Countless recipes of desserts and baked goods such as muffins, cookies, or frosting involve butter. Butter can hold air and keeping it cold is very important for freshness. However, creaming it can be a challenging task as the cold butter usually makes an uneven and lumpy batter with inconsistent texture. That’s why it’s important to know how to quickly soften butter first before creaming it.
In this article, we’ll discuss a few simple techniques to soften your butter. They range from letting the butter sit at room temperature for several minutes to cutting it into small cubes to using a microwave oven or even pounding it.
Whether you want to make pie crust, tender cakes, or a batch of delicious chocolate chip cookies, you can choose any of the methods below to soften butter. So let’s get started.
- Why Do You Need to Soften Butter for Different Recipes?
- Signs of Perfectly Softened Butter!
- How to Soften Butter
- How Long Does It Take for Butter to Soften?
- What is the Best Temperature for Frosting, Cookies, and Cakes?
- How to Make Sure that Your Butter is Softened Properly
- How to Reuse Softened Butter
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Why Do You Need to Soften Butter for Different Recipes?
Softened butter evenly distributes and is easy to mix with other ingredients. Additionally, the temperature of butter can also affect the desired function or texture of your pastry. Butter can trap air when whipped or creamed and that is what makes a croissant flaky and a cake fluffy.
The trapped air becomes hot and expands when baking, which adds the “melt in your mouth” characteristic to your recipe. Not only does softened butter stabilize your mixture but it also makes your baked recipes more delicious and flavorful.
That’s why it’s important to use a softened butter that’ll allow you to create a homogenous consistency. Bear in mind that you also don’t want to end up having melted butter because it will result in a lumpy frosting and an oily pie crust.
Signs of Perfectly Softened Butter!
The room temperature in a typical home usually ranges between 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the butter will indent if poked. However, your finger should not be able to pierce through the entire butter stick.
The butter shouldn’t show any signs of moisture loss, oiliness, or melting as well. With that in mind, here’s a list of the best methods that you can use to soften your butter quickly.
How to Soften Butter
We have sorted all the methods from slowest to fastest and you can use the one that suits your needs the best.
1. Room Temperature
The easiest and most reliable method for softening butter is to remove it from the cold environment and let it sit at room temperature. You won’t need to put in any effort and it will also generate the most consistent results.
However, the only downside of this method is that it takes a whole lot of time depending upon the environment of your home. You can unwrap the butter stick or keep it wrapped because it doesn’t make any significant difference.
- Preparation time: 30 seconds to 1 minute
- Softening time: 20 minutes to 2 hours depending upon the room temperature
2. Cutting Butter into Cubes
The very first part of the butter that starts getting softened is its surface. The more the surface area the faster the softening time. So, consider cutting a large butter stick into smaller cubes to accelerate the whole process.
Not only will it expose the colder molecules of your butter stick to warmer air to increase their temperature, but it will also make it more manageable to roll it into a dough or cream it in the batter.
- Preparation Time: 5 minutes
- Softening Time: 10 to 20 minutes
3. Microwave Steaming
Microwave steaming is a gentle and relatively quick way to soften butter. First, you’ll need to microwave some water in order to create a steamy environment. Then you’ll need to swap the water bowl out with a container of your butter.
You can also slice the butter to soften it more quickly. The residual humidity and heat will increase the temperature of your microwave environment up to 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only will it warm the slices faster but it will also offer consistent results.
- Preparation Time: 5 minutes
- Softening Time: 10 to 15 minutes
4. How to Soften Butter with a Glass
When you are short on time, this method will come in handy. You can use a hot cup or glass to soften butter by creating a warm temperature. You’ll need to grab a container such as a mug, bowl, or cup and fill it with boiling water.
Make sure that the container is large enough to cover the butter quantity you want to soften. Let the container sit for a while to absorb the heat from the boiling water. Place the (sliced) butter on a heat-proof and solid surface.
Empty the container and put it upside down by covering your butter entirely. Don’t forget to get rid of the excess moisture from the container before using it to cover the butter.
You can remove the container after 5 minutes but the core of the butter might still be a little cold and hard. So you’ll need to let it sit for about 2 to 3 minutes on the counter after removing the container.
- Preparation Time: 10 minutes
- Softening Time: 5 to 10 minutes
5. Tepid Water Bath
The lukewarm water bath might sound a little cool but the temperature difference between the water with 80 degrees and chilled butter slices is significant. It’ll warm and soften the butter quickly without melting it.
