For years butter has gotten a bad rap but there is no reason to fear real butter. When I say butter I mean the real thing, not margarine or spreads.
1. Salted or unsalted butter
What’s the difference between salted & unsalted butter? Should you buy both? Can one be substituted for the other? Well, they are both butter so you could use either one. They’re essentially interchangeable.
The major benefit of unsalted butter is you get to control the amount of salt you’re eating. The reason a manufacturer adds salt is to prolong the shelf life. Recipes usually call for unsalted butter and suggest an amount of salt to be added.
If you’re using salted butter try reducing the salt the recipe calls for by half and then taste and adjust to your preference. The final seasoning of the dish is then still up to you. Whichever type of butter you're using make sure you refrigerate it.
2. Flavour, flavour, flavour
Cooking with butter adds a wonderful nutty flavour to sauces and dishes that you just can't get with any other fat.
The downside is that when butter is heated the milk solids melt and although they caramelize, you can end up with burned butter. This is due to its low smoke point (temperature where fat begins to smoke/burn).
An easy way to keep butter from burning and add flavour, is to add it at the end. Just start with a bit of oil, such as canola in the pan, which won't alter the flavour but does have a higher smoke point. This lets you saute´ on medium to high heat without burning your food. Just add the butter in the final stage of cooking to get that flavour we all love so much (at least, I do!).
3. Butter is best for pastries & biscuit doughs
Butter adds flavour to baked goods. Cakes, cookies, pie crusts and biscuits aren’t the same when made with shortening, which has no flavour and adds a weird texture (mouth feel) to many baked goods.
In both pie and biscuit recipes its best to keep the butter as cold as possible so that it will expand and lift in a hot oven, rather than melting into the dough. Cold butter makes for light as air biscuits and pie crusts that are flakey and the tastiest you’ve ever had. Butter helps all baked goods turn a lovely shade of golden brown. You just can't get that with shortening.
Regardless of the type of butter you use, the calories are the same, one tablespoon is about 100 calories. Olive oil and canola oil come in at about 125 calories for that same tablespoon.
The difference is the percentage of calories that come from fat, 80% for butter and about 10% for the oils. Nevertheless, the fat you use has between 100 - 105 calories for every tablespoon you use. For a family of 4, saute´ing onions that start with a tablespoon of butter means about 25 calories per person from fat!
5. Health Benefits
Olive oil is still king when it comes to eating healthy fats. But butter has its place and is not the demon that it was once believed to be. It contains many vitamins such as A, D, E, K to name a few. It also contains antioxidants and is now believed to have anticancer properties. Just keep in mind it is still a saturated fat and a little goes a long way.
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