Grilling is heating up, and that means it’s time to grab the butter, and don’t cut costs by avoiding the good stuff. According to Data Bridge Market Research, grilling is currently growing due to the rise in the barbecuing on weekends and holidays, especially among young people. And there are no signs of slowing down! The report also predicts that the BBQ Grill Market will grow at a rate of 5.10% during the forecast period between 2021 and 2028.
Meanwhile, according to Future Market Insights, the global butter market is estimated to reach a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 4.9% during the forecast period of 2022 to 2032 and the United States remains the EU’s largest importer of butter.
So how does the growth of grilling and the consumption of European butter – and particularly French butter – go together? Americans are discovering the joys and benefits of grilling with European butter. In fact, many top chefs around the country notice the perks and flavor nuances of French butter.
For example, Chef Sheana Davis, butter monger for Bread & Butter Winery in Napa and author of the upcoming book Buttermongers, says that in addition to the classic addition of butter to grilled steak, there’s no limit to what you can grill with French butter. From sauteed vegetables on the grill, to grilled cheese, and even scallops and shrimp, Davis enjoys utilizing the high-quality butter in all of her summer grilling. A longtime fan of compound butters, Davis recently even perfected a recipe for asparagus with a chive lemon butter, featuring none other than French butter.
Davis explains that appeal, “With the 82% butter fat and the cultured flavor of the butter, French butter can really add a new level to the dish.” She adds, “When I was in Paris three years ago, I attended a butter tasting and they paired butters with wines from the same region. It was an eye-opener. The slight and yet pleasant sourness is what I really enjoy about the butters of Europe.”
Another chef and grill master who religiously uses European butter is Paul Jimenez, a.k.a. @bigpaulonthegrill, and Founder of The PaulieStrong Foundation, which uses cooking to create awareness for Childhood Cancer Research. Jimenez says “it’s all about flavor and French butter provides a unique nuttiness due to the quality of the cultured cream and what the cows consume. It gives it a nutty, mellow tang, and reacts differently when baked and grilled. French butter is extremely versatile in its uses. Spread it on toast and you will experience a subtle, yet delicious difference from traditional American butters, or poach raw lobster meat and prepare a game-changing lobster roll this summer.” He adds, “I like to use French butter to top a seared or grilled steak, and to poach seafood such as lobster or crab legs.” He adds that shrimp poached in French butter is “absolutely incredible.”
Charles Duque, Managing Director of the Americas for the French Dairy Board, explains where the pleasant sour tang of French butters comes from. “Cultured butter is treated with cultures like yogurt and is then fermented and churned. This results in a fuller, deeper flavor and is much creamier. There’s a slight tang from the cultures, just like with yogurt.” To make sure your butter is truly the best, look for the AOP or AOC label. Adds Duque, “Butter with an AOP or AOC is a protected butter from a specific region. If a butter has this symbol, it means it is produced following certain guidelines and uses milk specifically from a certain region.”
And it’s not just the flavor that makes European butter the pick of American chefs. Adds Davis, “the texture is so elegant based on the cream content. French Butter spreads so well and adapts to many dishes.” She shares her pro tips:
Purchase only what you need and keep it fresh
Store in an airtight container so that the butter does not absorb refrigerator flavors
Keep a portion on your counter in a butter dish so you have immediate access to spreadable butter (perfect with your afternoon baguette)
Jimenez also offers this top tip, this time for poaching with French butter on the grill. The key is to prevent the butter from boiling or it will separate. “Try to keep the butter between 160 and 175 degrees F. Use an instant read thermometer to keep it under 180 F,” he notes.
If you want to elevate your cooking, visit the website www.TasteEurope.com
@TasteEuropeButterofFrance is where you’ll find many recipes using European butter, along with a store locator, and more tips and techniques for adding more flavor to your favorite recipes.
Julia Child famously said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” And given that she learned to cook in France, we know that she was talking about French butter.
Julia Child introduced Americans to French cuisine and to French butter. In fact, she once said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” Even though she was born over 100 years ago, American’s fascination with her and French food are still popular. In fact, both the Food Network and HBO premiered shows based on Julia Child this spring!
Fortunately, you don’t have to go to France to enjoy French butter; it’s more available than ever in the US, and American chefs are eager to teach you how to use it. TasteEurope.com and @TasteEuropeButterofFrance are filled with recipes, tips and more information than you could possibly need, all about the European butter.
