How Amanda Hesser's Mom Helped Us Design an Even Better Butter Keeper

November  6, 2015

We at Food52 like to mess with good things: We like avocado toast with eggs and hot sauce and greens and more, we turn our scones into loaves, and we rework pretty good cakes until they're extremely good. So it should come as no surprise that we took one of the Shop goods we loved most—Sawyer CeramicsFrench Butter Keeper—and gave it a makeover for version 2.0.

This change came at the request of Amanda Hesser's mom, who is a faithful and enthusiastic fan of the original butter keeper, but also a woman who knows that more butter is almost always better: She wished the original design could hold more butter. So the new White Butter Keeper is first and foremost bigger—large enough to hold a full stick of butter!—and is also newly outfitted in a smooth white glaze. It was designed exculsively for Food52 by Jonathan Sawyer of Sawyer Ceramics.

Butter keeper

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Its predecessor, the hand-thrown French Butter Keeper, has consistently been one of our Shop's bestsellers (You all love your buttered toast, and we're certainly with you on that.), and the new keeper has the same basic design. There are two pieces that fit together: one that you fill with butter, and one that you fill with a splash of water—and you simply pop them together and that splash of water creates an antibacterial seal. You can leave the keeper out on the counter, resulting in perfectly soft, spreadable butter whenever the toast urge strikes. 

"While we love the rustic look of the stoneware French Butter Keeper, we wanted something a little dressier," says Amanda Hesser. When asked if she owned the original, she admits, "No, I've been waiting for this one to come out!"

Butter keeper  Open white
The French Butter Keeper (left) and it's little—well, bigger—sister (right).

Whether you prefer the more petite version with its textured, rustic finish—or the new keeper, larger and glossy white—it's a design that seems to encourage long breakfasts at the table with the paper, buttering slice after slice of toast. What could be better?

Top image by James Ransom; French butter keeper photo by Bobbi Lin; open butter keeper photo by Rocky Luten

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Christine
  • Zoë
  • Paul
  • diane
  • Lee Ann
    Lee Ann
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Christine September 20, 2020
Any idea when this will come back in stock?
Zoë July 25, 2016
I love butter bells, but live in such a hot country I can only use them in the winter. 35 degrees is not unusual! I was wondering if a terracotta keeper would be more practical because of condensation, like the Roman vessels. Zoë
Paul July 16, 2016
I have a similar butter keeper and have found that I do lose some butter to rancidity. Obviously it doesn't keep as long as it would in the fridge and I guess that's a tradeoff for having spreadable butter but I'm yet to work out if I'm better putting a smaller amount of butter in there so that I finish it faster (being a single person rather than a family) or having it full so there's less oxygen to oxidise the butter? Any suggestions as to how to minimise butter loss and extend its life? Fwiw, I'm in the UK so it's not super hot but not cold in the kitchen either.
diane July 16, 2016
Id like to know how long you can keep the butter out, on the counter??
Customer-Care July 16, 2016
Hi Diane! This is Laura from Food52's Customer Care team. :) The water should be changed every 2-3 days and the butter keeper should not be stored at room temperatures above 80 degrees F. In these conditions, butter can be stored in the butter keeper for 3-4 weeks depending on your room environment and keeping the butter clean (no bread crumbs). I hope that helps, and feel free to email [email protected] if you find that you have more questions.
Lee A. July 16, 2016
I bought a butter keeper (not yours, one that was $20 cheaper) recently. I've smooshed a soft stick of butter into the thing. I've smooshed a cold stick of butter into the thing. Both times the butter has fallen out into the water. I'll try one more time using less water; if that doesn't work it's going to the thrift store.
Customer-Care July 16, 2016
Hi Lee Ann! This is Laura from Customer Care. I'd highly recommend viewing the instructional video on the White Butter Keeper's product page:

I am also sending along these tips from the merchant, Sawyer Ceramics:
Through experience, we've found it’s easier to load the butter keeper if you allow the stick of butter to soften first, then pack the butter into the lid. Add enough cold water to the base so that the open end rim of the lid is submerged in the water, creating an airtight seal. Our butter keeper will hold between one half to a full stick of butter.

The water should be changed every 2-3 days and the butter keeper should not be stored at room temperatures above 80 degrees F. Butter can be stored in the butter keeper for 3-4 weeks depending on your room environment and keeping the butter clean (no bread crumbs). Thoroughly wash the butter keeper between use.

