Tip: How to Soften Butter Quickly

How To

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.

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Why beat the butter? To get air bubbles into it which will expand when baking.

The best thing to do to soften your butter is to put it out on the kitchen counter for a half 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.

A New York Times article on butter in baking says, “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.”

You want pliable butter for beating, not almost melting butter.

Here are a few tricks to quickly soften butter:

  1. Grate the cold butter using the large holes of a cheese grater.
  2. Cut the butter into smaller cubes, they’ll soften more quickly that way
  3. Put the stick of butter between two pieces of wax paper and roll out with a rolling pin

See below for how to soften butter quickly using some wax paper and a rolling pin. This trick was taught to me several years ago by my neighbor, pastry chef Evie Lieb, who told me that she learned about it from a collective of Bay Area bakers called the “Baker’s Dozen”.

Tip: How to Soften Butter Quickly

  • Prep time: 2 minutes


1 Put the stick of butter between two large pieces of wax paper.

2 Using a rolling pin, press down on the butter.

3 Roll it out they way you would roll out a pie crust.

4 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).

Voilà! Softened butter, ready for beating.

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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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49 Comments / Reviews

No ImageTip: How to Soften Butter Quickly

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  1. Sharon

    I just used the rolling pin method. Worked like a charm. Thank you.

  2. Marie

    I use microwave on full power = 8 seconds, turn 8 seconds. Comes out perfectly and not melted in center.

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  3. 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.

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  4. 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.

  5. 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

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how to soften butterTip: How to Soften Butter Quickly