Unsalted vs Salted butter

Dear Cooks,

What is the deal with unsalted butter?  Do I really need to use it instead of salted?



Dear Barbara,

It depends what you are making.  In baking, recipes almost always call for unsalted so the dish, which is probably a sweet dish, does not get overpowered by the salt flavor.  This way, if you leave it out of the butter, you can control the amount of salt you add.

We tend to use salted butter all the time but if you are trying to cut back on your salt or don’t have salted butter around, for cooking, you can use either and then adjust your salt.

Remember, you can always add more salt but if you oversalt something, you could ruin a dish.  Chances are, the salted butter won’t be too much for any savory dish.  For baking sweets, I’d stick to the unsalted if the recipe calls for it.

Additionally, salt masks the real flavor of the butter so if the butter is even slightly rancid, the salt will cover it up.  In baking, you need to be working with the freshest, sweet cream butter you can find since the flavors will come through.

So to recap, in baking, use unsalted.  For cooking savory dishes, either is fine.

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