazing taste, and make a great spread on toasts. Peanut butter has a lot of proteins, fiber, and other essential nutrients required by your body. The best thing about peanut butter (and other nut and seed butters) is that they have a delicious, nutty flavor – which regular butter doesn’t.