Tip: How to Soften Butter Quickly

How ToButter

The quick way to soften butter for baking, with a little wax paper and a rolling pin.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Many baking recipes call for “softened” butter, or room temperature butter. The reason for using softened butter is that you want to beat the butter (also called “creaming the butter”), either with sugar or without, and it’s very hard to beat a cold stick of butter.

The best thing to do to soften your butter is to put it out on the kitchen counter for an hour before you have to use it. But sometimes we don’t think that far ahead. One popular solution is to put the cold butter in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds. The problem with microwaving butter is that the microwave can heat the butter unevenly, and tends to over-soften or even melt the butter in places. You want pliable butter for beating, not almost melting butter.

Here’s a simple trick to soften butter quickly using some wax paper and a rolling pin.

Tip: How to Soften Butter Quickly



Just put the stick of butter between two large pieces of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, press down on the butter. Roll it out they way you would roll out a pie crust. When the butter is about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick, lift off the wax paper and peel away the butter (before it gets too soft to peel).

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Voilà! Softened butter, ready for beating.

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This trick was taught to me several years ago by (I think) my neighbor, pastry chef Evie Lieb, who, if I am recalling correctly, told me that she learned about it from a collective of Bay Area bakers called the "Baker's Dozen".

Butter Holds the Secret to Cookies That Sing - New York Times article on butter in baking, including "Never use a microwave: it will melt it, even though it will look solid. When the butter is still cold, but takes the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, it is ready to be creamed."

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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45 Comments / Reviews

No ImageTip: How to Soften Butter Quickly

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  • Roboto

    You mentioned that you can put the butter in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds but failed to add that the power level should only be 10 to 30 percent.

  • Kathy

    I haven’t read all the comments, so apologies if this has already been mentioned, but I just take the cold butter, hold the cube in its wrapping paper, and grate it on a box grater. Done.

  • elisabeth

    I don’t remember where I learned this one but it works. Unwrap the butter and lay it on a saucer. Get a drinking glass or a mug and fill it with hot water then set it over the butter. Leave it for about five minutes. The heat will soften, but not melt the butter

  • Mitchell

    Last December my friend came over to my house to bake holiday cookies with
    me. I had forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge to soften, and, as it had been in the freezer until a couple
    of hours earlier, it was very hard. My friend, who had been to a culinary college, said not to worry. She unpeeled the sticks of butter and, using my Oxo Y-peeler, shaved of thin
    curls of butter the length of the sticks into a bowl, and, after sitting at room temperature for 20 minutes more, they creamed quickly and easily.

  • Mary Ann

    If you use the microwave to soften butter, and it gets too soft, take several ice cubes and push them through the butter with a fork. The cold from the ice will harden the butter; you can add more cubes if needed. The water separates naturally from the butterfat. After the butter is the consistency you need, pour off the water and use the softened butter.

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Tip: How to Soften Butter Quickly