How to Soften Butter Quickly {Without Using The Microwave}

how to soften butter

I find myself in this predicament a LOT! I need SOFT butter for my toast or for baking purposes and all I have is rock-hard butter in the fridge. Since I never have the patience (or the forethought) to simply let the butter come to room temperature on its own, I usually resort to putting it in the microwave. I actually have it down to my own “science” of sorts and it works pretty well. Five seconds on High, rotate stick of butter, five seconds more, rotate again, five seconds more.

Unfortunately, while this method works OK on my toast, it hasn’t worked very well in my baking attempts. The other day I read something that explained a lot about my baking “fails” of the past. The problem with microwaving butter is that it heats the butter unevenly, and tends to over-soften or even melt the butter in places which alters how effective it is in a given recipe.  NOW they tell me! :-) You want pliable butter for beating, not almost melting butter.

So what’s a procrastinating, impulsive, would-be baker like myself to do?

Here is the answer in 4 simple steps!

how to soften butter

Step 1

Put a stick of butter between two large pieces of wax paper.

how to soften butter

Step 2

Using a rolling pin (even one with a huge crack in it will work!), press down on the butter.

how to soften butter

Step 3

Roll it out like you would a pie crust.

how to soften butter

Step 4

When the butter is about 1/4-inch thick, lift off the wax paper and peel away the butter (before it gets too soft to peel).

So how can you tell if the butter is ready? Take a piece of butter between your thumb and finger and squeeze it a little. You should be able to make an impression in the butter with your fingers, but it should still provide some resistance. The butter should feel more waxy than greasy. If it gives way without any resistance, the butter is too soft. Get it back into the refrigerator for a few minutes until it passes the test.

What is your preferred way to soften butter quickly?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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  • […] are a few I’ve posted about in the past: The Secret To Perfect Shredded Chicken In Seconds, How To Soften Butter Quickly (Without Using The Microwave), The World’s Easiest Way To Cut A Mango, How To Keep Sliced Apples Fresh Longer, […]

  • […] I saw THIS post by Jillee of One Good Thing  on how to soften hard butter without using the microwave it was […]

  • This is perfect!!! I always keep my butter in the fridge, so when it comes time to bake I have rock hard butter. I tend to put it in the microwave and melt it too much and then ruin my cookies. I’ll have to try this out!! :)

  • I don’t have a microwave, either. I usually just keep my butter in a covered dish in the pantry, no need to wait and I use it so often it doesn’t get bad. On the rare occasions that I have to warm up some cold butter for baking, I just set in on the windowsill and let the sun do it’s work. Granted, I live in sunny New Mexico so this might not work for everyone.

  • If you are using the butter for baking, just put it in your mixer and go for it. I use my paddle and beat it to the right consistency then continue on with the recipe.

  • So happy to get this tip. Like you, I have had a rock hard stick of butter and needed a small softened portion. I have since just left a stick of butter sitting covered on my counter for such occasions. I did away with my microwave years ago after hearing just 30 seconds in the microwave turns the cellular structure of the item into carcinogens. Having watched my husband die of cancer, I wanted no part of that. Goodbye microwave.

  • I just found the best soft butter method ever!! Keeps butter soft and fresh — unlike anything I have used before.

    It is a $10.00 glass cube which has a lid that inverts to be a bell shaped butter-server. Unable to attach photo. Can provide upon reqeust.

    Put butter in the bell. Invert the lid on to the cube base, which is filled with water. Keeps your butter fresh and at the perfect temperature for weeks.

    Note: I have not tried this in hot weather (we don’t have much of that in the Arctic).

    I can not believe how easy and effective this is! If unable to purchase, suggest having a local potter make one for you

  • How about frozen butter? I keep lots and lots of KerryGold (from grass-fed cows) in my freezer and usually have to really think ahead to put it out on the counter to defrost and get to room temp to make baked items.

    • I keep my butter on rotation… one on the counter, one in the fridge and others in the freezer. When I finish or get close to finishing the one on the counter, I pull the one from the fridge and set it on the counter, then pull one from the freezer and put it in the fridge.

  • I used to put the butter on a heat safe plate or bowl (not plastic) on top of the toaster while it was toasting the bread. the butter melts evenly and is ready when the toast is. Even if started right after the bread.

  • This is a great tip! thanks!

    Here is another way for it..If you want butter that is easily spreadable and you use it constantly, you can use a butter bell. They have used this over in Europe for a couple of centuries. You have to remember to change the water that the bell goes into every 2 – 3 days. We have used one before and they work great as long as you change the water. The water creates an air tight seal around the butter and keeps it room temperature.

  • Nice idea for baking! For everyday use such as toast or vegetables, I use a very sharp knife to cut pats of butter. They are easy to use and melt pretty quickly.

  • I just cut it into small cubes & let it set out whilst I get the rest of the recipe ready & have the oven preheats. If the butter is straight from the freezer I usually take a potato peeler to it.
    But using the inverted warm bowl sounds really good, this way if (and by if I mean when) I get side tracked at least its covered.
    Must investigate a butter bell.
    Thanks for the post.

  • I use a butter bell for soft butter. It holds about 1.5 sticks of butter, and keeps it just soft enough, without letting it get rancid like it can in a regular butter dish.

  • I cut the butter into tiny pieces and put the pieces on a plate. Softens up quickly. Whenever I have left butter on the counter it gets much too soft to use in a recipe, almost liquid ( summer weather). In winter it gets about right, but who can remember to get out of the freezer.

