Your Burning Questions

What's the Best Way to Soften Frozen Butter?

By • October 5, 2013 • 10 Comments

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There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: Emergency baking sessions pop up -- don't let frozen butter stand in your way. 

Soften Frozen Butter on Food52

Baking treads a delicate balance between art and science. In order to maintain that balance, starting with ingredients in their truest-to-recipe form is of utmost importance -- sifted flour, separated egg whites, and room temperature butter. Achieving room temperature butter requires a bit of advance planning, and sometimes the need (or desire!) for an impromptu baking session arises. What's the best option if you haven't allotted the time to allow for natural butter thaw-age?

Luvcookbooks raised this question on the Hotline this week and our community responded with a variety of opinions on the best last-minute butter-thawing techniques:

  • PazzoNico and petitbleu both cut their frozen butter up into 1/2 inch pieces -- Petitbleu then uses a kitchen mixer with the paddle attachment and sugar to expedite the process.
  • Cream butter and sugar with your hands for an appliance-free approach from LucyS, the heat of your hands will help soften the butter.
  • Karen06 echoes a trick out of Amanda's arsenal and grates the butter.
  • The daring among us heed Peter's advice and soften the whole stick of butter in a bowl in the microwave for ten seconds at a time, turning it over after each interval -- remove the butter the second it starts to feel soft or you'll end up with warm butter soup.
  • A less risky option is to simply place the butter near the oven while you are preheating, as soojasaurus recommends.
  • Cut the stick of butter into thin slices, and spread the slices out on a cookie sheet. Peter explains that the metal cookie sheet is an excellent conductor of heat and therefore will draw the heat out of the butter quickly.

What do you think is the best way to soften frozen butter at a moment's notice? Add your two cents to the question on the Hotline here or continue the conversation in the comments below so we can all keep getting our bake on! 

Photo by James Ransom

Tags: your burning questions, baking, cookies, frozen, butter, how-to & diy

Comments (10)

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about 1 month ago alamesa

Depending on the time of year, I'll take it out of the fridge at least 2 hours in advance, 30 minutes or less on a hot summer's day (but then I don't usually bake in the summer). I always cut it into cubes or slices first and then mix away with a wooden spoon. Feel the arm workout. I don't have the cupboard space for a mixer and even if I did, I'd probably leave it in the cupboard anyway as they are a pain to clean. Better off just taking a little longer, do it by hand and wash the bowl afterwards.

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6 months ago sparklylights

If I need softened butter to cream with sugar, I'll heat the sugar for a minute or so in the microwave, and then add small cubes/slices of frozen butter to the warmed sugar to cream. Works like a charm!

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6 months ago Elana Carlson

Great combination of all the strategies, sparklylights!

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6 months ago rainey

I actually come from the other end of this spectrum. I keep frozen butter on hand all of the time for things like scones and pie crust. I don't thaw it at all but cut off thin slice that turn into shards that make everything flaky and tender.

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6 months ago catalinalacruz

I do the same as Peter and use the microwave. You can't walk away from it for a second. Your hand will tell you when it is soft enough. Take it out of the mw before it seems ready -- residual warmth will continue softening the butter.

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6 months ago sarah jampel

I know this might be risky, but sometimes I soften my butter by putting it in a bowl in a warm water bath.

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6 months ago Elana Carlson

SJ - living life on the wild side! I like it.

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6 months ago Rkelly3042

Wait, I never thought of freezing butter in th first place....doy

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6 months ago Abbie C

I like setting mine by the warming oven like soojasaurus. On a side note, cold is not conducted, heat is. Heat is transferred from the body of higher heat to the body of lower heat until they reach equilibrium (the same temperature). The metal pan is able to gain and lose heat quickly (i.e. is a good conductor of heat), and will quickly draw heat from a warm object or lose heat to a colder object. Sorry, I have science O.C.D. :)

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6 months ago Elana Carlson

Thanks for catching that, Abbie C! Science and cooking go hand in hand.