Pastry chef and recipe developer Alex Roberts of Alexander Bakes over medium heat. Add coated cutlets and cook until golden brown on both sides. Cook in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Place the chicken aside on a plate., based in Los Angeles, says, “I choose French butter because it’s higher in quality and flavor than American butter, which is often made with more water, giving it a pale-yellow color. French butter is cultured by way of fermented cream, which gives it a slightly tangy flavor and smell.” But it’s not just the superior quality and flavor, he explains. “The lower water content helps it stay colder longer, which means the butter is a bit dryer, making it perfect for laminating croissants or puff pastry (this is a technique often used in pastries where you fold and roll butter into dough repeatedly to create super thin layers). Also, the tanginess from cultured cream adds a bit of nuance to something like a classic chocolate chip cookie.”
French butter is the natural choice for baking French pastries. “French butter makes laminating croissants way, way, way easier. American butter melts quicker (more water!) and cracks easily when cold, making it hard to laminate with. There’s a reason that French croissants are always better!” explains Roberts.
Kristin “Baker Bettie” Hoffman, chef, baking instructor and author of Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book agrees, adding “If I am baking something that is specifically French, like croissants, then I will most definitely turn to French butter. In these instances, I will make a point to state in the ingredient list that French butter should be used for best results.”
Charles Duque of the French Dairy Board explains that French butter is superior to alternatives due to several factors. “French butter, by law, must have a higher fat content, so it is naturally richer and has a creamier taste than American butter. French butter comes from milk from grass-fed cows, which produce a more savory, nutty-tasting butter than non-grass-fed cows.” When shopping for butter he says, “Butter with the PDO label is a protected butter that signifies a production guideline regulating milk, production process, terroir and savoir-faire. If a butter has this symbol, it means they are produced following certain guidelines and using the milk from a specific region.”
Looking for ways to use French butter in your recipes? Head to www.TasteEurope.com, or @TasteEuropeButterofFrance on both Facebook and Instagram. Here you will find recipes, tips, a retail locator and more to bring the European butter experience to your table.
Whether he’s behind the stove in one of his Parisian restaurants (Semilla and Freddy’s) or with his students at the prestigious École Supérieure Ferrandi, whether he’s working on culinary styling for one of his many book collaborations or passing on his skills to others around the world, creativity and learning are the heart and soul of Éric Trochon’s cuisine. As a “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in 2011, his talents have been exported all over the world. Like him, his art is in motion, his intellectual curiosity is insatiable and he cooks in inventive, correct and generous ways.
What is your first buttery memory?
My first sole meunière at the Ferrandi school of cooking. I was 15 years old. It was very successful … beginner’s luck! We tasted it; I remember the contrast between the pearly flesh, firm and fragrant, and the cooking butter, just nutty, slightly lemony … wow!
What place does butter hold in your kitchen?
An essential place. I’m crazy about butter! For me, butter is an indispensable marker of French gourmet cuisine, but using it wisely and in the right way requires a lot of expertise. I often assess the talent of cooks around by the way they cook with butter: do not burn it, do not add too much, their movements as they baste a roast with a spoon and, most importantly, the results obtained, which must never leave an impression of fattiness or heaviness.
How do you use butter?
Raw, cooked, salted, sweet … blended in, for cooking (meunière), to finish sauces, biscuits, creams … the list is a long one. Without butter, I would be a little lost. I travel around the world a lot, and sometimes I can’t find butter locally (or only poor-quality butter); I then feel something is missing … I must then correct and readjust my recipes, and the result is never as flavorful!
What qualities do you see in it?
Butter is a pure delicacy … It is an incredible holder of aromas. The buttery note prolongs the taste of food in the mouth. Butter ennobles the simplest products and provides the little “French twist” which is essential to all other preparations.
Sonia Ezgulian inherited the pleasure of cooking and entertaining from her Armenian grandmother. Self-taught, she is both a food journalist and a well-known chef. Between 1999 and 2006, she developed the Oxalis restaurant in Lyon, where she applied herself to reveal the richness of her vocabulary in the range of flavors she created. Subtlety, delicacy, finesse, nuance, charm and softness all nourish Sonia’s inspiration and creativity. A multifaceted personality, her cooking is spontaneous and free from rigid technical constraints. She is always inventive and in search of perfection. Sonia Ezgulian has written many cookbooks with her husband, the photographer Emmanuel Auger.
What is your first buttery memory?
It’s both a taste and a cooking technique. An Armenian dessert, the Bourma, crispy rolls filled with nuts, pistachios and cinnamon. To make it, you have to learn how to add the right amount of melted butter and how to handle the generously brushed filo leaves.
What place does butter hold in your kitchen?
A place by itself, a place of choice, a special place. Butter is synonymous with gourmet cooking and is used with both simple and sophisticated techniques.
I like making simple dishes in my kitchen. I might drizzle a fish fillet with a frothy herb butter or wrap meat in buttery rolls of puff pastry.
What qualities do you see in it?
