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A Butter Test

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Cooks Illustrated has the report of a test on unsalted butters, premium and store / mass market brands.

 

The process was to select butters from several different stores, and test them by a professional testing company on several hundred subjects for "freshness", "creaminess", "taste" and any other adjectives the testee would offer. Bread and crackers were used, and the order of butters sampled was changed regularly.

 

Plugra won highly recommended status. 83% butterfat, $9.98 a pound. Hit all the right notes.

 

Land o'Lakes unsalted regular butter came in second, leading their recommended group. 82%, $4.77 a pound in their purchases. I bought some for holiday baking last week for 2.50, so discounts are widely available

 

Vermont Creamery butter came in third. 86%, $11.98 a pound. Good comments, although at least one subject reported a "mineral" taste.

 

The article noted that some bakers prefer to use very high butterfat butter in their pastries, but use 82% or lower butterfat butter in their cookies due to more even melting in the cookie preparation. In their testing, higher butterfat butter is more likely not to completely melt, leaving clumps of butter in the prep. I've not experienced that result.

 

Horizon and Organic Valley were in the middle of the pack.

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I almost always buy LoL regular unsalted butter. I think I bought Plugra when I did my butter-smoked Ribeye. And I've tried some fancy Irish or German butters, but that was mostly for the "ooh" effect of the packaging.

 

As I've mentioned before, the simple pleasure of melted unsalted butter on a toasted sesame bagel is hard to beat.

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As I've mentioned before, the simple pleasure of melted unsalted butter on a toasted sesame bagel is hard to beat.

Actually, it's easily beaten by the simple pleasure of salted butter on a toasted sesame bagel.

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A few years ago, I thought the butter was so delicious at Le Bernardin that I asked the waiter to find out from the kitchen what it was. It turned out to be Land O' Lakes, and not even the higher-fat version.

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I'm all about salted butter these days. Most baking I do, I want a little salt in it anyway, and I get tired of buying 2 kinds of butter. While I love Plugra and Kerrygold, I've been on a budget lately, and find that Land o' Lakes or our more local Tillamook Creamery butter work just fine.

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I'm sticking with Kerrygold, $2.79 for 8 oz., at Trader Joe's.

That's a great price! I need to see if my local TJ's carries it.

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A few years ago, I thought the butter was so delicious at Le Bernardin that I asked the waiter to find out from the kitchen what it was. It turned out to be Land O' Lakes, and not even the higher-fat version.

 

I once got a comment on some butter I'd served with bread saying how yummy it was. We both bought Land O'Lakes, but the difference was I'd bought salted butter when that person only ever bought unsalted. Amazing the difference, there. (Note: I do buy unsalted for baking, of course.)

 

I'm sticking with Kerrygold, $2.79 for 8 oz., at Trader Joe's.

That's a great price! I need to see if my local TJ's carries it.

 

More often than you think, Harris Teeter will run a sale on Kerrygold that is below the TJ's price. If you're in a Harris Teeter area, keep an eye out!

Edited by TheMatt

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The rationale for using unsalted is that salt can mask off flavours. On the other hand, if it does that effectively, I'm not certain what the problem is.

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Organic Valley have a cultured version now that's not bad (much better than their sweet cream butter) but Plugra still does the most of any US brand to provide a (mock, I believe) cultured flavor profile.

 

 

 

 

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The rationale for using unsalted is that salt can mask off flavours. On the other hand, if it does that effectively, I'm not certain what the problem is.

All things being equal I prefer the taste of salted butter - Deb feels the same way. We've both noted what you mention about off flavors. At restaurants about 90% of the time we can pick out unsalted butter on the basis of smell alone. It appears that unsalted butter has a pretty short shelf life. That doesn't seem to stop most restaurants from serving it after it's past its prime.

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Organic Valley have a cultured version now that's not bad (much better than their sweet cream butter) but Plugra still does the most of any US brand to provide a (mock, I believe) cultured flavor profile.

That's sort of interesting because Plugra doesn't really push anything about "cultured" in their marketing or packaging. Just the slow churn, high butter fat message.

 

We've got Hope Creamery out here in the sticks which is decent table butter. Better than "local" Land O' Lakes but probably not worth the bump in price.

 

Unfortunately Pastureland isn't churning butter right now. Their cultured butter was very good.

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I like Plugra for baking (I tend to, as per a tip from wingding, use the salted version and reduce the salt the recipe calls for) but it's too fatty-tasting for me to use as table/cooking butter. For that I like the unsalted Kerrygold, and part of my liking is its reasonable price. I'm also a fan of VBCC cultured butter.

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Cooks Illustrated has the report of a test on unsalted butters, premium and store / mass market brands.

 

The process was to select butters from several different stores, and test them by a professional testing company on several hundred subjects for "freshness", "creaminess", "taste" and any other adjectives the testee would offer. Bread and crackers were used, and the order of butters sampled was changed regularly.

 

Plugra won highly recommended status. 83% butterfat, $9.98 a pound. Hit all the right notes.

 

Land o'Lakes unsalted regular butter came in second, leading their recommended group. 82%, $4.77 a pound in their purchases. I bought some for holiday baking last week for 2.50, so discounts are widely available

 

Vermont Creamery butter came in third. 86%, $11.98 a pound. Good comments, although at least one subject reported a "mineral" taste.

 

The article noted that some bakers prefer to use very high butterfat butter in their pastries, but use 82% or lower butterfat butter in their cookies due to more even melting in the cookie preparation. In their testing, higher butterfat butter is more likely not to completely melt, leaving clumps of butter in the prep. I've not experienced that result.

 

Horizon and Organic Valley were in the middle of the pack.

 

 

I'll stick to Lurpak and Beurre d'Isgny, thanks. :)

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I'm partial to Cabot Creamery's unsalted butter. It's got a nice clean flavor and is often the freshest butter available in these parts (except when I bother to make my own). I can get a 1-lb. block at the Brattleboro Co-op for $3.69. And the local IGA sometimes has the wrapped quarters on sale for less than $3/lb, in which case I buy 3 or 4 lbs. and freeze them.

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