Baking Blog

How to Soften Butter Fast: 5 Popular Methods Put to the Test

It’s a common enough problem: you’re all set to bake something delicious, only to realize that you forgot to let the butter soften.  Happily, you don’t have to put on the brakes: you can learn how to soften butter quickly. 

How to soften butter quickly

There are plenty of ways to soften butter in a jiffy, but which works best? Read on to find out!

Photos via CakeSpy

Here, I put five popular methods of quickly softening butter to the test. 

If you do have time, use the the tried-and-true method

Before we move onto more rapid methods, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss how to soften butter if you DO have the time. It’s easy: simply take it out of the fridge and let it sit on the countertop at room temperature until soft. Now, “soft” doesn’t mean gooey in this particular instance, but softened to the point that an imprint is left when you gently press your finger into it.

The problem? It takes time — more or less depending on your kitchen’s temperature and humidity. As a general rule, allow about 20-30 minutes to soften butter at room temperature. 

How to soften butter quickly: five methods put to the test

How to soften cold butter quickly

1. Heat it in the microwave 

How it works:

Put your butter in the microwave and heat it on high in short bursts (5-10 seconds) until soft. 

Grade: C-

This method is often the first one people use to soften butter fast. Personally, I find it unreliable and inconsistent. Results vary depending on the butter’s temperature and how strong your microwave is. It’s also very easy to overdo — you might end up with a stick of butter that’s melted around the edges but still too firm inside. 

2. Beat it with a rolling pin

Beating butter to soften it quickly

How it works:

Put your butter in a heavy-duty plastic bag and beat it with a rolling pin or kitchen mallet. Flattening and “tenderizing” your butter makes it soften faster. 

Grade: A 

Truth? I’d never tried this method before, but now I’m hooked! It’s oddly fun, and the butter softens within minutes. The key is to give it a few good whacks (don’t go overboard) and make sure it’s evenly flattened so that it softens uniformly. 

3. Cut it into smaller pieces

Quickly soften butter by cutting it into pieces

How it works:

Cut your butter into small pieces (approximately ½” cubes) and set them on a plate. 

Grade: B 

This method is effective and advantageous because cubed pieces of butter have less surface area than whole sticks of butter, enabling the butter to cream more quickly and easily. 

The reason it only gets a B? It’s not much faster than softening butter at room temperature. In my kitchen, it took one stick of butter about 20 minutes to soften, whereas the cubed butter took about 10 minutes. 

4. Grate or peel it

Peeling butter to soften it quickly

How it works:

Use a vegetable peeler or grater to peel or grate a hard, cold stick of butter. It’s similar to the previous method above, except that the butter is rendered into wispy, thin slivers instead of cut into pieces. 

Grade: B+ 

This method’s very effective in softening butter quickly — it only takes a few minutes!

Why it only gets a B+? It may get messy. Cleaning and handling a buttery grater and peeler can be tricky and time-consuming. 

5. Heat it over a water bath 

How it works:

Set a (heatproof) bowl atop a saucepan of simmering water. Place the butter inside the bowl, and let it soften over the heated water. 

Grade: B-

This method is fast, but it’s easy to over-soften the butter if you’re not being hyper-vigilant. I had to keep turning the butter to soften it evenly and prevent it from melting onto the bowl, and placed it on top of its wrapper in the bowl to avoid mess.

Overall thoughts

All of these methods are effective in softening butter fast, but each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Go ahead, try them for yourself and see what works best for you!

Interested in clever baking shortcuts? Check out our roundup of awesome baking hacks!

Do you have a tried-and-true method for softening butter fast? Share it in the comments!

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14 Comments

Ambar J Marrero

I use my microwave on defrost mode for 2 minutes.

Reply
Norma Bardo

I have a large piece of granite as part of my counter. Leaving the butter sitting on it seems to absorb the cold out of the butter. It also starts the process of thawing meat, too.

Reply
robin

Cut the butter in thin slices, place on plate under range hood light. Soft in five minutes.

Reply
bdejong

Actually, cutting the butter into cubes creates MORE surface area, not less. You have the original amount of surface area that you had before cutting it up (all the outside surfaces, now in small pieces) plus all the inside surfaces that you have exposed by cutting.

Reply
DJ Storm

It creates less surface area on each piece. Exposing more of the butter to the heat of the room. Allowing it to soften faster.

Reply
Bec

I put mine in the microwave at power 2. I usually set it for 1 minute, but turn it over half way through the time. I find that it softens more evenly.

Reply
charley

Microwave a bowl or cup (by itself, but can fit over the butter) for 30 seconds or so, and then put it over the butter. It was a tip from “The Kitchen” on Food Network, and it seemed to work.

Reply
Maria

I do the same but use a glass that can fit over the butter and run it under hot tap water until it’s quite warm/hot. Then I stand the unwrapped stick of butter on end on a small plate and invert the hot glass over it. Works like a charm.

Reply
Pamela

Who are these people putting butter in the microwave on high? No wonder it doesn’t work!

Reply
Begonia

I’ve tried pretty much all of these methods. Cutting into cubes seemd to be the best short cut (best results). Microwaving at low power for about 15 seconds is also ok and it will get the softening started. Microwaving on high has never worked well for me.

Reply
Jennifer Wade

I put the butter in a ziploc bag and drop it down in very warm water. It softens fairly quickly and doesn’t have the melting issues experienced with a microwave

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Judy Z

Microwave on defrost at lowest measurement. I turn mine a quarter turn every 8 to 10 seconds. Always come out good, never melted.

Reply
Anna

My mother taught me to cut the butter into pats, put them in a bowl, (it can be the same bowl you will use to mix your batter), and put tap water on top just to cover. It’s ready in about five minutes and you don’t have to fiddle with microwave settings. It’s fast, easy and reliable and I’ve used this method for years. Just make sure to drain the water well over your sink. I put a plate on mine to make sure I don’t lose any pats.

Reply
Valeri Chelini

I prefer to softer butter with natural methods. Sun is great heating source for butter softening. Microwave – not sure it’s good for health

Reply

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