However, it’s not the best method to soften butter sticks because it’ll soften the edges more quickly as compared to the core of the butter. So, you might need to spend more time to achieve consistent results.
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Softening Time: About 5 minutes
6. Pounding The Butter
It’s slightly an unconventional way to soften the butter but it does the job well. You’ll need a solid rolling pin and a wrap or plastic bag for this method. The first step is to place your chilled butter between the two wrap sheets or plastic bags and use your rolling pin to start pounding.
Continue the process to flatten the butter. Not only will it increase the surface area of the butter but it’ll also create more pressure that accelerates the softening process.
The temperature of the flattened butter will be around 59 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll need to let it sit at room temperature for about 3 to 5 minutes to reach about 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although this method requires effort, you’ll get the softened butter with ideal consistency within a matter of a few minutes.
- Preparation Time: 5 minutes
- Softening Time: 3 to 5 minutes
You can also grate your chilled butter to soften it. Consider using your box or handheld kitchen grater on its widest pore size settings. You can also use a paper or soft cloth to have better gripping and to keep your fingers from nicking on the sharp holes.
This way the butter will get to room temperature quickly and it comes in handy if you are planning to make recipes with a flaky texture like scones or buttermilk biscuits.
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Softening time: 2 to 3 minutes
8. Stand Mixer
If you need softened butter for a recipe that calls for creaming it with sugar, then consider using this method. All you need to do is to cut your chilled butter stick into a few even-sized pieces (ideally 8 pieces for 1 stick).
After cutting, you’ll need to mix the pieces at medium-low or low speed to achieve the desired softness. Basically, this method generates heat because of the friction between the bowl and the paddle to soften the butter.
After a couple of minutes, you’ll have perfectly softened butter that’s already in the bowl and you can proceed to the next step of your recipe right away.
- Preparation time: 1 to 2 minutes
- Softening time: 2 to 4 minutes
9. How to Soften Butter in Microwave
If you’re extremely short on time and want to get immediate results then use this method as a last resort. Don’t forget to select the medium power of your microwave and place your butter stick inside for 4 to 5 seconds. Then flip the side of the stick and repeat the process for each side.
It’ll collectively take about 30 to 40 seconds and your butter stick will reach the temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This method will make sure that the energy of the microwave is distributed evenly throughout the butter stick.
If you’re making a recipe that calls for butter in a large amount, then this method will save you a whole lot of time.
Important Note: Some modern microwaves also come with a dedicated butter softening feature.
- Preparation Time: 1 minute
- Softening Time: 30 to 40 seconds
How Long Does It Take for Butter to Soften?
A chilled butter stick straight from your refrigerator will be at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit and have a firm texture. The softening time will depend upon the method you choose from the list discussed above.
At room temperature, it can take up to 2 hours depending upon the size of the butter stick and the surrounding environment. Irrespective of the method, you’ll need to make sure that your chilled butter stick doesn’t melt into liquid entirely.
Not only will it lose its texture and the air-trapping ability but you also won’t get the desired fluffiness in your recipe.
What is the Best Temperature for Frosting, Cookies, and Cakes?
The room temperature is ideal for frosting, cookies, and cakes because it allows the fat crystals present in butter to be pliable but still remain solid. This fat traps air and allows your frosting, cakes, and cookies to turn out light rather than dense.
What is Room Temperature?
If your butter stick has written instructions that advise you to soften it at room temperature, then it can range from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that the room temperature can vary from home to home and you’ll need to check your thermostat to find that out.
You can also use an instant-read thermometer if you have one that will provide you with the exact temperature reading that you have in your kitchen. The rate of softening will increase or decrease depending upon that reading.
How to Make Sure that Your Butter is Softened Properly
The most reliable and easiest way to make sure that your butter is softened properly is to use an instant-read thermometer. You’ll need to insert it in the core of your butter stick and wait for 30 seconds to read the temperature.
You can also poke one of your fingers onto the surface of your butter stick. If it leaves a prominent indent but your finger doesn’t pierce through, then you’re good to go.
How to Reuse Softened Butter
The melting point of butter is somewhere between 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and at this temperature, it turns into liquid from solid. If you mistakenly melted your butter completely then it’s not advisable to re-chill it. That’s because melted butter loses its fat crystal characteristics and will affect your baked goods.
On the other hand, you can store your leftover softened butter in a refrigerator or even a freezer to reuse it again. However, using a refrigerator is the best storing method because it makes the softening process easy when you decide to use the leftover butter again.