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Salted versus Unsalted Butter

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2009

Is it OK to replace unsalted (sweet cream) butter with salted butter if you reduce the total amount of salt in the recipe?

We advise against cooking with salted butter for a couple reasons. The amount of salt in salted butter varies from brand to brand—it can range from 1.25 percent to 1.75 percent of the total weight, making it impossible to offer conversion amounts that will work with all brands. Also, salted butter almost always contains more water than unsalted butter. The water in butter ranges from 10 to 18 percent. In baking, butter with a low water content is preferred, since excess water can interfere with the development of gluten. In fact, when we used the same brand of both salted and unsalted butter to make brownies and drop biscuits, tasters noticed that samples made with salted butter were a little mushy and pasty; they preferred the texture of baked goods made with unsalted butter.