Butter

The Blatantly Obvious Trick for Pan-Greasing I Just Realized

December  5, 2017

As an avid baker, I've tried greasing my cake/cookie/candy pans in almost every way imaginable: using softened butter, baking spray, butter-then-flour, a slick of oil, parchment paper, or nothing at all. Most of these methods work just fine (but if I need an absolutely fail-proof pan, I go with this one from Alice Medrich).

Recently, however, I discovered a head-smackingly simple hack for greasing pans:

After using my sticks of softened butter for baking, I'll reserve the wrapper and use it to grease my pan, following up with flour or parchment if necessary. It's so much easier than using a paper towel or your fingers to rub the butter into the pan, and it cuts down on waste! I feel like a dummie for never making the connection before.

Butter, *and* pan greasing agent, all in one. Photo by James Ransom

Of course this strategy isn't quite as useful if you're making a dessert using oil as your fat, or perhaps skipping the fat altogether (say, making meringues). However, since I discovered this modest hack so late in my baking life, despite the hundreds (or thousands) of sticks of butter I've gone through, I thought I'd go ahead and share my tip with you. Use it to help you make Bundt cakes, quick breads and layer cakes throughout the holiday baking season.

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Is this trick as exciting to you as it was to me, or is it old news? Tell us in the comments!

34 Comments

Lori B. November 30, 2018
Why we need Home Ec classes...
 
Brenda M. November 29, 2018
My grandmother taught me this almost 50 years ago when she first taught me to bake!
 
Bridget R. November 29, 2018
Been doing this for years. I fold my butter wrappers in fourths, and save them in a ziplock in the freezer.
 
katnelson November 28, 2018
My sweet mother, a southern angel, did this, and my grandmother, born in 1885, did the same thing! It makes me happy to see this!<br /><br />kathryn
 
sophia November 28, 2018
Funny, we have been doing this for years! I don't know maybe because my family is from the south.
 
Smaug July 19, 2018
Among other things, the wrappers are more flexible than regular wax paper- easier to get into nooks and crannies, less likely to tear.
 
Stormy December 28, 2017
Like many others I've known the stick of butter/margarine trick for many years figuring out various not too good ways to wrap it. Then one day I had half a stick still in the wrapper and had MY aha! moment. Another neat tool is what's called a butter spreader for corn cobs! Sold by many mail-order companies for $2-6. They're basically a square tube you put about 1/2 stick of butter into. Some have a curved bottom - great for corn but not for pans. Others have flat bottom and you push the butter out just a bit like using a lipstick. SO HANDY. Some even come with a cap so you can leave the butter in it if you use it often. I went this route years ago!
 
bina December 7, 2017
I was always told that the best fat to grease cake pans with was shortening. Apparently the milk solids in butter contribute to sticking. Have I been doing it wrong all this time?
 
HalfPint December 7, 2017
@bina, I don't know that you've been doing it wrong. I have found the opposite to be true, though. Butter is the best for greasing pans. Something about the structure of butter making a better polymer coating that keeps food from stick. For me, it's hit or miss with shortening greasing. But butter has yet to fail in the non-stick department.
 
Greenstuff December 8, 2017
Alice Medrich notes that the water and the milk solids in butter can contribute to sticking https://food52.com/blog/13070-how-to-prepare-pans-for-cake-success. She recommends oil, shortening, or clarified butter for things like bundt cakes, that often stick. On the other hand, butter can make for a tastier crust. <br /><br />
 
Paddy December 6, 2017
My mother taught me that 60 years ago. She was a wonderful, natural baker. Hardly ever did exact measurements. Only used recipes as a guide. He cakes, biscuits and meringues were wonderful.
 
Lisa L. December 9, 2017
Ditto for me. But sometimes I’ll melt a dab of butter in the microwave & use a brush to grease the pan w/it.
 
wahini December 6, 2017
If you need more butter than is left on the butter paper, the butter paper is still a good way to apply it as it does not absorb butter the way a paper towel does.
 
Karajeca December 6, 2017
Though I've known this for a while now, it is always a good thing to share even if most of the readers know this hack. You had to learn it the hard way, as opposed to your readers who learned this from their moms and grannies. Keep sharing!!!
 
Kim M. December 6, 2017
This never crossed my mind a single time, thanks for sharing your Aha Moment!
 
BerryBaby December 6, 2017
Like others, butter wrappers always get used. Haven't have to butter a cookie sheet in years (Silpats). I do use the butter wrappers for tea bread loaf pans.<br />My favorite for greasing, though, is Crisco. I buys it in sticks and use the wrappers to grease as well.
 
Anke T. December 6, 2017
Seriously? My grandma taught me this when I was a kid in the 70s.
 
Bevi December 6, 2017
Ditto, in the 50s.
 
Tina B. December 5, 2017
I'm in my 60s and this is standard practice for me, my mom and both grandparents.... it's a waste not to use the butter wrapper.
 
Greenstuff December 5, 2017
Whoa! What decade and on what continent did you grow up? I'm pretty sure that anyone born in the 1950s in the US thinks that's a standard, and from the replies below, I'd guess that the only question would be when and where it has been standard to wrap butter in waxed paper. Facinating! I'd love a full investigative report.<br />
 
wahini December 6, 2017
Some butter sticks are wrapped in unwaxed paper or paper-backed foil--but those absorb a bit of butter plus there are smears and little particles of butter that adhere to them--this is usually enough to add the thin film of butter needed on baking sheets and cake tins. If more butter is needed, a few more bits can be added and smeared with the butter paper. Whatever the butter sticks are wrapped in will work to butter pans and tins. It is also a bit stronger than regular waxed paper or paper towels so does not disintegrate as quickly.
 
Brandon J. December 8, 2017
Yikes. Way to be rude! We all experience very different things throughout our lifetime, sometimes even the simplest seeming things can be overlooked.
 
Greenstuff December 8, 2017
I don't think anyone means to be rude! This is a pretty interesting conversation, and I think a lot of us who grew up in the US in the 50s, 60s, and 70s are wondering when and where this method changed or was never implanted. Sorry you took it as rude, I don't think anyone meant it to be. I sure didn't.
 
arcane54 December 5, 2017
I’ve been a fan of this practice for years and I also keep my butter wrappers in the freezer to use when needed.
 
wahini December 5, 2017
When I use a stick of butter, I always fold up the butter paper and stash it in a zip bag in the freezer--or during a baking season I just stash the folded papers in my refrigerator's butter keeper compartment. I have done this for many years.
 
creamtea December 5, 2017
We were taught to do this in Home Ec. However now I use a paper towel plus butter, because I want to be sure to apply enough butter to the pan. For layer cakes, though, I use parchment paper because it's so easy to clean up afterwards.
 
AntoniaJames December 5, 2017
I've done this since I started baking at about age 10. It's one of those "hacks" that I cannot imagine doing any other way. One advantage is that the butter imparts a beautiful flavor to cookies, as noted by Mimi Sheraton, writing for the New York Times decades ago: "[B]y all means use butter where a greased cookie sheet is called for. Nothing else does so much for the finish and flavor." Mimi Sheraton, New York Times, December 9, 1981 It's why I don't use parchment for certain cookies. That crispy brown butter on the bottom of your cookies makes the minimal additional effort of washing the cookies sheet worth it. ;o)