I recently sent my husband out to Costco to stock up for the fall. I don’t know about you, but we have a family that never seems to stop eating. Add to that we are spending more time at home, and it feels like there is never enough food in the pantry.
He came home with blocks of butter. Truth be told, I had always avoided them since I wasn’t quite sure how to accurately measure them and was concerned with putting too much butter in a recipe. I always shied away. Now here I was, faced with four pounds of it. Determined not to let it go to waste — here we are.
Want to learn about all things butter?
Let’s go to The Chalkboard.
Don’t have time to read? Here’s The Chalkboard version.
- Unsalted is the same as the salted version, just minus the salt.
- Add ¼ tsp of salt to a stick.
- Use the salted version for general cooking.
- Use the unsalted version for baking.
All Things Butter
Butter is a simple dairy product made of two or three ingredients, milk, cream, and possibly salt. Milk and cream can be used alone or together and are churned, which causes it to come to the semi-solid state that we all know and possibly love.
The U.S. requires only pasteurized milk used in the process, and the result must contain at least 80 percent butterfat milk fat.
Types of Butter
- Salted – contains no more than 2 percent salt in the final product. It should be used for general cooking. Besides adding flavor, salt also acts as a preservative so that salted butter will have a longer shelf life than the unsalted variety.
- Unsalted – contains just milk and or cream. It’s best used for baking since you can control how much salt is added to the recipe. Most recipes for baked goods are based on unsalted butter unless otherwise noted.
- Whipped – has air infused into it, producing a lighter product. The process allows for it to stay spreadable even at colder temperatures. This is best used for putting on bread.
Salted Vs. Unsalted Butter
Both are the same and can certainly be substituted in a pinch. However, salted contains no more than 2 percent. The salted variety also has a longer shelf life since the salt acts as a preservative.
How to Add Salt To Unsalted Butter
While the exact amount of salt added varies from brand to brand, it’s typically no more than two percent of the total weight. The typical salt in salted butter is 1 to 2 teaspoons per pound or 1/4 tsp to 1/2 teaspoon per 4 oz. stick.
If you want to add salt to unsalted butter, it’s doable. You want to use the proper salt, and in this case, sea salt or table salt is best. The smaller crystal size helps it to absorb better than a bigger kosher variety.
If you want to add any salt to cold butter, it may not fully integrate, and the texture may be grainy. This is likely not a huge issue but certainly worth noting.
Put the soft butter in a bowl, mash it around, and then add ¼ teaspoon of table salt or fine sea salt and stir thoroughly. If you’re worried about having too much salt, use less and add after tasting
How to Measure Butter
Now you may be thinking, why the heck would you need to measure butter? I thought the same thing at first. But then my husband came home with four pounds that had no clear lines on the paper for measuring, and I realize that it’s a skill I most certainly needed to know. So if you are ever the owner of large blocks of butter or if your recipe requires a measurement that is not the standard tablespoon or cup, this one’s for you.
Placing the butter in a measuring cup is not the best way to go. Even if you pack it tightly, there is still air trapped inside, which would lead to an inaccurate measure. You could try to prick it all over and continue to add more butter, but it is a messy endeavor. Luckily I have some neater solutions.
All of that being said, for most recipes, you can certainly eyeball the amount that you need. However, if you aren’t confident in that (I understand) or need a really precise way to measure, there are several options.
First it’s worth keeping in mind the basic measurements.
Use A Scale
This simplest and likely the most precise method. Place the butter on the flat part and calculate how much it weighs. A lot of bakers prefer scales as they really help to get the preciseness that baking requires. Measure it directly on the scale so that you only measure the butter.
Water Displacement Method
Do you not own a scale? Then try the water displacement method. Not to get too sciency here (that is not my strong suit by any means) but it is based on the Archimedes principle which relates to buoyancy. You can read more about it here.
To use this method, fill up a measuring cup with COLD water. You don’t want to melt or soften your butter. Depending on how much butter you need, cut it up and place it in the cup directly. No need to worry, the water will not affect the flavor or consistency.
The water will rise after you put the butter in. The amount you want it to rise is equal to how much you need.
For instance, if you need ½ cup of butter. Fill the cup with ½ cup of COLD water. Once the water reaches 1 cup, drain the water. You now have the amount needed.
If you need ¾ cup of butter, it gets a little trickier. Fill the cup of water to 1 ¼ cup of COLD water. When the water reaches 2 cups, you have the ¾ cup needed since ¾ cup plus 1 ¼ cup equals 2 cups.
Try to pat the water off of the butter as best as you can when you are done.
This method also works well for measuring peanut butter and shortening.
How To Cut A Block Of Butter Into Sticks
If you want to properly cut the block up into the same measurement as sticks, here’s an easy way. Take the wrapper completely off. Then run your knife from one corner to the opposite diagonal corner and lightly press the knife down to score the butter. Repeat on the other side. Where the lines intersect is the center of the block. From there you can cut straight down. Repeat the process with the two slices you created and you now have four sticks.
Can You Freeze Butter?
Yes! Keep it in the original paper, and then put it in a plastic bag. As long as you freeze it before the sell-by date, it should keep for four months. After defrosting, it’s best to use it within a month.
How To Make Your Own Butter
Are you really in a pinch and need a substitute? Or maybe you just want a fun thing to do with your kids. Well, making butter could not be easier. Simply take some heavy cream, put it in a mason jar with a lid on tight and shake it up like crazy. It will take some time, but you will get unsalted butter. Wanted the salted variety? Add ½ tsp for each cup of cream. If there is any remaining liquid, simply drain it.
What Do You Think?
Which type of butter do you use, and why? How do you measure it? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear!