Did you know if a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, follow it! You don’t use softened butter just for fun, there’s actually a science behind it! Using softened butter when it’s called for is essential to your recipe turning out properly. Trust me.
Why do you soften butter?
If butter is at room temperature, it allows the sugar to aerates the butter during the creaming process. Creaming the butter cuts into the soft butter pieces, whipping air into it. Then when you add the baking powder and/or soda it helps to expand the air pockets the creaming process which means the end result is light and fluffy.
If the butter is too soft or melted, it can’t form the air bubbles, and instead the sugar will just dissolve. If the butter is too cold, it is not pliable enough to be creamed.
*Melted, softened, and cold butter cannot be used interchangeably in recipes as they all perform differently, and can change the texture of your recipe. It is critical you follow the recipe and start with the correct form of butter.
Use these butter softening methods for both salted and unsalted butter. They all work to soften frozen butter or refrigerated butter.
The traditional way to soften butter
There are a number of ways to soften butter, choose which the one that works best for you, and your recipe.
Softening Butter at Room Temperature
Softening a stick of butter takes about 30-60 minutes once you’ve removed it from the refrigerator. How quickly the butter softens depends on the room temperature and how cold the butter was when you started. Don’t worry if the butter starts getting too soft, just put it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to keep it from melting before you are ready to use it.
This is the best way to soften butter in my opinion because of its consistency. I just need to learn to have more butter on hand during baking season, since I use a lot of it!
5 Ways to to Quickly Soften Butter
If you don’t have time to take the traditional route, these methods for softening butter will all speed up the process. Butter is officially softened and ready to use when it can be easily squished, or if it leaves a dent when you push into the stick.
Be sure to measure out the butter you need for your recipe before you use a method to soften butter.
1. Beat It: Cut cold butter into small chunks and beat it by itself with the electric mixer until it softens before adding the additional ingredients.
2. Pound It: Place a wrapped stick of butter between two pieces of parchment, waxed paper or a ziplock bag and pound it with a rolling pin to partially flatten the butter. It only takes 3-4 whacks to soften your butter. The bonus is with this method your butter stays cool.
3. Cut Up the Butter: Cutting a stick of butter into smaller chunks or slices will allow it to soften more rapidly at room temperature. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they’ll come to room temperature (in about 15 minutes).
For frozen butter, try grating the butter on the large holes of a box grater to soften it quickly. This method is great when making pie crust, which actually requires cold butter.
4. Water Bath: Pour a few cups of very hot (just below boiling) water into a double boiler or a saucepan with a metal bowl nested inside. Put the butter in the metal bowl and allow it to soften. Just keep an eye on it that it doesn’t melt.
5. Microwave It: Don’t use the microwave method for baking, as it will make it too soft. Microwaving butter is best for softening butter for a spread. To microwave, place the butter in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on 30 percent power for 15 seconds. Check the consistency of the butter and repeat, if necessary. Don’t microwave at full power or you’ll have a butter puddle.