Have you ever been ready to bake a batch of cookies and realized you forgot to soften the butter? Sure, you can use the microwave, but even the lowest setting runs the risk of softening the butter too much or even melting it. And if you’ve ever started baking with cold butter, you’ve quickly realized… your recipe isn’t coming together very well. This kitchen hack will show you how to quickly soften butter.

A stick of butter underneath a glass.

We love baked goods, but when you’re in the mood for chocolate chip shortbread cookies, you don’t want to wait around for the butter to soften to start the dough.

With this easy kitchen tip for how to soften cold butter, you can save yourself the hassle of melted butter in the microwave, or the struggle of having to wait to get your recipe started until your butter has softened.

Room temperature butter is used for so many of our favorite baked goods like peanut butter cookies, blueberry bundt cake, butter and cream cheese frosting and scrumptious coffee cakes. It’s obviously necessary for spreading on soft, fresh zucchini bread. It gives your baked goods a light texture but getting it to the right temperature can be a chore.

Why do recipes for baked goods call for softened butter? 

The base of many cookie and cake recipes is a step called creaming. This is when you use an electric mixer to beat the sugar and butter together. This step creates air pockets which helps the baked goods turn out light and delicious. 

Butter and sugar creamed together in a bowl.
Cream butter and sugar.

Soft butter also breaks down the sugar granules to help them dissolve as the cake or cookies bake in the oven. Butter is solid at fridge temperatures, and cold butter cannot be used for creaming. The butter must be softened to room temperature, which can take an hour or more, depending on how cold the butter is, how large the chunk of butter is, and how warm your kitchen is. 

Why You’ll Love This Kitchen Hack for Quickly Softening Butter

  • Quick and mess-free: This kitchen hack guarantees perfectly softened butter in just ten minutes and doesn’t require any dirty dishes. The butter stays in its paper wrapper so nothing gets greasy.
  • No special equipment: All you need for this hack is a stick of butter and a drinking glass or glass bowl.
  • Perfectly softened butter: This hack ensures the butter becomes soft enough to cream but keeps it solid and unmelted for perfect baked goods. 

What You’ll Need 

  • A tall drinking glass, such as a pint glass 
  • Hot water 

How to Soften Butter Quickly 

Step 1: Heat some water. 

Fill a glass with water and place it in the microwave, and microwave on high until boiling, about 3 minutes, or fill the drinking glass with hot boiled water.

Step 2: Soften the butter. 

Place a stick of butter standing upright on a plate or flat surface. Dump the hot water out of the glass and immediately invert the glass over the stick of butter. The hot glass will generate enough heat to gently soften the butter so it can be used for baking.

A glass of hot water next to a stick of butter.
Heat the water.
A glass covering a stick of butter.
Pour hot the water and place the glass over the butter.

Pro Tips

  • If you need more than one stick of softened butter, use a large glass measuring bowl.
  • Be careful! The glass will be very hot out of the microwave and you can burn yourself, you’ll need a pot holder or towel to handle the glass.
  • If you live where butter is sold in bricks rather than sticks, you’ll want to cut your butter chunk into 4 vertical pieces for this to work the best.

Is it safe to store butter at room temperature? 

Many people prefer to keep butter at room temperature since this makes it easier to spread on bread and other applications where softened butter is best. 

As long as you go through it quickly, butter won’t spoil at room temperature, but it shouldn’t be kept on the counter for longer than a week. If you live in a hot place where your kitchen is consistently above 75°F, you’ll probably want to keep your butter in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage. 

Butter kept on the counter, will probably be too soft for using in baked goods. You want the butter a little firm so that when you press your finger on it, it will easily make an indentation but not go all the way through the stick of butter.

A finger pressing a stick of butter.

Other Ways to Soften Butter

Using a hot glass is my favorite way of softening butter. But there are a few other methods you can try:

Grate the Butter

You can try grating your hard or frozen butter with a hand grater or food processor. This turns the butter into tiny pieces that should warm up to room temperature in a matter of minutes. However, the process takes a bit of time and can be messy to clean up.

Cut the Butter Into Cubes

You can use a knife to cut up the butter into small pieces that will warm up it quicker than the larger chunk.

Roll or Pound the Butter

You can use a rolling pin or mallet to begin creaming the butter by hand.

Microwave the Butter

If you decide to microwave your butter, cut it into a few smaller pieces. Then, microwave on 50% power for 3-5 seconds. I don’t have good luck with this method and end up having to put the butter back in the fridge to firm up.

FAQs About Softening Butter

What is room temperature? 

You would assume that room temperature just means the temperature of your kitchen, but it actually isn’t. In baking, room temperature means 68°F to 72°F. This temperature yields butter with the best texture for baking. If it gets warmer than that, it may actually be too soft to cream with the sugar for the best result. 

What if I need to soften frozen butter? 

This hack also works for butter that has been in the freezer. It will take a little longer and you might have to reheat the glass. Just check on it every few minutes.

If you just don’t want to soften butter, all is not lost you can still get instant gratification with some of these recipes:

Recipes to Try with Melted Butter

Recipes to Try with Cold Butter

I first published this post on How to Soften Butter on my Southern food blog Butter and Baggage.

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