I Asked My Co-Workers How They Butter Toast. It Got Weird.

April 22, 2019

Is there a better way to start the day than buttered toast? Of course not. Maybe because it tastes sooo good. Or maybe because it’s the kind of “recipe” that requires next to no thinking.

Or does it?

The obvious instructions for buttered toast are: Butter toast. But what temperature is the butter? And what tool do you use to spread? And when do you spread? And when do you toast? If you’re like us here at Food52, you have a lot of feelings about all of this…

1. Toast the bread, then spread with straight-from-the-fridge butter.

Use a butter knife. I grew up in a cold-butter house (and my parents have yet to change their ways). Letting the cold butter pat sit between two pieces of warm toast lessens toast damage. But, either way, you’re gonna end up with torn-up toast.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Then I spread room temperature butter (French Butter Crock fan here!) on the untoasted side, and then put it under the broiler - so the butter is toasting as well as the bread. Win-win! Our grandkids LOVE my toast, which, BTW, is not just for breakfast. I often have toast for supper, with a pot of tea, when hubby is traveling for work.”
— Pam S.

Pretend the butter stick “is like a glue stick.” This idea came by way of our brilliant assistant editor of partner content Erin Alexander. “Wait, you actually do this?” I wondered. “Maybe,” she said. But does it work? “Kind of!” Good enough for me.

Use a cheese slicer. According to the internet, this is a thing. A shaved sheet of butter will melt easier than a chunky hunk, sure. But do people actually do this in real life? You tell me.

Use a cheese grater. Apparently also a thing. I’ve grated cold butter in baking—for flaky pastries like scones, pie crust, etc. But for toast? What a world.

Use a Japanese butter knife. Now we’re talking. See those tiny holes? Those turn cold butter into softened curls, ready to glide onto warm toast. Plus, if you’re having people over for brunch—talk about a party trick.

Use a butter curler. Like the Japanese butter knife, this encourages cold-ish butter to spread onto toast with grace. Cute butter orbs: coming right up.

2. Toast the bread, then spread with room-temperature butter.

Use a butter dish. Nothing fancy here. Think of it as a little butter house—usually fits one stick, stays on your countertop for when toast time strikes. My current go-to method.

Use a butter keeper. It’s no secret that we here at Food52 love butter keepers. If you’re wondering, Wait, what’s a butter keeper? it’s a two-piece magician that holds butter over a little dish of water, which helps the butter stay silky-smooth and ultra-spreadable.

3. Spread the bread with room-temperature butter, then toast it.

Follow the same room-temperature butter strategies listed above, but flip the order of application. This was the sworn-by strategy when I worked at Scratch Baking in Durham, North Carolina (and, let me tell you, a lot of buttered toast came out of that kitchen). Epicurious Digital Director David Tamarkin also preached the pros of this method in a recent article, saying the results are “richer and crispier.” (Think: more butter-soaking! A good thing.) The con? This method only works in a toaster oven, extra-hot oven, or broiler.

4. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the bread.

Is this really toast? Or is it just fried bread? Who cares, says Senior Editor Eric Kim. It’s good is what it is. “I love melting butter in a pan (like, apply cold stick of butter to pan and melt off a tablespoon) and just toasting the bread in that,” he told me. “It’s a certain taste, reminds me of the buttery toast they gave out with canned chicken noodle soup in elementary school.”