Of course. I use flavored butters all year round, using different flavors that complement the dishes. Butter is essential for tasty and crunchy pastry for pies and other “Oreillers de la Belle-Aurore.” And for root vegetables, which I like to glaze with a little honey as well.
What qualities do you see in it?
Its taste above all, because whether raw or browned, it brings a unique touch. I like to use it as a “binder”: browned butter added to a meat sauce a few moments before coating a dish, as a base to make fish rillettes, to make original pasta (speculoos mixed and bound with a little bit of melted butter), etc.
If you’ve recently taken a stroll down the dairy aisle of your local market, you might have noticed the bounty of options crowding the shelves in the butter section. There are labels that read salted and unsalted, margarines made with a disconcertingly long list of ingredients, plant-based alternatives and butters imported from around the world. So what are you supposed to grab if you simply want butter that’s going to elevate anything you cook or bake.
You can’t go wrong by following the lead of people who make really, really good food for a living. When given the choice, professional chefs and bakers almost always prefer to use European butter imported from France. The simple explanation is that it’s more flavorful than other types of butter. The reason why that’s the case, however, is a slightly longer story.
A Long, Flavorful Tradition
Butter has been a staple in the French diet for centuries—almost as long as cows have lived in the region. You can see the results of this rich relationship when you look at some of France’s oldest and most iconic recipes. The five French Mother Sauces, in particular, illustrate just how much French cuisine relies on butter.
First developed in the 19th Century, these sauces revolve around butter in some capacity, usually in the form of a roux. A simple mix of flour and butter, roux is the building block of the French Mother Sauces (and pretty much all of French gastronomy.) Pair it with dairy and you get béchamel. Combine roux with a white stock (chicken, vegetable or fish stock) to prepare velouté or brown stock (veal or beef) for espagnole. The final two mother sauces, tomato and hollandaise, also incorporate butter to get their rich flavor.
Given the composition of these sauces, it’s safe to say that it’s impossible to imagine French cuisine existing (let alone becoming a symbol of excellence around the world) without butter. Although, you don’t need a PHD in gastronomy to realize how much the French care about butter. One bite of a fresh and flaky croissant should do the trick.
The European Difference
Okay, so it’s clear that the French have been passionate about their butter for a while now. But what makes European and French butter different from its American counterpart? The biggest factor is the fat content. European butter has at least 82% fat while American butter only needs to reach the 80% threshold set by the USDA.
That might not seem like a huge gap, but it’s the key to what makes French butter a favorite among chefs and bakers. They know that more fat means less water which leads to more flavor. French butter is also cultured, lending it a tanginess and richer, deeper flavor profile. Whether you’re using butter to sauté a steak or make these Madeleine Cookies, French butter is basically a cheat code for giving your food more flavor.
Even if you’re adding butter after you’re done cooking, French butter still stands out because that extra fat content makes it creamier and easier to spread on toast, pastries or (for anyone wanting to stick close to the French theme) crepes. You can elevate traditional crepes with this salted caramel butter—not one of the Five French Mother sauces, even though it should be.
It’s important to note that you don’t always need to add butter to a completed dish. If you use French butter to make this Classic French Brioche, for instance, it will be perfectly flavorful as soon as you pull it from the oven.
How to Spot Real French Butter
Now let’s go back to the dairy aisle of your market. If you decide that you want to see what the fuss is all about, and taste the difference that extra fat and cultures can make, you should scan the labels looking for butter imported from France. Don’t just look for a brand name that sounds vaguely French. There are plenty of imitators, but only butter made from French dairy can help you raise the bar for quality in your kitchen.
There are many secrets to using French butter to elevate your dishes. Chef Nobu Lee of The Orchid Restaurant in Taipei adds seaweed, particularly the green and red varieties, to add depth of flavor and color. Executive chef Wenyuan Zhu of Shanghai’s Borage restaurant chooses soy sauce to add a dark brown color to his dish, describing it as the emerging seasoning in Western food. He’s also taken his love of the sauce as color inspiration for his restaurant interiors. Whatever the color of the buttery sauce, the future on our plates is looking bright!
Tip #1: Soften it.
To make it easier to spread, remove the butter from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes. To quickly soften butter that is too cold, just cut it into pieces, wrap it in a damp cotton cloth and knead it for a few seconds.
Tip #2: Give it a bath.
If the butter has absorbed smells in the refrigerator, an ice water bath will give it a second youth. Just dry it afterwards. This can be done as many times as necessary.
Tip #3: Freeze it.
Not using it right away? Butter can be frozen for one to two months.
Tip #4: take it off the heat.
To make a butter sauce, the butter must always be incorporated by whisking it off the heat.
