As you can probably imagine, we go through a lot of butter at the Southern Living Test Kitchen. On any given day, you’ll see tray after tray of golden buttermilk biscuits, a dozen different bundt cakes, or around the holidays, enough Christmas cookies to give even Santa a stomachache.
You might think all butter is alike, but our cooks know better. Our giant walk-in refrigerator is stocked with boxes and boxes of one particular brand: Land O’Lakes. Yes, the supermarket staple with the Native American lady on the box. Land O’Lakes is the preferred choice of the Test Kitchen not only because it’s affordable and can be found in most grocery stores across the South, but because it is consistent. And when you have to crank out two dozen perfect pie crusts, consistency is everything.
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The biggest difference in butter is the amount of salt. For baking purposes, the Test Kitchen recommends using unsalted butter so you can better control the amount of salt that goes into the recipe. Salted butter is best for serving at the table with bread or to flavor a dish, like mashed potatoes. Land O’Lakes unsalted butter, which is made with sweet cream, has a creamy texture and mild flavor that marries well with other ingredients in baked goods and other recipes.
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The other difference in butter is the fat content. American butter is usually around 80 percent fat, although the exact amount varies from brand to brand. (And is the reason why European butter is so expensive—it’s often 85 percent fat.) Lower fat content means that the butter contains more water, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially for baking. High-fat butter softens and melts faster, which can lead to flat, dense baked goods. In conclusion: “Land O’Lakes has a balanced milk solid to butterfat ratio that makes for superior flavor and consistency in the final product,” says Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin.