It happens all the time. I’m in the mood to bake, I’ve got a great recipe, all of my ingredients are on the counter, and then I read the dreaded words: butter, softened. My butter is rock hard from the fridge. Oh, bother.
Left on the countertop at room temperature, a stick of butter takes at least 45 minutes to soften. If you’re the type who plans ahead, that’s no big deal. If not, here are a few ways to soften butter quickly.
Butter (as much as the recipe calls for)
Method 1: Fairly Fast
Our first method is the easiest: Simply cut the butter into cubes. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they’ll come to room temperature.
Cut the butter stick in half so you have two long rectangles side by side. Stack them together and slice again. This yields four butter strips. Keep them stacked, and then slice perpendicular to your cuts. The butter will fall into cubes, and the cubes will soften fairly quickly, in about 15 minutes. (Now’s a good time to measure and prep the remaining ingredients.)
Method 2: Faster
The second method is more labor-intensive, but it will help the butter soften even faster. With a rolling pin, roll or pound the butter out flat. Whether rolling or pounding, the friction will warm the butter-and the broader surface area will encourage faster softening.
Test Kitchen tip: To minimize the mess, we like to flatten butter between two sheets of waxed paper. This prevents the butter from sticking to the rolling pin or the countertop. Brilliant.
Method 3: Super Fast
The last method, shredding, creates a dirty dish, but it’s the quickest of the three. Partially unwrap the butter (use the wrapped half as a handle to keep your hand clean) and shred it using the largest holes of your box grater. The butter will reduce to a fluffy heap, similar in appearance to shredded mozzarella cheese.
The principle here is the same as in the first method: Smaller pieces soften faster. Shredded butter is ready to use in your recipe right away.
Test Kitchen tip: We also like to use this method when we’re making pie crust, which actually requires cold butter. In this case, we freeze the stick of butter before grating it. This creates small, hard pieces of butter that help make any crust tender and flaky.
Method 4: The Lazy Way
If you’re feeling lucky, you can forego the aforementioned methods. Just place the butter and sugar into a stand mixer, and start creaming on low speed. (Higher speeds increase the likelihood that butter will catapult out of the bowl.) You’ll need to increase the mixing time to allow for the butter to warm and soften and for the aeration of the creaming process to take place.
Ready to start baking? Here are some easy desserts you can whip up at a moment’s notice.