Tip #5: avoid the splatter.
Calm down crackling in the the pan by adding a pinch of salt before melting the butter, then a pinch of flour when it is melting.
Tip #6: make your sauces glossy.
To prevent the formation of a skin on the surface of bechamel sauce, coat it with a little melted butter.
Secrets of Flavor
Tip #7: add a little interest.
Mix some unsalted butter with a little horseradish or wasabi from a tube, melt gently and serve with grilled meat. Or mix your butter with hazelnut powder and cover a fillet of sole with it.
Tip #8: use it in place of oil.
Replace the oil in a dressing with melted butter, perfect on steamed baby vegetables.
Tip #9: let it take the main stage.
Mix some unsalted butter with a piece of Camembert and add toasted almonds. Spread on lightly grilled croutons. Serve as an appetizer.
Tip #10: let it shine in a simple sauce.
Butter sauce with salted butter: Melt the butter over a low heat. Using a whisk, mix in the juice of a lemon over a low heat. This sauce is perfect to accompany pasta or a skate wing.
Religious, political, socioeconomic, cultural and dietary contexts, not to mention the natural environment, have undeniably influenced the evolution of food practices and choices; the same is true of fads and “taste trends.” These processes mainly revolve around cooking fats as they affect both cooking techniques and seasoning, while often providing an identity as well. Analyzing them over long time periods, using recipe books in particular, we find that fats are highly significant foods. They have played an important role in the history of cooking, as well as in changes to tastes. This is the case with butter and its “true history.”
B utter is almost always used in refined and gourmet recipes. Until the fifteenth century, animal fats and olive oil were mainly used for cooking in Europe and around the world. However, historians have noted references to butter in Tibet and India for use in religious ceremonies, in China during the Tang Dynasty and in the distant lands of Siberia as an invigorating drink. The Irish, the Scots and the Scandinavians used to be buried with a barrel of butter. Many beliefs of Northern European countries endow butter with health benefits and curative properties, certainly due to the vitamin A it contains.
During the Middle Ages, though butter sometimes appeared in culinary books, it is seen in only 2% of the Viandier recipes, written by Guillaume Tirel (Taillevent), the celebrated cook of kings Charles V and Charles VI. It was not until the fifteenth century that Italy adopted butter in its culinary vocabulary and that the expression “browning” became commonly used. The Age of Enlightenment in France shook the whole of Europe and turned eating habits and the ritual of meals upside down through the invention of new techniques and utensils. Pats of butter were sometimes stamped or hand-decorated using a spoon or a kind of spatula; they were sometimes open molded, piston-molded or shaped in tannin-free woods such as linden, plane or beech. Butter molds are often decorated with engravings illustrating the region of origin, the initials of the farm owner or natural scenes. In the countryside and at markets, the pats were sometimes simply wrapped in cabbage leaves. In aristocratic mansions, the butter dish has maintained its place on the most beautiful tables since the eighteenth century.
Cooking with butter appeared in the fifteenth century and made a remarkable entrance into treatises on cooking during the Renaissance. Butter became the favorite fat for making “roux,” the new binding technique that would replace medieval practices using bread. Only white butter and browned butter were used at the time; “black butter” came along much later. “Butter and lard are the most commonly used fats in the cuisine of the Enlightenment, far more than scarce olive oil in the kitchens of the Grand Siècle, with the exception of the Mediterranean world,” according to Patrick Rambourg, a historian and researcher specializing in cooking and gastronomy. Flavors were becoming more and more subtle.
Delicate aromas took over thick sauces, and garnishes were more refined. Puff pastry and other pastries made their appearance on elegant tables in the kingdom of France and the courts of Europe. Creating recipes became an aristocratic pastime. Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour and the famous Countess du Barry have all entered dishes into the culinary heritage! Butter, an essential ingredient of these culinary upheavals, became the symbol of luxury, elegance and refinement.
The emergence of butter in the culinary world was also partly related to its use on Fridays, Saturdays and Wednesdays, i.e., on days when Christians could not eat meat (not for dietary reasons but because animal flesh was considered to be a “hot” food, creating vice). The Church, which banned the consumption of animal fat during Lent, as well as during lean days, ended up allowing the consumption of butter. This dispensation would play an important role in the evolution of this fat, which was now used on a daily basis and would go on to become a staple of cooking. It is interesting to note that it became the fat used in “low-fat” recipes and to prepare fish dishes on “fish days.” Religious dictates would therefore influence the choice of fats used in the kitchen, but the taste for butter was never lost. Some butters are sought after for their aroma and flavor, others for their delicacy and beautiful color, and others because they are produced in spring and autumn …
Oh you, butter, colored like the sun, bring us your riches!