“There simply is no substitute for butter in cooking,” says Chef Christopher Koetke, vice president, Laureate International Universities Center of Excellence in Culinary Arts and the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts. “Not only does the pure, sweet-cream taste of butter complement and enhance the flavor of dishes, but butter provides a smooth and creamy texture that is especially important in sauces.”
BETTER WITH BUTTER: 8 TIPS
1. Storing Butter
Butter can be kept at room temperature for short periods, but should be refrigerated to maintain peak flavor. Store in its original container in the walk-in tightly wrapped or in a covered dish for up to one week beyond the date printed on the package. Keep butter away from highly aromatic foods so it does not absorb undesirable flavors. When storing in the freezer, wrap the original package with aluminum foil, and butter will keep for six months.
2. Salted or Unsalted?
Salted butter enhances flavor and has a longer storage life. It’s excellent as table butter and is becoming popular in white-tablecloth restaurants again. Unsalted butter, which is sometimes called sweet butter (and shouldn’t be confused with sweet-cream butter, which might or might not be salted), contains no preservatives and, thus, has a shorter shelf life than salted butter. Use it on bread or for baked goods such as crusts and sweets to properly control salt levels, as the amount of salt in salted butter varies among brands.
3. Get off the Stick and Pass the Butter
A contemporary and elegant way to serve butter is to pack softened butter into small ceramic pots (butter pots) or ramekins. Over-fill, and use a flat-edged spatula or knife to level off the top and get a flush edge. Compound butter can be rolled into a log shape on a piece of waxed paper. Place in a freezer bag, and when ready to use, cut rounds from the frozen log and place them on hot foods.
4. Let’s Clarify
Compared to regular butter, clarified butter (also called “drawn” butter) is clear, melted butter separated from its milk solids and water. It’s ideal for sautéing because clarified butter has a higher smoke point than whole butter—meaning it is does not start to smoke until the cooking temperature is much higher. Clarified butter is also a key ingredient in sauces like hollandaise and béarnaise. To clarify, melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low to medium heat. Skim the white froth that 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.
5. Sautéing with Butter
Melt butter over medium heat and only add foods when the butter is frothing. Otherwise the butter will be absorbed, and food will become soggy rather than crispy. When sautéing with butter over high heat, add an equal proportion of oil to the pan to ensure the butterfat does not burn immediately. Or, use clarified butter in which milk solids have been removed. Another technique for high-temperature sautéing is to sauté in oil or clarified butter and add a pat of whole butter at the end for fresh butter flavor.
6. Better Baked Goods
For melt-in-your-mouth cookies, use slightly softened, unsalted butter. With its low melting point, butter helps make cookies soft and chewy on the inside, but crisp and golden on the outside. For flakier pie crusts, keep butter as hard and cold as possible prior to use. The flaky texture is produced when cold pieces of butter, trapped between thin layers of dough, melt during baking, creating small air pockets.
7. When Whipped Is Good (and Bad)
Whipped butter is regular butter into which air or nitrogen gas has been whipped to increase its volume, and spreads easier and melts quicker than regular butter. Because its density and weight are not the same as an equal measure of regular butter, whipped butter should not be used as a substitute in most recipes.
8. Butter to Better Your Sauces
Adding a pat of butter to any of a wide variety of sauces just before gives the sauce a fresh, butter flavor, satiny texture and glossy appearance.