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Preparation, uses, and tips

Butter is used in sautéing, as a flavoring for cooked vegetables, and in the making of many toppings and sauces. It is the traditional foundation for pastry dough, pie crusts, and cookies, for icing, and is used in making of certain candies. It is also used to add flavor when poaching, grilling, or broiling fish and meats.

Butter has a narrow melting range—82.4 to 96.8°F (28 to 36°C)—so use very low heat when melting butter to avoid scorching. Clarified butter is becoming increasingly popular for sautéing and baking because it is less likely to burn at high temperatures.

Buying and storing tips


By government standards, butter quality is rated on a scale of 100, reflecting its flavor, body, color, salt content, and packaging. The product is graded AA, A, B, or C. A score of 93 or above is rated AA. B and C grade products are used only in baking and food processing. The best-quality butter is composed of 80% fat and 12 to 16% water.


Butter should be refrigerated at or below 40°F (4.4°C) to retain its quality and to guard against rancidity. Under these conditions, it can be stored about a month. Butter that has an unpleasant smell or sour taste is likely to be rancid and should not be eaten, as the odor corresponds to a buildup of butyric acid. Opened butter cartons and unwrapped sticks of butter should be kept in a separate refrigerator compartment or in a covered butter dish to keep the butter from absorbing the odors of other foods. To soften it, remove butter from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you want to use it.


Frozen butter can be stored for extended periods of time. At 20 to 30°F (–6.6 to –1.1°C), it can be kept for up to four months. At –10°F (–23.3° ), it can be kept for up to a year. To freeze it, place the packaged or wrapped butter in a plastic freezer bag, or wrap it in heavy foil. To thaw the butter, place unopened cartons or sticks in the refrigerator compartment. Thaw only enough for immediate use or to be used within one month.



Lightly salted butter is the kind most often used in general cooking.


This type of butter is used in cooking and as a table butter by those who enjoy its subtle flavor. It has a mild, slightly tart taste. Sweet butter is used in cooking to create special effects, such as extra-light, flaky pie crusts. It can be used to garnish toast or bagels, and to season vegetables, just like salted butter. For those who must watch their salt intake, sweet butter is worth considering. A pat of salted butter contains about 41mg of salt, whereas a pat of sweet butter contains less than 1 mg.

Whipped butter

This is butter that has been whipped with air to make it light and fluffy. It is packaged in tubs and used as a table spread. Because of its air content, it is less dense than solid-type butters—by comparison, its weight (and also its fat content) are reduced by about a third—yet the basic flavor is retained.

Butter-margarine products

Many products are now available that combine butter with vegetable oils that are lower in saturated fat.

Cultured butter

This is a rich form of butter, made from cultured cream. It is popular in Europe and is now being produced in the United States; it is available in most regions of the country.

Clarified butter (ghee)

Clarified butter retains only the fat content of butter, not its milk protein and solids. As a result, it burns less readily when used in sautéing and baking.

Nutrition Highlights

Butter, 1 tsp (5g)
Calories: 45
Protein: 0.4g
Carbohydrate: 0.0g
Total Fat: 5.0g
Fiber: 0.0g

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