Shortening and butter are two different types of fat that are rivals when it comes to making the perfect pastries and flaky pie crusts.
So, which is truly the superior choice? Read on to discover the pros and cons of each in order to determine once and for all, which is the ultimate ingredient for all your baking and cooking needs. Let’s get started!
Comparing shortening vs butter
|Solid or Liquid?||Solid||Solid|
|Smoke Point (Fahrenheit)||360 degrees||300-350 degrees|
|Good for Cooking…||Raw, low heat, moderate heat||Raw, low heat|
|Allergens||Depends on ingredients||Lactose, casein|
|Paleo?||Palm shortening only||No|
Differences between shortening vs butter
Shortening is typically made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, but it can also be made from animal fat. Butter is a dairy product made from animal milk.
Both shortening and butter are solid fats at room temperature. But shortening is treated through a process called hydrogenation to make saturated fats that turn liquid vegetable oil into a solid at room temperature, while butter is made by churning cream or milk until the fat separates from the liquid. So, while butter is a natural product, shortening is more of a processed food.
Unlike butter, which contains fat and water, shortening is 100% fat. However, shortening is higher in unsaturated fats, while butter is higher in saturated fat and trans fats.
Baking and cooking with shortening vs butter
Butter has a lower smoke point than shortening, which means it can burn more easily when cooking at high temperatures. However, butter is great for cooking things like sautéed vegetables or pan-fried meats because it adds a rich flavor. Shortening, on the other hand, has a higher smoke point, making it better for high-heat cooking techniques like frying or searing.
When it comes to baking, both have their unique uses. I prefer butter for its rich, creamy flavor which adds richness to cakes, cookies, and other baked goods. Shortening has a neutral flavor that won’t overpower other ingredients and keeps baked goods soft after baking. In my opinion, shortening is essential for creating flaky, tender pie crusts or shortbread.
I often use a combination of the two for the flavor of butter and the consistent texture that shortening provides!
Can shortening and butter be substituted for each other?
Shortening and butter can be swapped for one another in most recipes, especially pie crusts or puff pastry, but the results will be slightly different.
In general, shortening is better for creating flaky textures in baked goods, while butter is better for adding richness and flavor. So, if you’re thinking of swapping one for the other, it’s important to consider the recipe and the effect you’re trying to achieve before making the switch. There may be a better substitute for butter out there…
Nutrition: Shortening vs butter
Shortening is typically made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which can contain trans fats. Trans fats are known to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease HDL (good) cholesterol, making them a major contributor to heart disease. In fact, the FDA has banned the use of partially hydrogenated oils in food due to their negative health effects.
When oils are FULLY hydrogenated, there are no trans fats, but the shortening is also harder in texture. Vegetable shortening generally has more unsaturated fat than butter.
Butter, on the other hand, is a natural product that contains some nutrients like vitamins A and E, but it’s high in saturated fat, which can also contribute to heart disease when consumed in excess.
So, it’s important to consume both fats in moderation and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats – choosing healthier fats when possible.
|Per tablespoon (15mL)||Shortening||Butter|
|Monounsaturated||5.2 g||3.0 g|
|Saturated||4.6 g||7.3 g|
|Trans||0 g||0.5 g|
|Total Fat||12.8 g||14.2 g|
|Cholesterol||7.2 mg||30.5 mg|
The primary fat source is bolded.
How to store shortening and butter
Unopened shortening can be stored at room temperature for up to 8 months. Once opened, you should keep it in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 months. You can refrigerate shortening if you live in a hot place, just make sure to bring it to room temperature before using it.
Butter, on the other hand, should be stored in the refrigerator, either in its original packaging or in an airtight container for up to 3 months. It can last for several weeks after opening when stored properly.
Shortening vs butter: Which is better
So, which one is better? In baking, it’s all about the texture and flavor you’re trying to achieve, so both shortening and butter can have their place in your kitchen.
For every-day cooking and baking, I prefer butter for its rich, buttery flavor. Because shortening sometimes contains trans fats which are linked to negative health effects, I save shortening for special occasions, like making soft and tender pie crusts!
Shortening has a higher melting point than butter, which makes it a better choice for creating flaky pie crusts, biscuits, and pastries that require a crisp texture. It also has a neutral flavor that won’t compete with other ingredients in the recipe.
One cup of solid shortening is equivalent to one cup of butter, but when substituting, it’s important to consider the difference in water content between the two, so adjust the recipe accordingly.
Shortening is typically made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which can contain trans fats that are linked to increased risk of heart disease, while butter is a natural product made from animal milk that contains saturated fats, which are also associated with health risks when consumed in excess, so neither is significantly healthier than the other.
It depends on the type of cookie you’re making. Butter is best for cookies that are meant to have a rich, buttery flavor, while shortening is ideal for cookies that should be crispy or maintain their shape during baking, like cut-out cookies or shortbread. Many recipes use a combination of both butter and shortening for optimal texture and flavor.