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How to Soften Butter Quickly (3 Ways)

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This weekend, I was halfway through assembling ingredients for a yellow cake when I realized that I’d forgotten to set out butter to soften. Again. I keep the sticks of butter I use for baking in the freezer, so setting them out to soften them ahead of time takes a little more foresight than I usually seem to have, unfortunately. Thankfully I have a few tricks up my sleeve to quickly soften butter whenever I forget to plan ahead.

If you ever find yourself in the same situation, it’s useful to learn how to soften butter. I’ve had success with three methods: You can cut the butter into cubes, pound it, or set it over a warm warm bath.

I used to thaw butter in the microwave, but I don’t like how that often leaves butter cool on the outside and molten in the middle. Melted butter, as opposed to just “softened” butter, can also give many cakes and cookies a different texture than you might want.

How to Soften Butter: 3 Ways

There are much better methods for softening hard butter in a pinch, like cutting it into small cubes, pounding it with a rolling pin, or setting it over a warm water bath. And remember, butter is officially softened and ready to use when it can be easily squished between your thumb and forefinger.

1. Cut the butter into small chunks.

Small chunks soften much quicker than the whole stick — especially if placed near the warming stove. Or for nearly frozen butter that needs a quick thaw, try grating the butter on the large holes of a box grater for quick softening.

This is a fun way to take out your frustrations! Put the butter in a zip-top bag and use a rolling pin or meat pounder to flatten the butter (like we do when making Kouign Amann). This softens the butter while still keeping it cool. A few minutes on the counter and the butter will be up to room temperature. Don’t go crazy over whacking — instead 3 to 4 quick slaps to get the stick into a flat even layer is all you need.

3. Set the butter over a warm water bath.

If you’re in a real hurry, 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 over the water bath and allow to soften. Keep an eye on it so the butter doesn’t start to melt.

6 of Our Favorite Ways to Use Perfectly Softened Butter

Whether we’re baking or air-frying, room-temperature butter is a key ingredient in some of our favorite recipes.

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