If you follow me on Facebook, you have probably already read about our butter tasting experiment. I was inspired by America’s Test Kitchen’s latest video in which they tasted several butters and rated them either “highly recommended” or “recommended with reservations” or “not recommended.” Would we generate the same results using a double blind taste test here at home? I had to know.
I went to Whole Foods with my mom and loaded up on $25 worth of butter, in addition to two butters that I had purchased at Costco. I had my mom dish out a pat of each butter into a numbered dish and write the numbers on the packages of butter for later cross reference. Then I whipped up a huge loaf of delicious Rustic Italian Bread (recipe to come soon!) and waited for my hubby to get home so we could dig in.
We started with four butters. Brant took a bite, grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote:
I tasted the same one and agreed. It did indeed taste like butter. I tried #2. It also tasted like butter. Uh, oh? Was this whole experiment a waste? After tasting the third and fourth butters I began to realize that I’m no Chris Kimball, the host of America’s Test Kitchen. I couldn’t tell the difference between any of them. Meanwhile, as Brant continued tasting, he was able to discern subtle differences. “#2 has a strong starting taste but then it just disappears… it’s like it’s watery.” Or, “#3 is tangy… I don’t like that one.” I did not believe him. Could he really tell a difference or was he pulling my leg? I sent him out of the room and buttered a piece of bread. He returned and kept his eyes closed while tasting it. “#1. Definitely #1.” And he was right. I sent him back out again and we repeated the test. He knew without a doubt that this second sample was #3. Hmph. Obviously there was a difference. (Note: I tried taking the same taste test. My results were less than abysmal. I clearly cannot fool anyone. )
The next night we had friends over to do the same taste test, although this time we added the other 4 butters to the mix. We tasted, tasted, and tasted some more. We wrote down comments. Courtnie said, “#3 tastes like it has plants in it.” Josh exclaimed, “This one is really salty to me!” Of course, the one he referenced was the only non-salted butter in the line-up. We cracked up at this realization. Courtnie declared #7 to be her favorite, followed by #1 and #5.
For Father’s Day my mom, brother, and father tasted the butters and give their opinions. My dad also preferred #7. Brant still declared that #1 was definitely the best. My mom preferred #1 as well, but also liked #5 and #7. A common theme was occurring. My friend Nicky joined the fray later in the evening and tasted all of them in order, reaching #7 and saying, “Oooh! I like this one!”
Finally, it was time to reveal our contestants.
#1: Plugra – This butter was rated as a favorite by everyone who joined the taste test. This is about $7.50 per pound.
#2: KerryGold Irish Butter - This butter had the highest salt content of all of our butter choices, but no one liked it compared with the others. This butter is $6 per pound.
#3: Organic Valley Pasture Butter – This seasonally available butter is cultured, meaning it has a tangy, almost cheesy taste. Few people preferred this, and Brant’s comment was, “If I wanted cheese, I would have asked for cheese.” This butter is about $8 per pound.
#4: Strauss Family Creamery Organic European Butter – This butter was lightly salted so it was difficult to compare with the more heavily salted alternatives. Most agreed that if it had just a bit more salt, it would have been in their top three if it wasn’t there already. This butter is about $6 per pound.
#5: Lurpak – This is the butter that America’s Test Kitchen favored over all. It was definitely among our top three! This butter is about $8 per pound.
#6: German Butter – this unsalted butter was really impossible to compare with our other salted versions. No one liked it, but we all knew that this is likely because it had no salt.
#7: Costco’s Kirkland Brand Organic Butter – This was a real surprise winner! Almost everyone loved this butter even though it’s not a true “gourmet” butter. It’s about $4 a pound.
#8, 9: We also threw in two “cheap” butters to compare with all these gourmet options. One was the Costco Kirkland unsalted butter to which I added salt after experiencing peoples’ opinions of #6. Another was a container of whipped Challenge Butter. Most people found the Kirkland unsalted brand to be unexceptional. And the Challenge butter? “Ick! It tastes like it has chemicals!” I tasted the Challenge butter and almost gagged. There was a major difference between this and the other gourmet butters we had tasted.
Overall comments? Plugra, Lurpak, and Kirkland’s Organic Butter were our favorites. Brant says that the Plugra was definitely his favorite, but that the Kirkland brand was the best value for his money so he would most likely buy that. However, once in a while it’s fun to have a special treat. When those times come, we will be choosing Plugra.