Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Storing and handling

To preserve butter's flavor and freshness, refrigerate opened butter in a covered dish in the butter compartment. Unopened, wrapped salted butter can be stored in the refrigerator for as long as 2 months. Butter can be frozen in its original wrapper for several months. Unsalted butter is best kept frozen until ready to use. For longer freezer storage, wrap in foil or plastic. Unsalted butter can be kept frozen for about 5 months at 0 degrees. Salted butter can be frozen for about 6 to 9 months.

What are the equivalencies for these measurements?

2 cups = 4 sticks = 1 pound = 32 tablespoons

1 cup = 2 sticks = 1/2 pound = 16 tablespoons

1/2 cup = 1 stick = 1/4 pound = 8 tablespoons

1/4 cup = 1/2 stick = 1/8 pound = 4 tablespoons

How to make whipped butter

Cream slightly softened butter in a mixer or processor at medium speed or with on/off pulses of the processor until light in color and slightly fluffy. Continue mixing at high or process continuously until butter is fluffy.

How to make clarified butter

Clarified or drawn butter is clear, melted butter separated from its milk solids and water. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Remove white froth as it forms on top. When the milk solids separate and settle at the bottom of the pan, carefully pour off the clear, yellow butter and discard the milk solids. Compared to regular butter, clarified butter can be heated to a higher temperature without burning and can be stored longer. One pound of butter makes 12 ounces of clarified butter.

Prevent butter from going rancid

Properly storing butter in the refrigerator or freezer and tightly wrapping butter to minimize its exposure to air will help keep butter from going rancid. Exposure to oxygen increases the risk of rancidity. When oxygen comes in contact with the unsaturated fatty acids in butter, off-smelling and off-tasting compounds can develop. Rancid butter is safe to eat.

The best way to soften butter

For 4 tablespoons of butter, place the butter in one piece on a small microwave-safe plate. Place the plate in the microwave and heat for 1 minute at 10 percent power. Press on the butter with your finger to see whether it is sufficiently softened; if not, heat for an additional 20 seconds at 10 percent power. This method also works with whole sticks.

Can I substitute whipped butter for stick butter in baking recipes?

Whipped butter is made by incorporating air into butter. Manufacturers do this to increase the butter's spreadability, especially for slathering on toast. Adding air increases the volume of the butter, not the weight. In other words, a 4-ounce stick of butter measures 1/2 cup in volume, and 4 ounces of whipped butter measures 1 cup.

Unsalted whipped butter makes a fine substitute for unsalted stick butter in baked goods, but do not make the swap in uncooked applications, such as frosting. And remember to make the substitutions based on weight, not volume. A standard tub of whipped butter weighs 8 ounces, equal to two sticks of butter.

Why shouldn't I cook or bake with salted butter?

Originally, butter was salted to preserve it, but its flavor keeps people coming back for more. It's fine for your toast, but we strongly advise against cooking with it for three reasons:First, the relatively high amount of salt in the recipe can unbalance a recipe's salt content. Secondly, salted butter tastes different than sweet cream butter. The salt masks some of the delicate nuance, especially once cooked.And lastly, salted butter almost always contains more water. Water content in butter can range from 10 percent to 18 percent. (By law, fat content in butter must exceed 80 percent.) In baking, the butter with the lowest water content (sweet butter) is preferred, because excess water from butter can interfere with the development of gluten in the flour.

Why wait for butter to stop foaming in the pan before cooking?

The simple answer is that it's an easy visual cue for the cook to know when the melted butter is ready for cooking. To be more specific, when the foaming stops, it's an indication that all the water in the butter (which is about 80 percent fat and 20 percent water) has evaporated. Melted butter starts out near 212 degrees, but as the water cooks off and the foaming subsides, the fat in the pan will continue to get hotter, starting to smoke when it reaches 250 degrees. Saut?ing food in butter is most successful when the fat is at a higher temperature, which can be reached only when most of the water has been removed. Additionally, cooking food in the presence of water could produce unwanted steamed or boiled flavors rather than the dry-heat flavors and browning produced by straight-up fat.

Sources: National Dairy Council and Cook's Illustrated