Cooking & Baking With Butter: {Kitchen Q&A}

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This is a key ingredient for both cooking and baking and you’ll find it well stocked in nearly every homemaker’s kitchen.

DishToday’s Kitchen Questions and Answers is all about butter: Did you know you can stock up on sales and freeze it? Or how much a stick is and what its measurement equivalents are? Or that salted blocks have a longer shelf life than unsalted?

These questions and more are answered below…

  • How should it be stored? Keep it from spoiling by refrigerating and make sure it’s wrapped well to prevent it from absorbing odors from other foods. It can also be kept covered at room temperature, but only keep small amounts at a time since it will go rancid quicker without being refrigerated.
  • Can you freeze it? Yes, it can be successfully frozen for around 6 to 9 months. Freezing is recommended if you buy it in large quantities that you don’t expect to use within the marked expiry or “use by” date.
  • How much is a stick? One stick is 1/2 cup. For a quick measurement guide: 1 stick = 1/2 cup = 8 tablespoons = 1/4 pound. For a pound: 1 pound = 2 cups = 4 sticks.
  • How do I cream it? It’s usually creamed before adding to other ingredients in baking to help incorporate air into the batter. To cream it, have it between 65° and 68° then beat until it is smooth and creamy. You can use a mixer or beat by hand to do this. It’s common to find recipes that require creaming it with sugar, same process applies.
  • How can I tell when it’s warm enough to cream? For best results, it should be soft and between 65° and 68°. Here’s a quick tip: Press your finger in the block and if it indents easily and holds the indentation, the temperature is about right. You can also use a food thermometer to test the temperature–stick it in the middle of the block to get an accurate reading.
  • How can I tell if it is still good and has not gone bad or rancid? It will smell and taste “off” or sour.
  • Did You Know: Unsalted goes rancid quicker than salted?
  • How do I clarify it and what does that mean? How is it different from drawn? Clarified is melted butter fat with the milk solids and water removed. It’s easy to prepare and you can make this ahead of time, just store in refrigerator to use when needed. Drawn is the same thing as clarified. See this page for more details. Once it’s clarified it has a higher smoke point so it’s great to use in frying and sauteing.
  • What is ghee? It’s similar to clarified but it’s cooked longer–The clear yellow liquid obtained by melting unsalted butter and discarding the sediment settled on the bottom. Source. It also has a higher smoke point.
  • How is it different than margarine? Butter is a dairy product that is made by churning cream. Margarine is made from vegetable oils.
  • What does it mean when a recipe says: Dot with butter? This is a common cookery term with no exact measurement behind it. How to do this: Take little pieces (about the size of a pencil tip eraser) and sprinkle them around the top of the dish. Another technique is to grate it cold over the surface.
  • How much is a knob? This is an old-fashioned cooking term you’ll find in vintage recipes. This isn’t an exact measurement but it’s about two tablespoons. Source.
  • Do I measure before or after melting? Unless otherwise specified, take care to measure it after melting, not before.
  • How can I soften it quickly if it’s frozen? Grate into a bowl, it will come down to room temperature quicker than being left in block form. See more tips here.
  • Should I melt it first when a recipe states to grease a pan with it? No, just slather the pan with it softened rather than melted, you could also use it cold from the fridge.
  • How can I measure it accurately? If your recipe calls for 1/2 cup, fill a one cup measure 1/2 full of cold water. Put butter in until water is at the one cup mark on the measuring cup. Pour off water and you will have an accurate measure of 1/2 cup. Follow the same procedure in measuring 1/4 cup, fill cup 3/4 full of water. If you want 1/3 or 2/3 cup, fill the cup 2/3 or 1/3 full of water respectively. Source: How To Measure Accurately.
  • Is it really necessary to have it at room temperature when baking? For best results it should be at room temperature, this is necessary so that more air can get into the batter while being mixed. Source.
  • My recipe asks for salted but I only have unsalted, what can I do? Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup of butter.
  • Any tips for frying with it? Don’t cook with high heat since it has a low smoking/burning point–once it’s burnt it will ruin the flavor of the cooked dish. Try frying or sauteing with clarified or ghee if you need to cook at high temperature (since they have a higher smoke point), your dish will still benefit from the rich flavor.
  • What does it mean when it’s extended? This is adding other ingredients to it so you have a larger amount and is a common frugal method (mostly as a spread).

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