If you’d like to be the owner of a well-stocked kitchen, there are a few rules you must abide by. First, your spice supply should be stacked (none of this salt and pepper only business) and second, you must have two different kinds of butter on hand, at all times.
Cooking butter, the kind you bake, sauté and sear with, should be extremely cheap. Generic is perfectly fine. This isn’t me being a dirtbag — baking queen Stella Parks is also a big fan of the cheap stuff for baking, and you know she knows what’s up.
In fact, trying to get all fancy with baking butter can mess you up if you’re not careful.
Cooking butter can be salted or unsalted, depending on your preference. (Some people avoid salted butter due to its sometimes higher and unpredictable water content, but these cookies make a strong case for the salted stuff.)
Since cooking butter is for cooking — obviously — there’s no need to worry about nuanced flavour profiles, as the more subtle flavours will most likely be overpowered by whatever you’re cooking or baking.
Cooking butter should be stored in the fridge or freezer, depending on how much you buy at one time.
Snacking butter is a whole different story. Snacking butter is stored at room temperature, preferably in a French butter keeper so that it is always soft, spreadable and rindless.
Snacking butter is for spreading on extremely good bread, breakfast radishes and crackers. This kind of butter is enjoyed almost like cheese — un-chilled and in generous amounts. It doesn’t need a delivery system, though societal norms might say otherwise.
Snacking butter is ideally cultured, then slowly churned for a higher fat content and creamier, tangier flavour. Irish butter is also a good choice. Though it is usually uncultured, it has a higher fat content and cheerful yellow hue thanks to milk from (usually) grass-fed cows.
If keeping two types of butter around seems a little rich for your blood, consider this: instead of compromising, and buying a middle-of-the-road butter that’s serviceable, but not great, in both roles, you’re buying two distinct products with two distinct functions.
Just buy the cheapest grocery store butter you can find for cooking, then reward your frugalness with fancy butter. I’m no finance expert, but this seems reasonable to me.
This article on butter types has been updated since its original publication date.