Finally, make sure you packing the butter in nice and tight. That should prevent it from falling out, and the water will create a nice seal.
Norske July 16, 2016
I have one of these but the butter continually slips out and into the water. What is the trick to keeping the butter in the container. BTW, my kitchen is not overly warm so I don't think room temperature is causing this. I was so disappointed.
BrooklynBridget July 16, 2016
We tried a bunch of different ones in our test kitchen because we had heard this happens sometimes. I think we determined that best practice was to really smoosh the butter into the keeper. Mold it to the butter keeper shape. Also maybe you are using too much water?
Paul July 16, 2016
I'm not sure as I've recently bought a similar one (mine's marble) but I've not ever had the butter fall out. I've just pushed it in firmly, but without any tricks, whenever I've put butter in there and it seems to hold even when reasonably soft. As I say above, my only issue has been with the butter spoiling a bit earlier than it would if refrigerated.
Me! November 11, 2015
Where does the 'splash' of water go, to create the anti-bacterial seal?
Caroline L. November 11, 2015
hi sharon! good question. there are two interlocking parts to the butter keeper: the top piece you fill with butter, and the bottom piece you fill with a bit of water. then you fit the two together (with the butter on top, facing the water).
bhjulian November 8, 2015
I wonder if it would work the same with whipped butter. I switched several years ago to save calories and fat.
Customer-Care July 16, 2016
This will work with whipped butter! The butter keeper essentially makes regular butter soft and spreadable, like whipped butter, so it may be redundant, but it's still beautiful for your table, so I say go for it. :)
stacey_ballis November 7, 2015
I'm an all Plugra or Lurpak house, my current keeper is the Emile Henry version which annoyingly holds all but about a tablespoon and a half...will this contain a full brick? For those of you wondering how to load it, I leave my butter on the counter till soft, and sort of smoosh it in, protecting my hand and smoothing it out with the butter wrapper.
Mark K. November 6, 2015
Like Freda, I'm wondering what the best way to put butter inside is. Do you leave the stick out to become pliable, unwrap it, and then spoon it in?
Mark K. November 6, 2015
Sorry for the double post!
Peter P. November 6, 2015
This keeper is designed to be kept on the tabletop or counter...OUT of the refrigerator...Europeans know butter does not need refrigeration any more that cheese does....Americans have been brainwashed into buying food and storing it under refrigeration...Europeans generally buy fresh daily only what they will consume....Americans: release yourself from the shackles and bonds of advertising!
Mark K. November 6, 2015
Thanks... I've already unshackled myself... My question is how you get a rectangular-shaped stick of butter into a cylindrical-shaped vessel.
Caroline L. November 8, 2015
hi mark! as stacey wrote above, let the butter soften, then either flip it off the paper and into the butter keeper, or spoon the softened butter in. hope this is helpful!
Mark K. November 6, 2015
Like Freda, I'm wondering how you get the butter inside!
Customer-Care July 16, 2016
Hi Mark! I just let my butter soften on the counter a little bit, cut it into pieces, and then stuff it in there nice and tight until it's full to the rim. A spoon is helpful to mash it in there, but there's not particular method. Best of luck!
BJ M. November 6, 2015
Wouldn't the top of the butter be wet with water? Do you then have to pat that off with a paper towel or how is that dealt with?
Customer-Care July 16, 2016
Hi BJ! It doesn't always touch the water, but it's okay if it does. Even if it does, butter is naturally hydrophobic so it won't ruin the butter. Hope that helps!
Freda November 6, 2015
So, don't want to appear ignorant, but I buy butter in bars or sticks and this is a round dish. Do you process the butter in some way to make it fit.
Customer-Care July 16, 2016
Hi Freda! I just let my butter soften on the counter a little bit, cut it into pieces, and then stuff it in there nice and tight until it's full to the rim. A spoon is helpful to mash it in there, but there's not particular method. :)
Jennifer U. November 6, 2015
Will it hold a bar of Kerrygold butter (which I believe is twice the size of a traditional stick of butter)?
Customer-Care July 16, 2016
The white butter keeper holds 1 regular stick of butter plus a little extra, and the brown one holds 1/2 to 3/4 regular sticks of butter. But you can always half the kerry gold, and you'll be set! :)
Patricia W. November 6, 2015
"Glossy white porcelain" is not better for a butter dish. If you get any amount of butter on your fingers or the exterior of that dish, it is going to smash on the floor after slipping through your fingers. The great innovation in the original is the rough exterior. Saved the day many times. We love ours. Practicality over beauty.
tom November 6, 2015
Article says "one you fill with water and one you fill with water", then it says "add a splash of water", this seems confusing to me.
Caroline L. November 6, 2015
hi tom, i've reworded a bit—i hope it makes more sense now! thanks!
tom November 6, 2015
Yes! Much better! Great edit!
Susan N. November 6, 2015
Maybe I missed it, but how much is it?
Jackie S. November 6, 2015
It's $46. Here's the link: Enjoy!
Caroline L. November 6, 2015
hi susan! it's $46:
Peter P. November 6, 2015
Can I exchange the original for this? I'll pay the difference. The original was not ready for market.
Caroline L. November 6, 2015
hi peter, you should write a note to our customer care team:
Customer-Care July 16, 2016
Hi Peter! Email us at [email protected], and we'll take care of it. Thanks!