Should You Use Salted Or Unsalted Butter For Steak?

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There is nothing quite like a freshly cooked succulent steak, served with all your favorite sides!

But did you know that the best steakhouses always use butter when frying steak? If you want to cook restaurant-style steak, then a dab of butter is all it takes!

But should you use salted or unsalted butter for steak? Either type of butter can work well, but you need to adjust the amount of additional salt you use to season your steak accordingly. Butter should be added to the steak either during the last minute of cooking, or when the cooked steak is resting.

Want to find out how to use butter to take your steak to the next level? Keep reading to find out when and how to add butter to steak, as well as the best type of butter to use!

Why Should You Put Butter On Steak?

A steaming beef tenderloin steak is grilled in a grill pan with the text copy space. The concept of the recipe , filet Mignon

You may well have been cooking steak for years without considering putting butter on it. But we’d strongly recommend giving this technique a try — adding butter to steak can take this succulent cut of meat to the next level!

Putting butter on steak increases both flavor and richness, giving the meat a glossy finish. It also enhances the texture of the meat, virtually guaranteeing that your lovingly-prepared prime steak is succulent and juicy.

The reason that butter on steak tastes so amazing is that it contributes to the delicious caramelized flavor that is so desirable on the outside of the meat.

Adding butter to steak also forms the basis of a rich sauce, perfect for blending with herbs, cheese, or mushrooms.

Which Butter Is Best For Steak?

delicious grilled steak shown from above on a cast iron skillet surrounded by fried onions and mushrooms, and topped with blue cheese steak butter

While you can use any butter from the store for steak, you won’t be surprised to hear that top-class steakhouses are very fussy about the butter they use.

The best kinds of butter for steak are either clarified butter or compound butter.

Clarified butter is butter that has had the solids removed, leaving pure milk fat. This is great for giving a glossy sheen to steak without the white flecks associated with melted whole butter.

Compound butter is a mix of butter and other supplementary ingredients, such as garlic or herbs. When melted, this blend acts like a flavored sauce.

These are both great choices if you’re aiming for Michelin-star restaurant quality, but in reality, you can use pretty much any butter from the store.

When it comes to butter, price is not always a reflection of quality. A good butter will contain a high ratio of milk to water — look for one that is around 80% milk or more if possible.

As milk is such a simple product, then a store-brand product can be just as good as the premium version.

Of course, some factors will improve the quality of your butter. Look for butter that is made using milk from organically-reared grass-fed cattle, as this will have a better and richer flavor.

And check the packaging carefully for unwanted additives — the ingredient list should consist of just milk, water, and possibly some salt. Anything else is not necessary, so should be avoided (unless you’re wanting compound butter).

But what about the salt — should we be using salted or unsalted butter for steak? Let’s find out!

Should You Use Salted Or Unsalted Butter For Steak?

Medium rare Ribeye steak with herbs and a piece of butter on the wooden tray.

Whether you should use salted or unsalted butter for steak is a question that divides opinion!

Some steak aficionados would never dream of using salted butter, while others will avoid unsalted butter like the plague.

In reality, there is little difference between salted and unsalted butter, apart from the saltiness! Both types of butter are made with pure milk fat, which melts perfectly over steak.

The decision on whether to use salted or unsalted butter will depend on how much control you want over the saltiness of your steak and whether you want to add any other seasonings.

Most chefs will season a prime steak with salt and pepper before cooking it, which helps to bring out the richness of flavor we all adore in a good steak.

This helps form a rich, caramelized layer on the outer surface of the steak, sealing in the delicious meat juices inside. The outer surface of the steak will have a saltier flavor that enhances the overall taste of the cooked meat.

If you were to use unsalted butter for steak, you can continue to season your steak as you would normally. The butter will add richness to the flavor, perfectly complementing the flavor of your seasoned steak.

Using unsalted butter for steak is fairly straightforward, as you do not need to make any adjustments to your cooking technique. But if you switch to salted butter, things get a bit more complicated.

When using salted butter, you need to reduce the amount of salt you use to season your steak to compensate for this. You may want to omit any additional salt altogether, which will alter the final flavor of the outer surface of your steak.

It can be difficult to get the level of seasoning just right when using salted butter for steak, but the richness of salted butter can definitely compensate for this!

Many people prefer the flavor of salted butter on the steak to the unsalted version, as they believe it creates the ultimate caramelized flavor on the seared meat.

So, which is best for steak — salted or unsalted butter?

In terms of the final flavor, salted butter comes out on top, but you do need to cut right back on the seasoning used on the steak before it is cooked.

If you want a simple buttery dressing without worrying about the levels of salt, opt for unsalted butter instead.

When Should You Add Butter To Steak?

Overhead shot of chef preparing ribeye with butter, thyme and garlic. Keto diet.

As well as picking the perfect butter for steak, how it is used is also critical.

Steak should never be cooked in butter, as it has a very low burn point. Without a doubt, the best way to cook a steak is on a searing hot grill or griddle — at these temperatures, the butter will burn and taste bitter.

Butter should only be added to steak towards the end of the cooking time, or while the cooked meat is resting 

You can add a knob of butter to the pan for the last minute or so of the cooking period. It will quickly melt into the pan and start to caramelize, creating a delicious brown coating on the meat.

Remember that it will burn very quickly, so take the pan off the heat as soon as the butter is bubbling and foamy.

Alternatively, you can place a pat of butter onto the cooked steak and it will melt over the cooked meat.

This is a great way to use herby or garlic butter to flavor a cooked steak, as the butter melts and dribbles richly flavored loveliness all over the meat.

Just don’t forget to scoop up and serve this ready-made sauce alongside your steak — it would be criminal to waste it!

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