Butter: Salted vs. Unsalted?

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There was a discussion recently on another forum about the difference in using butter vs. salted butter.  Some people mentioned that salted butter is older butter usually made from older cream.  Does anyone support this idea?  I haven't used unsalted butter (except in baking) for years.
 
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I do not believe that statement, but it is added as a slight preservative, and simply because the American Palat likes sthe taste of salt.
 
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I prefer unsalted butter simply because it makes it easier for me to control the salt content of what I'm cooking. As far as quality between salted and unsalted, it probably depends heavily on the brand. I've never noticed a huge difference in freshness, but I typically only buy unsalted.
 
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Agreed. When I want to add salt, I add salt.  When I want to add butter, I add butter.  I'm a control freak like that, and thus am an unsalted butter man myself.  Also, it's one of the very few constants of Italian cooking - Italian cooks always use unsalted butter.

I have never heard, or experienced, a freshness difference with salted butter myself.  But to be fair, I use it so rarely, I'm no expert.  The thing that i would say is - how long are you expecting your butter to be sitting around?  I don't have mountains of unused butter anywhere, what I buy usually gets used quickly enough, so my guess would be that even if the salted butter were a little less fresh, it wouldn't then be held by you for so long that it would be tragically out of date, right?..  In short, it sounds like a bit of a storm in a teacup...
 
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Agreed. When I want to add salt, I add salt.  When I want to add butter, I add butter.  I'm a control freak like that, and thus am an unsalted butter man myself.  Also, it's one of the very few constants of Italian cooking - Italian cooks always use unsalted butter.
Hmm I wonder what our Italian friend Siduri would say about that. 

I used to buy unsalted butter exclusively, never touched the salted stuff.  Then I started going to this great bagel place in my neighborhood and always ordered a cinammon raisin bagel with butter in the mornings.  It was soooooo good it was crazy good!  Sometimes I would buy just the bagel and take it home and put butter on it myself but it never tasted as good.  So I asked them one day, what kind of butter do you use?  And they replied "regular salted butter."  Ahha, so it's the salt that I liked.  I haven't bought unsalted butter since, I now like flavor especially when it comes to spreading on sweet things like muffins, pancakes, banana breads, bagels, etc.  For cooking there's not much difference I could go either way and I tend to use salted butter sometimes in baking too, I have no qualms about it if I don't have unsalted butter laying around. 
 
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   Koukouvagia, I would urge you, rather than ask, to go out and try some butter side by side.  You may want to limit it to only Salted Vs Unsalted, but I would say that once you have explored those options start trying other various brands side by side also.  I think we've all had a few different types, brands, of butter before...but to try a small bit side by side will really give you the opportunity to taste the little nuances that do make a difference.  I just can't even try to compare all unsalted butter to all salted butter...there's just too much variance in flavors (to me)

   Much like honey, beef, pork, etc...milk is no different.  You vary the feed in the animal that produces the milk and you vary the flavors.

  Dan
 
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Hmm I wonder what our Italian friend Siduri would say about that. 

I used to buy unsalted butter exclusively, never touched the salted stuff.  Then I started going to this great bagel place in my neighborhood and always ordered a cinammon raisin bagel with butter in the mornings.  It was soooooo good it was crazy good!  Sometimes I would buy just the bagel and take it home and put butter on it myself but it never tasted as good.  So I asked them one day, what kind of butter do you use?  And they replied "regular salted butter."  Ahha, so it's the salt that I liked.  I haven't bought unsalted butter since, I now like flavor especially when it comes to spreading on sweet things like muffins, pancakes, banana breads, bagels, etc.  For cooking there's not much difference I could go either way and I tend to use salted butter sometimes in baking too, I have no qualms about it if I don't have unsalted butter laying around. 
About the italians using only unsalted, Mattfin is right, they do - until fifteen years ago i would go nuts trying to find salted butter here.  But they also use very little butter at least in this area of italy (central), and as I've said elsewhere, most people in this part of the country can;t tell good butter from bad.  Most people have slightly rancid butter in their house, butter is often a secondary product of cheese factories, and much of it has absorbed the cheesy smell of the cheese factory.  It's ok if you;re making bechamel for your lasagne and are going to be putting cheese in it, but not for putting on bread. 

As for the salty butter having more taste, yeah, we all know salt enhances flavor.  Of course it tastes better.  That;s why you put a little salt in sweet dishes too (try a pinch of salt in hot cocoa, for instance).  I know people like to measure salt with a jeweler's scale, but i tell you that the little bit in salt is not going to ruin your cake.  You might even like it better!
 
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I've tried all kinds of butter actually.  Inexpensive butter, imported butters, salted, unsalted, butters from farmer's markets etc.  Some are better than others and we all have our preferences.  I don't turn my nose up to any butter, but I prefer to use salted.