  • I’ve chosen to not have a microwave in the house. Have you tried this? Fill a mixing bowl with hot water and let the bowl got really hot, then pour out the water and invert the bowl over the stick of butter. Let it sit for a minute, and the butter has softened enough to use.

  • Stick the stick of butter in a zipper sandwich baggie, squeeze out air and seal. Fill a large glass about half-full, and put the butter in the glass. If the water doesn’t cover it, fill the glass a little more. You’ll have perfect butter in 5-10 minutes. :-)

  • Jillee,
    Ever since I started mixing olive oil in butter after reading your earlier post , it has taken care of this problem ;-)

    I mix in oil & butter in almost equal amounts in the butter bowl itself, using a fork & refrigerate as usual. But now, I can take out the butter dish Anytime & while the bread slice is toasting, the butter has softened !! No hassles :-)

      • CTY,
        It works great with my baking ! I’ve always mixed oil & butter, but used to do it separately, when baking cakes, cookies, muffins, cupcakes. After Jillee’s Herb Butter recipe, I always have this basic blend at hand & use it as a substitute for butter [no more measuring separately, etc.!). My sponge cakes used to be nice & spongy, with just the right amount of moisture.

        Recently I switched to eggless baking. The simple shortbread cookies (no frosting) & eggless muffins were simply great. I tried the eggless cake a couple of days back & tho’ my hubby liked it very much, I think it was a tad heavy/dense. Can’t blame it on the butter-oil tho’. Hopefully my next attempt will be better.

        I’m posting the link to my pinterest board where I’ve uploaded some images, temporarily, for you to see. Some pins ink to the recipes I used using this Healthier Butter. (I had forgotten to click fotos of muffins, but the cupcake recipe I followed, is included).

        Regards :-)

  • I cut the stick of butter up into small “pats” – about 1 tsp each and throw them into a bowl for a few minutes – they soften up very quickly at room temp – I avoid the microwave because it always ends up melting in places.

  • I leave my butter on the counter in a butter dish. I have done this for years. It is always
    ready to spread. It doesn’t have to be refrigerated. BUT, when you spread it on toast, you
    tend to use more since it is so soft.

    • I also leave a stick on the counter. Always have one available for whatever I need. And yes you do tend to use too much for toast – lol. My parents have done this for years only they have around 4 sticks out at a time in a tupperware bowl.

  • This was the perfect tip for me! I never remember to set out the butter & cream cheese to make frosting. And room temp really is a little TOO soft for the butter for frosting. I can’t wait to try this method!

  • Wow – thanks for this! I always forget to soften the butter before I make my Christmas Shortbreads! Now I have a way to speed up the process!

  • I put the stick of butter in the microwave with a mug of water for about 30 seconds. The water gets most of the heat so the butter is soft without melting.

  • Room temp butter, especially in restaurants, has always been one of my pet peeves. It seems that a restaurant should have a special temp controlled cooler just for butter storage.

    Depending on amount to be softened, I still prefer using the microwave, but never on high, it cooks from within and you always have a puddle of melted butter when you cut into it. I usually use level 3 (defrost) or 4 at the most, start off with 45 seconds or so and just check it once or twice until it’s just what you are looking for. Doing a rolling pin, wax paper, etc. seems like needless steps to me.

    Love your Blog, Jillee and use your recipe for coconut oil, lavender and Vit E eye cream several times a day, even carry a little jar in my purse.

    The “Jillee Story” is so inspirational, thank you for sharing it with all of your admirers.

    • Some people like room temp butter for easy spreading! Ask for it cold if that’s how you like it and they will get you some straight from the fridge! Easy fix.

  • I microwave a stick of butter for one minute at power level 2 when I need to soften it in a hurry. Microwaves vary, but this has worked great with the three microwaves I’ve had through the years. (If the microwave is already warm inside from heating something, one minute will be too long.)

  • I use a vegetable peeler to make curls with the hard butter. Makes it soft and ready to use almost immediately. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful ideas.

  • great idea!

    i’m curious–how do you keep ‘nasties’ from breeding inside that crack?

    (and what does it mean when i submit a comment and get a screen that tells me i’m submitting comments too fast? i don’t control the speed!! and of course it erases the comment.)

    • Press the back button. The comment will appear to be gone but if you click on the box, it may pop up. It’s usually gone but last week, even though the page refreshed, when I started to open the box and type again, it appeared! I always copy my comments (when I remember) before I hit send. That way you have them saved just in case. I don’t know why I get that message when it’s the first comment I’ve typed!! (Just happened now because I forgot to add my name, email etc and also forgot my own tip of hitting copy!! But my comment appeared again so no retyping!)

    • Think I have figured out that it happens when too many people are all posting comments at the same time. So while it says “you” are posting too fast it means too many people are. I usually find that when I hit the back button sometimes my un-posted comment will still be there at the bottom of the page and when it isn’t it appears when I click on the comment box. But I too have learned to copy my comment before submitting just in case. Because Murphy’s Law it’s the times I spend a while putting my comment together that they don’t post and are gone when I hit the back button… :)

  • Awesome idea! I used to put the butter on my toast and then melt it on top of the toast in the microwave. It worked great, but it toughened my bread. Now I don’t have to eat tough toast anymore. Thanks Jillee.

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