How to Soften Butter Quickly

No time to wait? Follow these tips for softened butter in seconds.

Your kid has a bake sale, and you've got six dozen cookies to make. Your book club is coming to your house, and you need to make two pound cakes. It's the holidays, and you need to prepare the dessert spread. All of these events require one thing: softened butter.

But what is softened butter, anyway? Butter is soft (or "room temperature") when you can press it lightly with your finger and make a small indentation. You shouldn't have to press hard, and your finger shouldn't sink too far down into the butter—that's a sign that it is too soft.

Temperature is important, too. The butter should feel slightly cool, not warm, to the touch. And it should look smooth and creamy, not greasy.

The best way to soften butter is to leave it on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes to an hour. The temperature of your kitchen will determine how long it will take to soften.

But if you don't have that kind of time, there are three quick methods that work. (Just don't use the microwave or the stovetop—high heat will cause the butter to melt in seconds)

How to Soften Butter Quickly

1. Cut it

Butter that has been cut into small cubes or thin slices will soften faster than a whole stick.

sliced butter stick
Photography: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

2. Grate It

Very cold or frozen butter can be grated with the large holes of a box grater into shreds. In fact, we recommend this technique when making our favorite buttermilk biscuits.

grating butter
Photography: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

3. Pound It

Place the butter inside a zip-top bag or between two sheets of parchment paper,and gently pound it a few times with a rolling pin until it is flat. Don't overdo it—this method can turn butter from too cold to too soft very easily.

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