Separate the delicious from the merely buttery
Is there anything in your kitchen more useful and universally beloved than butter? From your morning toast to your afternoon pasta to your evening beurres and sautees to that midnight slice of cake, butter makes everything delicious. All butter is good, but not all butter is created equal. Some butters are better for savory dishes, others for desserts. Some butters are at their best out of the refrigerator, while others achieve maximum flavor once melted. I tasted ten butters (all salted) and separated the delicious from the merely buttery. Here they are, ranked from not-the-best to the best.
Lucerne doesn’t have much of a taste and takes a while to soften, both in terms of preparing for recipes and spreading on toast. This is a solid utility butter for when you don’t need a lot of added value in terms of taste and texture, just something that’s melty and fatty and dairy.
There’s not much one can do with marketing butter in terms of color or shape, so many brands have little slogans on their wrapper. Tillamook is “the best taste every day,” which should be more like “a pretty good taste every day.” It’s got a pale ecru color and a smooth texture, but is otherwise unremarkable. Tillamook ice cream still rocks, though.
Whole Foods' house brand 365 makes a host of products, most of which are of reliable quality, and the butter is no exception. It has a smooth, dense texture and clean, mellow taste. It melts a bit foamy, but makes a solid base to fry an egg or make grilled cheese.
7. Challenge Creamery
Gotta love the box, with its old-school font and illustration of an elk standing before a mountainous landscape. Challenge has been in business for over 100 years, so it's a given that they know how to churn. The flavor is a touch more savory than sweet, making it a good choice for mac n’ cheese or casseroles. It’s not a great toast/biscuit butter because it doesn’t spread easily, but works on, say, a toasted English muffin.
Not the same company that makes the vodka, so your dream of booze-infused butter will have to wait. Finlandia is a good table butter. It comes out of the refrigerator fairly spreadable and has a nice, barely-yellow color and slightly sweet flavor that tastes good solo. The downside to Finlandia is that it’s a bit of a pain to cook with, since it comes in a single block and has no measurement markings on the wrapper.
When it comes to butter, the Danes know their steez. Lurpak has a velvety texture and a well-balanced, slightly cheesy taste, which makes it excellent on toast and a fine choice for your classic butter-on-a-hard-roll breakfast. However, it takes Lurpak a bit of time to soften, so take it out of the refrigerator and let it rest for a while before using it.
4. Horizon Organic
Horizon Organic butter is an early-morning sunlight yellow color. For those of you who are irked by butter that sits on your bread in a lump, Horizon smears pretty well, even out of the refrigerator, even on butter that isn’t toasted. It has a milky, clean taste and melts to a pleasant, slightly nutty golden brown—nice for sauteeing or frying an egg.
Branded as “France’s #1 Butter,” Président has a high fat content—and that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? It’s a pale-yellow color evocative of a bridesmaid’s gown, yet the flavor has a bit of a salty/peppery edge that makes it a complementary component in savory dishes, as well as a good choice for dinner rolls.
Creamy. That was the first word that came to mind with Plugrá. It’s got a creamy flavor, which makes it a good choice for buttercream frosting or anything where you’re just going for maximum richness. On its own, it spreads a good piece of toast and tastes kind of like how I imagine how buttercups taste—not how they actually, taste, which is like nothing, but how one imagines a flower made of butter would hit the tongue.
Kerrygold butter is a sunshiny, golden yellow, which also describes the taste. It comes from grass-fed cows in Ireland and has a luscious texture and rich salty-sweet flavor. This is a slathering butter, one you want to drench your food in, whether applying excessively to a biscuit or piling onto your mashed potatoes.