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How to Soften Butter

I might sound a bit dramatic when I say this, but after years in the kitchen, I really believe that there’s nothing worse than having cold butter when a recipe calls for soft butter. So do I soften butter quickly?

block of butter being cut into pats with a butter knife and a yellow banner with black text

Cold, hard butter is impossible to spread on toast and impossible to mix into recipes. Most use room temperature butter, like chocolate chip cookies.

There are lots of recipes, like pie doughs, that need a cold stick of butter to create the perfect consistency, but many times, a recipe calls for room-temperature butter sticks.

If you’re anything like me, you often don’t plan far enough ahead. You forget to set out a whole stick of butter to thaw. Instead, you realize in the moment that you need to soften the butter quickly so you can continue with your recipe.

Luckily there are several different ways to quickly thaw sticks of butter. That way you can get to baking in no time!

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butter sliced into squares

There are a handful of easy ways to get softened butter in no time.

How do you quickly soften butter?

Slice: One way is to cut the butter into small chunks to help it warm to room temperature faster. The small cubes have a smaller surface area than a whole stick of butter, which makes it soften more quickly.

Grate: You can also use a box grater to grate the butter. Since grating butter results in even smaller pieces than cutting it into chunks of butter, this method is a great way to get your butter to the right temperature quickly.

Pound: Use a rolling pin and roll out the butter on the kitchen counter like a pie crust. The easiest way to do this is to place the butter between two pieces of wax paper. The wax paper helps make the process less messy and keeps the butter–and your counter–clean.

Warm: The final way, and I think the best way, to thaw butter is to create a heat cave. To do this, heat water and pour it into a ceramic or glass bowl. Let the hot water sit in the bowl for a few minutes, then dump it out.

Quickly cover your butter with the bowl, and the residual heat from the bowl will thaw your butter in only a couple of minutes.

butter being spread onto a slice of bread

Can I soften butter in microwave?

You may have noticed that I did not include the microwave method in my list above. The microwave is often the go-to way of thawing butter in a pinch, but I don’t think it’s the best method.

Microwave temperatures are very inconsistent, and it’s so easy to go from a solid stick of butter to a bowl of melted butter. Using the microwave makes it so hard to get the correct temperature of the butter.

If you want to thaw butter in the microwave, I recommend doing it in short increments at half power. Make sure the butter is on a microwave-safe glass. Not using a microwave-safe container can be dangerous.

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butter being spread onto a piece of toast

How do you soften butter straight from the fridge?

There are several simple techniques to take a wrapped stick of butter from the fridge and make it soft.

One of the simplest methods is to leave the stick of butter out on the counter and let it thaw for several hours. You can also store it in a butter dish rather than a plate. Though this might be the best option, I think it can take too much time if you are baking on a time crunch.

Luckily there are a few easy kitchen hacks that speed up the thawing process. If you have a stand mixer, you can use the creaming method. For this method, place the amount of butter needed into the large bowl. Then use the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes. This easy trick will get you soft butter in no time.

Another great tip is to cut or grate the butter into small pieces. Cubed butter will thaw faster than a whole stick because smaller pieces have smaller surface areas.

You can also roll the butter with a rolling pin, similar to how you roll out the pie crust. This method can be done right on the kitchen counter. Place the butter between two sheets of wax paper and roll away!

If you are baking with an oven or stove, using the heat that radiates from the appliances might be the perfect way to thaw your butter. Place the hard stick of butter close to the appliance you are using (on top of the oven, for example) and let the heat it emits soften the butter.

Finally, my favorite method is to fill a ceramic or glass bowl with hot water. Let the bowl of warm water sit for a few minutes, and then pour it out. Cover the plate of butter with the bowl, and the butter will become soft in minutes.

soft butter close up

How can you soften butter quickly without microwave melting it?

Thawing butter in the microwave can be tricky because the heat from the microwave can be very inconsistent. A plate of butter can quickly become a puddle of melted butter in the microwave, which is why I try to avoid it.

If you want to soften butter in the microwave without it melting, a great tip is to thaw in short time increments on half power. The short time increments will help you keep an eye on the thawing process and avoid a melted mess. Using half power helps thaw the butter more thoroughly.

Thawing butter might not be the easiest task, but the great thing is that there are so many methods to make sure your butter thaws just right. Try experimenting with a few methods to see what works for you.

These tips have been a life saver for me in the kitchen. Now, I no longer have to wait on butter to soften to continue baking or end up with a melted disaster in the microwave from trying to speed up the thawing process.

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block of butter with knife cutting it and text in a white banner

Next time you forget to set your butter out before cooking, you’ll be able to use these great tips and tricks to achieve perfectly softened butter in no time at all!

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