Ingredients: Unsalted butter. Plus salt.

You know the kind of recipes I’m talking about.

Does anyone here actually do this? Or just, y’know, use the ordinary butter that has salt in it anyway.

My daughter is making dumplings tonight. I fear she’s going to roll her eyes at me when I say ‘oh ffs just use the ordinary butter’. Nothing worse than a teenager rolling her eyes at you…

The theory is that you never know just how much salt is in the salted butter, so if you use salted butter, it may have too much salt in it, and you can’t take the extra salt out. So, instead, you use unsalted butter and then add exactly as much salt as it says in the recipe. Problem is, all recipes everywhere measure out to exact multiples of 1/4 teaspoon of salt… which is statistically unlikely, and you’ll need to end up salting to taste anyway.

Unless you’re on a super-low-salt diet, in which case you really do need to know how much salt is in your food.

My “regular butter” IS unsalted.

My pie crust recipe is like that, and I’ve commented on the oddness of it.

I still follow the recipe. Cooking is an art, but baking is a science. It’s not “put in some butter, put in some salt”; amounts matter, ratios matter, order matters. When the recipe says “combine the dry ingredients and add them to the wet”, do it.

From here.

I’ve never seen any difference in flavor using salted vs. unsalted butter.

Of course, I never add any additional salt. Most things (except bread and potato latkes*) are fine without it

*French fries don’t need it. The best frozen french fries out there (because they are the best fast food fries to begin with) are Nathan’s and they don’t have any added salt.

I think it’s an American thing. I think some Americans buy butter specifically to bake with, which comes in “sticks” to aid measurement. I also think Americans just tend to use LESS butter. My Yank husband is startled every time he makes me toast or a sandwich that I want butter AND spread/toppings. Butter AND jam?!?

I buy salted in sticks, and an additional tub of spreadable.

This is correct. For many recipes a little extra salt doesn’t matter. Any savory food like chili or stroganoff salted butter makes no difference.

But if you are baking, if you are making pastries, bread, etc., then the salt really matters. Baking is more of a formula, where cooking is more freestyle. If you deviate from the formula the results can be bad.

So unsalted butter allows you to control the formula.

so… if a recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon of salt, and I use salted butter, all I have to do is use a little less salt (1/12th of a teaspoon, or about a pinch. Good to go!

Or, you know, salt to taste. Or in the case above of people making specific things, use specific recipes.

I must confess I have a terrible “she’ll be right mate” attitude to cooking of all sorts - including baking. I just don’t have the ‘precise and careful’ gene.( I gave up on home made pastry a long time ago. It never turned out wonderful even if I was trying hard to Be Good)

Fortunately this is in fact a cooking rather than a baking situation. So I can feel justified in my laziness!


No it is not an American thing. It’s a ‘your Yank husband’ thing.

Don’t get short with me.

Compare American recipes with those from Aus/UK/Europe/other, and you’ll see that most countries don’t specify whether or not the butter is salted. Because, in most places, butter is salted.

Even with baking, it’s not like you’re making a nuclear bomb. Baking has a good bit more of forgiveness to it than people make out. An extra quarter or half teaspoon or so of salt isn’t going to make much of a difference other than making it maybe saltier than you want it to be.

And, presumably, their recipes take that into account.

They also say to use Kosher salt in things like soups. Kosher salt differs from regular salt in the shape of it’s grains. Sprinkled on things those odd shaped grains can change the mouth feel and how you taste the salt.

Added to soups, bread, stews, etc, it has no difference.

So, “unsalted butter” and “kosher salt” and “Sea salt*” are just meaningless fads.

  • Some type of Sea Salt is “Grey” salt, which does have a slightly different taste.

Cite, please.

Not taste-wise, but the difference in “grain” size means they measure differently - you will get more or less mass of one or the other per tablespoon, etc. - good recipes will specify which is called for, or you can use a conversion chart.

If I understand that phrase correctly, sounds rather like my mom. She’d substitute one ingredient for another, or leave something out entirely, and say “oh, it won’t make any difference.” The thing was, she’d also say quite often that she wasn’t a very good cook. It still never seemed to occur to her to things differently than she always had.

I have the ‘precise and careful’ gene, sometimes to a fault. I found that my cooking got better when I started to listen to that gene. Do you have the ‘I want this to taste really good’ gene? Perhaps that could make up for it.

Different recipes also have different levels of sensitivity. Making dumplings? I’m definitely in the “FFS just use whatever butter you already have” camp with that - feel free to add less salt if your butter’s salted already. Dumplings are not rockets. :slight_smile:

I should say though, that my main idea on this issue is “Just never buy salted butter again - you control the salt, everything works, and they all lived happily ever after”.

Grain size will make no difference to density of different kinds of salt. Grain shape, however, will make a difference.

And I think the best approach to baking is to understand why each ingredient is in there. Some ingredients will react with others in a particular way to produce some particular effect, some are just there for flavor, and some are a combination. If you know which is which, and what the effects are, you can usually make adjustments or substitutions. Which is, after all, how new recipes are created: It’s not like baking recipes are handed down from God Almighty, and the holy baking scriptures are not to be questioned.