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Thread: Salted butter vs. unsalted butter

  1. #1
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    Question Salted butter vs. unsalted butter

    I've always wondered about this: What is the difference when a baking recipe calls for unsalted butter and then they add the salt back in. Can't I just use salted butter and not add the salt?

  2. #2
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    Salted butter isn't uniformly salted - some brands have a lot more than others and there's no way to tell. Salt acts as a preservative, so it is said that salted butter isn't as fresh.

    Using unsalted allows you to control the amount of salt in the dish instead of risking the possibility of your final product coming out too salty (or even not enough salt - if you omit the salt in a recipe because you choose to use a salted butter, but it's not very salted, your recipe could be affected).

    But it's not like the butter police are going to come and arrest you if you do it. So go ahead and try it and see what you think if you'd like. It's just that recipes are developed to try and give you the best outcome. It's just more controlled if you use unsalted and add your own salt.

  3. #3
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    ditto to above.

    question you must ask yourself is, "how much salt is in salted butter?" i'd think different brands, even different packages could be different.

    if you can try a few out and customize it to your taste, i don't see a problem but i'd rather keep unsalted on hand and throw in the amount of salt that I prefer!
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  4. #4
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    Ok, here's one for the other side! Yes, I do use unsalted butter for baking now. But, for many years I didn't know the difference and used salted butter for baking and cooking. Frankly, I can't tell the difference. I almost always have used the same brand of butter since I've been baking. Occasionally one of the stores I shop at will put their store brand of butter on sale and they only have salted. I use it just like I do the unsalted. Sometimes I leave out the salt altogether and sometimes just add a touch less. In the grand scheme of things, I wouldn't lose sleep over this!

  5. #5
    It's possible to run into trouble when baking bread if using salted butter. There is a ratio of the amount of salt to sugar in yeast bread recipes. Sugar encourages the yeast to activate, salt kills it. So, too much salt can result in flat loaves of bread. A small amount of salt in bread is a good thing as it enhances the flavor of the bread and can control the yeast activity. Not enough salt and the bread will over rise and collapse and you have a sunken loaf, too much and the loaf won't rise correctly and you have a brick.

    Plus, as mentioned, you have no control over how much salt there is in the butter so it can be tricky to know how much additional salt to add to a dish.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for your responses. Besides the salt control, I thought that there might be another reason. And you are right Ann1965 as I have been using the salted in the recipes that call for unsalted and I don't think that any of them turned out too salty. But I am sure that some recipes may need to be more precise with the salt issue.

  7. #7
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    While it's true that salt will kill yeast, it must have direct contact with the dissolved yeast. It's not likely to be a problem with most bread making though.
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by sneezles
    While it's true that salt will kill yeast, it must have direct contact with the dissolved yeast. It's not likely to be a problem with most bread making though.
    Ah, that is great to know. As I only knew that salt kills yeast, and not that salt in direct contact with the yeast kills it, I always erred on the side of caution and didn't use any salt added ingredients. Now I have a whole new set of experiments to run and see how salted butter (among other ingredients) will work in a recipe.
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  9. #9
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    re the comments about salt and bread - I once made a couple loaves of bread with - oops! - 2 Tbs instead of 2 tsp - it rose well, baked well, looked well, and ds said it was the best bread I ever made and said I should always add a Tbs per loaf in place of the tsp called for. That said it really was too salty but we ate it. Yeah for low blood pressure!
    I don't know about American butter but in Canada butter is generally salted at about 1.2% w/w - so a pound of butter (454 g) would have about 5 grams of salt - that's just less than a tsp per pound so there really is not much salt in salted butter; ie not a big deal if you don't have health issues wrt salt.
    Last edited by hAndyman; 11-08-2006 at 06:00 PM.
    Cheers! Andy

  10. #10
    Because salted butter is more popular than unsalted, sometimes unsalted is less fresh (lower turnover) than salted.

    I always use salted butter, and no-one complains.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by sparrowgrass
    Because salted butter is more popular than unsalted, sometimes unsalted is less fresh (lower turnover) than salted.

    I always use salted butter, and no-one complains.

    I think the exact opposite of this. To me if you use unsalted butter by the "use by" date it is fresher than salted butter. Salted butter can sit on the shelf longer because of the salt.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann1965
    Ok, here's one for the other side! Yes, I do use unsalted butter for baking now. But, for many years I didn't know the difference and used salted butter for baking and cooking. Frankly, I can't tell the difference.
    This is me too. My family always used salted butter, and so I did too. Eventually (maybe from this BB), I learned that you "should" use unsalted butter in baking. I started buying unsalted butter for baking, but sometimes bought too much or too little as my baking plans changed. Anyhow, I've never noticed a difference in taste using either one.

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