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Old 01-17-2011, 11:29 AM   #1
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Butter vs. margarine

I am new to baking and trying to figure a few basic things out that I have never learned before.

When baking what is the difference between butter and margarin, and then what is the difference between salted and unsalted. What is the best to use when baking?

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Old 01-17-2011, 11:49 AM   #2
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Margarines differ a great deal from one to the other and mostly contain a lot more water and less fat than butter. While this may be a good thing for reducing calories, it's not necessarily a good thing when cooking.

Recipes that call for butter do so for the fat and the flavor. I always use butter as it's a natural and real food. Many margarines contain trans fats.

This is not to say that you can't use margarine in many recipes with reasonable results.

I'd bet you can use regular salted butter in almost every recipe. Unsalted butter is often called for in baking recipes. There's no reason to avoid it. Salted butter tastes much better on toast or bread. If you choose to use salted butter, you can always cut back on added salt in the recipe. Salted butter does not contain all that much salt.

Salt is added to butter for flavor. Back in the old days, it also served as a preservative but with modern refrigeration and production methods, that's really not an issue.

In the USA, sweet cream butter is at least 80% fat. The rest is water and milk solids.
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:18 PM   #3
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Agree with Andy M., I also use butter, cause of natural ingredients.
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:19 PM   #4
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Good point about salted vs unsalted butter. I know that some recipes call for unsalted butter so that you can control the amount of salt. With margarine or salted butter it is harder to really know how much salt is in there. Some things work well with margarine, and there are some out there now that don't have the trans fat, but you need to look for it. Also, some are half butter and half margarine. That works well for some cookies.
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:23 PM   #5
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:29 PM   #6
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I prefer butter although it got a really bad rap for a long time. On the salted vs. unsalted matter....I always use salted, even in recipes. I've never reduced the other salt called for in a recipe and don't seem to notice any difference in taste.

Just remember that the stuff that comes whipped and in a tub is not good for anything except spreading onto bread or topping veg, etc. It has too much air and/or water in it to use for baking.
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:30 PM   #7
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Now if you have a recipe from Paula Deen, you had better use BUTTER!
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:44 PM   #8
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To add to the information already given, lard, or rendered pig fat, has a higher melting point than does butter. It has no flavor, and is the preferred fat for pies and many tarts. Butter melts fast and will cause a single crust pie crust to fold inward before it has time to set up from the heat. If you need the flavor of butter for your cookies, then use it. But if you don't, your cookies will be more fluffy if you use lard. In addition, believe it or not, lard is lower in cholesterol than is butter.

Now don't get me wrong, many recipes have to have butter, and their are ways to make it work in a pie crust. But the techniques are more involved. I'm just saying that both have a place in my kitchen. And both are used sparingly, that is, pies aren't made frequently. Oh the terrible irony of foods. Many that taste incredible are not very healthy and are certainly not good for the sugar challenged population. Fortunately, there are some pretty darned good foods that all of us can eat.

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Old 01-17-2011, 01:59 PM   #9
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I use butter as well. If a recipe calls for unsalted, I will use it, but for spreading on breads I like the salted as it seems to have more flavor.

Another thing to remember, if you are using margarine do not use tub margarine for baking.

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Old 01-17-2011, 02:10 PM   #10
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As much as I agree with everythig that was saidalready, I have to tell you that my wife bakes exclusivly with margarine. Not becasue we like it, but becasue a lot of times we cannot have dairy products, let's not get into reasons why. But she has gotten to the point that her chocolate cookies, for example are better with margarine than with utter. She just really knows how to twick with dough to get it just right. What I am trying to say is that if time comes up when you cannot use butter do not be afraid to use margarine.
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Old 01-17-2011, 02:13 PM   #11
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I sometimes substitue butter flavor Crisco in cookie recipes.
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Old 01-17-2011, 02:49 PM   #12
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For baking we use unsalted butter or lard. Since our breads normally have enough salt in them, we use unsalted butter on them. I think a fresh good sweet butter tastes better (almost like sweet cream) on jam bread than salted butter.
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:21 PM   #13
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I keep butter on hand for cooking and "spreadable butter" on hand for bread or toast. I go through a lot of butter.
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:26 PM   #14
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Okay, this is going to throw my culinary reputation out the window...as if it isn't already lol...but I swear this works well for me...perfect really. I don't use butter, nor margarine, nor lard for spreading nor for baking. I use Earth Balance in a tub...not the whipped, don't get whipped! It's 79% natural vegetable oils like olive oil and canola. It tastes exactly like real butter and baking results are the same as butter. I don't need these but it's Gluten-free, Lactose free, Vegan, free of Transfats, free of hydrogenated oil, and non-GMO (whatever that is). It's an excellent source of Omega-3.

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Old 01-17-2011, 03:30 PM   #15
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It is so much healthier than processed/manufactured non-food items all over the grocery stores. The more basic the ingredient, the better results and the healthier it is. Butter isn't bad for you unless you eat a whole stick.

I buy unsalted for cooking/baking and have some salted on hand for popcorn (oil popped in coconut oil).
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:34 PM   #16
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I keep salted butter at room-temperature on the counter for spreading, and unsalted butter in the fridge for baking. I'm looking into getting a good quality lard for those times when you don't necessarily want the butter flavor, like for tamales/pies/cooking. So far, this stuff looks good, although it's pricey: Mangalitsa Pig Lard Anyone know of some other online sources?

As for margerine, I haven't used it for years, under the assumption that it's healthier to eat the natural stuff in moderation than to substitute - plus it tastes so much better to me.
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:58 PM   #17
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I just ran accross this and thought of this thread:

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

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Old 01-17-2011, 04:46 PM   #18
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I have not bought margarine in years. If a baking recipe calls for butter I used unsalted butter. If it calls for shortening I use Butter flavor Crisco.
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Old 01-17-2011, 05:17 PM   #19
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Since the OP was a nube to cooking I thought I might add: Don't use spreads in baking. They do not act at all like margarine or butter. You have to read the package to determine if they are a spread or a margarine. They all look the same. Hope this helps.
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Old 01-17-2011, 08:39 PM   #20
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i only buy unsalted butter. it is necessary for me to avoid as much salt as possible. so use for baking and spreading on toast, etc. keep one stick or the new 1/4 stick on counter for this. it may to some have no taste but i think it does and it is certainly better for you. after i use up my current supply of butter flavor crisco, i will not buy more. i don't use it up very quickly and don't think it keeps all that well. not rancid but doesn't smell good to me. in my cooking for 55 years i have never bought lard.
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butter, lard

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