Butter, margarine and other varieties are all fats and oils. These all add richness and flavor to our food. That said, each type of butter/margarine all do specific things in our cooking and baking.
Real Butter: is made from cream and has to be at least 80% butterfat. It is super creamy, rich in butter flavor and practically melts in your mouth. You can buy it in non salted and salted types. Unsalted butter can also be called "sweet butter" because of the fact that it doesn't contain any salt. Whether you use salted or unsalted butter in recipes you do not have to adjust the amount of salt that a recipe would call for. Also if you are using butter, it will pick up any kind of odor so be sure when you get home.. to store that baby in an air tight container!
TIP: have you ever been baking/cooking and ran out of butter sticks so you just figure you will use the butter from the tub? Well that might just be why the dish came out just not quite right. Use only sticks for baking. Whipped butter or tubed butter will give you a totally different texture! Why? Because it has air beaten into it :)
Butter-Margarine Blends: you can get these in sticks and tubs at any store. These are blends of both butter and margarine. Usually 60% margarine and 40% butter.
Lard: (one of my grandmas staples along side with real butter) is a saturated fat made from rendered pork fat. (rendered means using a low heat to melt fat away from meats, then its clarified by straining so that the fat can be used for cooking/baking.)
TIP: lard makes the tenderest, flaky and lip smackin I gotta have another one biscuits and pastry! Just sayin!
Margarine: is a butter substitute made with at least 80% fat and flavorings from dairy products. Lots of margarines have vegetable oils made from various soy beans and corn oil. Taste/texture all depends on the brand you purchase. But once again... use only sticks when baking!
Reduced-fat or light butter/margarine: both contain water & air. These should be left to use as spreads or table butter if you'd like to reduce the fat. It is not something that should be used in baking. Why? You want some flavor dont you!? :)
Oils (Cooking spray, olive oil, vegetable oil): cooking spray is available in all sorts of varieties. I love the "flour" cooking spray as it takes lots of time off the traditional method of greasing / flouring pans. You can even use the low fat versions as a way to cut fat by spraying any type directly on food! Olive Oil (we use that alot at our house) contains no cholesterol but does contain fat. Its also heart healthy because its high in monounsaturated fat. You can find extra virgin, virgin, olive oil and light olive oil. All are wonderful oils! Vegetable oils are oils that are a blend of corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, canola and soybeans. Use caution when buying vegetable oil if you or someone you know has a peanut allergy.
Olive Oil Tips: Olives are fruit! Air, heat and light will cause olive oil to turn rancid so keep this in a sealed container in a cool cabinet. Olive oil comes with lots of price tags! Save the more costly olive oils for salads, salad dressings, and crusty breads. That said, the quality of the olive oil you are buying is by the price tag. I use a moderately priced olive oil for my cooking.. and a more pricy one for our salad dressings.
Check out our Buttermilk Biscuits Recipe coming up next!