Factoid: Butter vs. Shortening

September 22, 2008

The most frequently asked question on this blog is why I use a mixture of half shortening (butter flavored shortening to be exact) and half butter in my cookies. And can people choose which one they want to use and exclude the other. You butter lovers, you!

Here's the answer:

Butter and Shortening both add different chemical properties to baked goods. This mostly has to do with their evaporation level and how they react to heat. Butter increases browning and adds a crisps texture to baked goods. It also evaporates more quickly, but then lends less stability to the finished product. Butter also has the best flavor. Shortening does not brown food nearly as much. It takes longer to evaporate and adds a more elastic texture to baked goods.

So when I bake cookies I use a mixture of half butter and half shortening. Why? Because I get the best of both worlds. The butter helps to crisp the outside and the shortening helps your cookie retain moisture.

So if you choose to use all butter, your cookie will turn out a bit more browned and more crisp, but may also stale or dry out more quickly. If you use only shortening you will get a softer cookie with less texture and less flavor.

I hope that helps.


familyreinhard September 23, 2008  

Welcome back! Hope you are feeling better and had a nice birthday!
Thanks for the info! I never knew what shortening was, dont have it here in Switzerland.

Julie September 27, 2008  

What about butter flavored shortening? Is that what you are using to mix half and half? I've been thinking about trying to mail cookies to my hubby (deployed) and now am wondering recipes using shortening will help them last to reach him (that and trying to suck all the air out of the bag).

Emilie Ahern September 27, 2008  

Yes...I use butter flavored shortening.

the real ~Roxann~ October 07, 2008  

And this is why I consider you a genius....I never knew any of this!

Erin,  February 24, 2011  

I realize this is terribly old, but I have found coconut oil to lend a similar moistness to baked goods as shortening. We have many cookie recipes that are half butter/half coconut oil these days. Thanks for all the great recipes and tips!

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