Siduri, I'm not surprised as greece and italy are una fazza una razza (spelling sorry!).  Butter is a little used ingredient in savory cooking and most home cooks even bake cakes and cookies with olive oil.  Did I ever tell you about the time I made roasted potatoes and everyone at the dinner party was ooohing and aaaahing over my potatoes in greece?  They asked me what did I do to make them so delicious and I said "butter."  Everyone put their forks down simultaneously, made a grimace and didn't touch their potatoes again.  Oh well, more for me!
 
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Siduri, I'm not surprised as greece and italy are una fazza una razza (spelling sorry!).  Butter is a little used ingredient in savory cooking and most home cooks even bake cakes and cookies with olive oil.  Did I ever tell you about the time I made roasted potatoes and everyone at the dinner party was ooohing and aaaahing over my potatoes in greece?  They asked me what did I do to make them so delicious and I said "butter."  Everyone put their forks down simultaneously, made a grimace and didn't touch their potatoes again.  Oh well, more for me!
i'll never forget that story, Koukou.  It rings so familiar to me.  Not with butter particularly, because italians WILL try it in salty things, but for other stuff (cheese with fish, anyone? or sugar in salty stuff? or salt in the cake as a matter of fact) they do.  I never tell them till after they FINISH it.  I know better!
 
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At home, where I use the butter mostly for toast, bagels, pankcakes & such... I love the salted butter. For baking gotta go unsalted, had some bad experiences w/ over salty pastries cause of not accounting for the salt in the butter. At work, I only use unsalted. This way I'm in total control. I can add salt to any item as nessecary.
 
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My opinion is that salted butter taste better on a sweet type baked product like Cino Bagel or cino raisin bread.. I think the sweet and salt combo brings out the best in both taste. If I eat unsalted butter, I prefer Irish Butter (my Taste)  (99% of time I cook with salted butter.
 
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I only ever use unsalted butter.

and I always have salt.

Ergo, I have salted butter whenever I want it, and I have unsalted butter when I want it.
 
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The traditional point is that salted butter keeps somewhat better, and thus the expiration date on salted butter would be farther out. It's not that unsalted butter would be necessarily fresher, but you had much better odds. Without knowing whether the FDA still prescribes different expiration terms on butter, salted and unsalted, there's no way to know what you're getting in the US market unless you buy from some small purveyor (read: very expensive). But that's why Julia Child, for example, always swore by unsalted: salted butter might be quite old, but unsalted never was, because it'd go off and couldn't be sold (and you'd notice it, of course, and could return it in a rage).
 
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Unsalted butter on toast...gross.  Salted butter in sautees... okay. But if i'm making a sauce that's going to thicken considerably, then I won't use salted butter just because it's one less way I will find that sauce isn't too salty after it's reduced. When I'm using ingredients that are naturally salty on their own, I won't use salted butter. Peccorino cheese or anchovies for example.
 
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 But that's why Julia Child, for example, always swore by unsalted: salted butter might be quite old, but unsalted never was, because it'd go off and couldn't be sold (and you'd notice it, of course, and could return it in a rage).

   Hi Chris,

    That can be good advice in some markets, but not in others.  I think you need to not only take into consideration the butter you're buying, but also the butter other people are buying at the particular store you're at.  In regards to which one is fresher, how many people are buying the unsalted butter as opposed to the salted.  Turn over, in each region, is certainly a concern that needs to be addressed when discussing freshness in butter bought.  

   Dan
 
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that was always my impression, Dan, when i lived in the states.  The unsalted was always rancid-tasting.  But then, back in the 70s, who bought it? 

Unfortunately here it's also usually off, even if almost nobody buys the salted, because the salted is made by only a couple of companies, and imported, and they like to keep their image up - Lurpak and President, and both in fact, have unsalted butter that tastes fresh and sweet. 

Prarie chef,  you can salt your butter on top, but that's like saying you don;t have to salt food when you cook because you can always put salt on top.  But you must admit it;s different. 

I salt the butter when i'm a guest where there is no salted butter, or when i couldn;t buy it in the past.  But it;s not the same thing. 

And I do sometimes buy unsalted for cooking or baking, but it;s only because it;s cheaper.  I find it very unpractical to have two kinds, though. I may go a long time before baking and then it goes bad.  (and the cheap unsalted is more often bad tasting to begin with, to the extent that i don;t really like to use it even in cooking. 
 
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I like, even prefer, salted butter on bread. I cook with unsalted butter. In the house, I only have unsalted butter. Salted butter is more of a special treat for, like a flavored spread.

-AJ
 
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 I notice good restaurants use unsalted butter with their French bread and it is delicious. I prefer it. At home, I used salted butter and it tastes better than unsalted on my own bread. Is it psychological???

Should I start a new thread with this question: how long should you keep butter in the refrigerator?  What about freezing butter? Does taste degrade?  Let me know if this should be a new thread because I am totally new to doing these forum postings.  
 
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