Butter Characteristics And Grades

Fresh butter in the United States and Canada consists of about 80 percent milk fat.The remainder is milk solids and water.

In Europe, butter often has a higher fat content, usually around 82 percent. Some manufacturers in North America have begun processing and selling European-style butters with this higher fat content.They are intended to replicate the qualities of European butters in cooking and baking.

In the United States, butter is graded according to USDA standards for flavor, body, color, and salt content, although grading is not mandatory. Grades are AA,A, B, and C. Most operations use grades AA and A because the lower grades may have off flavors.

Most butter on the market is lightly salted.A maximum of 2 percent salt is permitted. Sweet, or unsalted, butter is more perishable but has a fresher, sweeter taste.

Because of its flavor, butter is the preferred cooking fat for most purposes. It has no equal in sauce-making and is used as a sauce itself, as discussed in Chapter 8.

Clarified butter (see p. 178 for production procedure) is used as a cooking fat more often than whole butter because the milk solids in whole butter burn easily.

The smoke point of butterfat is only 300° to 350°F (150° to 175°C), so another product, such as vegetable oil, should be used when high cooking temperatures are required.

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