Photo: Taste of Home
When you travel in serious baking circles the way I do—meaning you spend your days at Taste of Home and your nights discussing recipes with your mom—you inevitably start to get into the most minute details regarding ingredients. You might go in depth discussing the pros and cons of canned pumpkin, or how certain brands of peanut butter are just more satisfying (pssst…you can find out which here!). Recently, though, with the growing popularity of Kerrygold butter and all my foodie friends’ interest in baking, we’ve been wondering what’s the best butter.
So, of course, we had to put all kinds of butter to the test! After all, if you’re going to labor over a loaf of homemade bread all afternoon, you want to be sure that you’re topping it with the best butter you can find—not to mention you’ll want that same butter in all your cookies and cakes!
In efforts to set ourselves up for our most successful bakes yet, we tried the salted variety of the following brands: Freis von Kiel, Full Circle Market, Kerrygold, Land O’Lakes, Land O’Lakes European Style, Organic Valley, Organic Valley Cultured Pasture Butter and Shurfine. Find out which we loved best!
But First, Why Choose Butter?
Butter makes everything better. Here’s why we love it in our pie crusts.
Sometimes our taste tests are almost too close to call. We included these two great butter options because they got great marks but just missed the podium.
Land O’Lakes: 7/10
Our testers considered this one “textbook butter” with just the right amount of salt, which is exactly what you’re looking for in baking. We’d recommend it for your next batch of cookies.
$5.25 per pound; available nationwide.
Full Circle Market: 7.1/10
This certified organic butter is made with cream from cows not treated with antibiotics or added growth hormones. We liked it for its slightly higher salt content, making a really satisfying spread for a toasty baguette.
$6.15 per pound; available at many grocers nationwide.
Best Premium Butter: Land O’Lakes European Style
Looking at Land O’Lakes European Style at the grocery store, I had to wonder what made this butter premium. Was it the fancy box? Was it the label of being “European” like its Kerrygold competitor? Well, our testers got to the bottom of this one and determined that this butter was labeled as a premium for its velvety texture.
Perhaps that exceptional texture came from the additional milk fat in this butter. Land O’Lakes European butter contains 82 percent, while American butters are only required to contain 80. Maybe that extra two percent really pushed this butter from being good (like it’s honorable mention cousin) to great. Perhaps it’s that extra bit along with this butter’s perfect balance of cream and salt. Near perfection.
$7.19 per pound; available nationwide.
Best Small Producer: Freis von Kiel
This we know is true: Wisconsinites are passionate about their butter—so much so that they aren’t ones to accept clever imitators. So it might just be in our blood to recognize good Wisconsin butter like Fries von Kiel.
This creamy, pale yellow butter got high praise for its silky texture and natural looks. In fact, several testers made notes on how this brand seemed the most farm fresh to them. Considering this butter hails from just about 60 miles away, we consider that pretty fresh!
It’s also worth noting that of the eight butters we tried, Fries von Kiel butter was the only one rated Wisconsin Grade A (versus Grade AA like the others). According to Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Grade A butters often have a stronger taste than their AA counterparts, so perhaps we were all picking up on (and loving!) those slightly bolder flavors.
$4.19 per pound; available at Sendik’s and other Wisconsin grocers.
Best in Show: Shurfine
Surprising every single tester on our panel, the generic brand took the top spot in this test! Shurfine, a private label brand sold at many independent grocers, proved to be my crew’s favorite butter. Testers took note of its exceptionally smooth consistency and thick, creamy texture. When it came down to taste, folks were making notes of how fresh and flavorful this butter was and how the slight hint of salt really accentuated the flavor.
Since we were so stunned by this generic, I did a bit of digging to find out exactly what was setting Shurfine’s butter apart from the pack. Looking at the label, I could pinpoint exactly where the cream for this butter came from with its plant code. Using Where Is My Milk From? to search, I found out that this butter hails from Greenwood, Wis. and the same dairy that produces Grassland butter. This detective work paid off, and we’re happy to know that our butter comes from a farm not too far away—always a bonus.
$4.59 per pound; available at independent grocers nationwide.
The differences are subtle.
When it came to choosing the best butter, know that we’re talking about incredibly small differences from one brand to the next. Since all these butters contain only two ingredients—cream and salt—the results are all similar. It essentially comes down to the flavor of the ingredients themselves. However, we Wisconsinites here are pretty happy that our two favorite butters both hail from our state! Shows you that we aren’t called the Dairy State for nothing!
Price is a poor predictor of taste.
Going into this test, I was 100 percent certain that our pricier butter options would rise to the top. After all, why would butters like Kerrygold and Land O’Lakes European Style cost so much if they weren’t worth it? But in the end, our top picks included our two least expensive and our priciest brand.
It’s all good.
When it comes down to it, all butters are pretty darn good. Of course, a few testers walked away with a new brand they’d want to see on their short stack, but overall, we don’t think that the differences are quite enough to make significant changes to your favorite recipes.