How to Soften Butter

By: Jeremy Glass  | 
soften butter
The best way to soften butter for baking is to plan ahead and let it come to room temperature naturally. annick vanderschelden photograph/Getty Images

Whether you're a seasoned baker or part-time pastry enthusiast, you probably at least know that butter is the baking essential that adds a rich flavor and delicate texture to baked goods. Like most phases of successful cooking, baking requires a fair amount of preparation on your part to ensure a delicious result.

One step you often see in cookbooks and online recipes is to soften the butter before mixing with the rest of the ingredients. Basically, softening the butter simply means bringing it to room temperature. The reason you want to soften the butter is you'll likely be creaming it with other ingredients, usually sugar. That's nearly impossible to do with cold, hard butter. But if you have soft butter, creaming it — to add much-needed air bubbles to your batter — is much easier. Here are five tips to soften butter.


  1. Skip the microwave: While it may seem like a quick and easy solution to thawing out ice-cold butter from the freezer, we strongly recommend resisting the siren call of the microwave. Why? Not only does a microwave heat the butter unevenly, but it can actually melt it too much, rendering it unusable.
  2. Plan ahead: Successful baking not only requires talent but also excellent time management skills. The best way to soften butter for a recipe is to take it out of the fridge or freezer an hour or two before you start baking. Pro-tip: Turn your oven or cooktop on super low and place your wrapped butter on a plate on top to speed up the process.
  3. Cut it up: If you're dealing with stiff, stubborn butter that just won't seem to thaw, try cutting it into chunks. The added surface area will hit the warm air more quickly and soften faster. You can also grate it on a cheese grater ... as long as you can resist the urge to eat it like cheese.
  4. Try the rolling pin method: Here's one that's just as fun as it is effective. Place a stick of butter between two sheets of wax paper. Lay the butter down on a flat surface and smooth it out with a rolling pin. You can either roll it out like dough or just club it.
  5. Give your butter a "bath": Heat up some water in a pot. Stick your butter in a heat-resistant bowl and place inside the pot of water. This creates a DIY double boiler that'll soften the butter quickly and easily.

Originally Published: Nov 18, 2020

Soften Butter FAQ

What is softened butter?
Softened butter is butter that's been warmed to room temperature. It isn't as solid or firm as cold, refrigerated butter, but it also isn't completely melted — it's simply soft.
How do I soften butter to room temperature quickly?
The best way to soften butter quickly is to take the butter out of the fridge about an hour before you need it. However, if you're in a pinch, you can turn your oven or cooktop on super low heat and place your wrapped butter on a plate on top to speed up the process.
What is the quickest way to soften butter?
There are a few tricks you can try to speed up the process of softening butter. You can cut the butter into small chunks so it warms up faster. You can also place the butter between two sheets of wax paper and flatten it with a rolling pin. Another option is to create a water bath; just heat up some water in a pot, place the butter in a heat-resistant bowl, and place the bowl inside the hot water.
How do you soften butter without melting it?
The best tried-and-true method for softening butter without making it too warm (and melted) is simply leaving it out of the refrigerator until it reaches room temperature.
How long does it take to soften butter?
If you're taking butter out of the refrigerator, it typically takes between 30 minutes and a full hour to soften.