Goes Well With Buttered Toast

What’s your go-to way to butter toast? Tell us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Santashia Joyner
    Santashia Joyner
  • Anne Cohen
    Anne Cohen
  • Sassafras
  • Pam Shropshire
    Pam Shropshire
  • Hannah
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Santashia J. June 29, 2020
Room temp butter between two slices of warm toast. It melts! Cut the triangle way!
Anne C. August 14, 2019
Salted butter never goes rancid and can stay out of the refrigerator in the hottest weather. I keep mine in a covered terrine dish on the counter, it holds 1 lb. perfectly. Soft butter always ready for toast or any other bread and can be brought to the table when more than one person needs service. A cold butter in the frig is always waiting to go. Sweet butter when required has to stay cold till the last minute but usually used in baking and not an issue.
Sassafras August 12, 2019
Toast one side under the broiler (dry) to your liking, flip and arrange squares of cold butter (little or a lot) on the other and broil to crisp toast with buttery pools. It’s toast nirvana!
Pam S. August 12, 2019
My husband says I'm weird because I threw out the toaster. But seriously, toast toasted under the broiler is SO much better! I put the bread on a baking sheet and toast one side, which becomes the bottom. Then I spread room temperature butter (French Butter Crock fan here!) on the untoasted side, and then put it under the broiler - so the butter is toasting as well as the bread. Win-win! Our grandkids LOVE my toast, which, BTW, is not just for breakfast. I often have toast for supper, with a pot of tea, when hubby is traveling for work.
Stephanie A. August 12, 2019
Years ago, when I was in boarding school in Germany, we used a regular clothes iron (NOT a non-stick one) to make toast in the dorm. We would bring (er... smuggle) some leftover slices of breakfast bread up from the dining room and iron out our snacks in our rooms during the afternoon study periods. Nice, dark toast! We would then rub a fresh garlic clove all over the top of the bread, then spread some butter on top of that. It was amazing! Ironed toast tastes very different from toast made in the toaster. I have been able to replicate the experience by toasting bread in a red-hot cast iron pan, while pushing down on it with a steel spatula - much like one would make grilled cheese sandwiches, but without the cheese. This technique tends to crush the bread, of course. But, the denseness of the bread is part of the experience and, for some reason, it ends up tasting completely different from a regular toast. It's great with or without the garlic. But, when made with the garlic, the garlic stays raw. It is not returned to the pan once the garlic is rubbed on. Again, this gives for a totally different taste experience from the normal cooked-on garlic bread.
They do say necessity is the mother of invention... ☺️
Hannah May 1, 2019
Say it's too hot too keep the butter out of the fridge, even in its own butter dish. I take a butter knife, run it under the hot water faucet, and cut a large pat of cold butter, and just let the heat from knife and toast melt the butter as I'm spreading. I've never had torn bread since I've started doing it this way.
Hannah June 29, 2020
Although bread fried in pan butter is super delicious when the toaster dies! Damn it!
Stephanie A. April 28, 2019
Years ago, I wandered into a Kinney's Drug Store and they usually have an area where they sell "As Seen on TV" gadgets. Or, at least, they used to. Haven't been to one lately. Anyhoo, that particular time they had a gadget called a "Butter Butler" which is like a square, hollow, hard plastic sleeve with a plunger that pushes the butter through a very slim (about 1/32") slit that is an inch or so wide at the bottom. The sleeve exactly fits a stick of butter. The gadget cost under $10.00 and it looked interesting, so I got one. It became one of my favorite, most-used gadgets ever. The way it's constructed, it is basically air-tight, with the exception of the opening at the bottom, but since the butter is jammed in against it and otherwise fills the entire area it resides in, no air ever gets to the contents. So, in the fridge, the butter stays fresh pretty much indefinitely. No darkening, no fridgy taste. The mechanism to push the butter through is a plunger that is screwed forward, so the exertion is minimal. And the square housing even has the amounts for tablespoon quantities marked off on the side. Well, on the transparent plastic units anyway. Some are opaque and that wouldn't work so well.
Ever since I first discovered the Butter Butler, I have not been without two of them at a time. My husband likes salted butter, I prefer unsalted. So we mark the salted one with a colored rubber band. We enjoy totally fresh butter every time we reach into the fridge and never have to worry about how long it's been in there. The first one I got broke after about 8 years of constant use. It was hard to find another one that worked as well as the first one. I bought about 3-4 of them, before I finally found a US-manufactured one that worked properly. They cost more too now. And I refuse to pay close to $100 for a stainless steel one. The plastic ones work great, once you find the right one. I gave away the ones I didn't care for to people who had never had one anyway, so no basis for comparison. - End of infomercial! :)
As far as how I like my toast buttered, it varies. At times I like the butter fully melted onto the toast and salted, at other times, I let the toast cool quite a bit, then add the butter. Especially if I am going to drizzle some honey on top too.
Rebecca August 12, 2019
Does the Butter Butler fit Eastern-pack shape butter sticks or Western-pack shape butter sticks? Or do they make two sizes?
Stephanie A. August 12, 2019
It doesn't really matter. You may have to shave a bit off the sides to make it fit, but you can just push the shaved stick down, put your shavings on top, and then start screwing in your plunger. That easily pushes everything down to fit snugly inside the chamber, with no air pockets. Just remember to always give the plunger a quarter turn or so in reverse when you are done doling out the needed portion. This releases the remaining pressure and keeps the butter from oozing out into the cap. My husband always forgets this last step and, consequently, he ends up with a lot of butter in the cap of his butter butler. Fortunately, we have separate butter butlers, so divorce is not pending on that front yet. ☺️
Kathrine J. April 25, 2020
I have a Butter Boy that I use for grilled ears of corn. Little green plastic dude that holds a stuck of butter, and the top of his head is the cap.

I recently discovered there is also a yellow Butter Girl, and now I think my fella needs a friend.
Elly H. April 28, 2019
A tomato knife works kind of like a Japanese butter knife for me. The butter knife I bought clogged up a lot so I gave up and tried the tomato knife.
Elly H. June 29, 2020
That's what happened to me and why I use a tomato
knife, too.
Jim April 28, 2019
Buttering bread before toasting was great, until I had a fire catch inside my toaster oven after the melted butter somehow made it to the heating element. :/

While it isn't exactly the same, i've turned to using ghee for toast. It is shelf stable, so always room temp. A pinch of maldon also makes it better every time!
Christine B. April 28, 2019
Whoa! I had no idea there were so many ways to butter toast! I like room temperature butter spread immediately onto hot toast. The melted butter melting through the toast is divine!
Lori N. April 25, 2019
I am one of those use uses a cheese slicer on cold butter. Generally prefer room temperature for toast but if cold is all I have, that works for me.
john April 24, 2019
I use a wide blade butter knife to spread cold butter edge to edge on the toast. I like to eat it before it melts so I can get the coolness of the butter on my palate. Yum.
Ave April 23, 2019
Am I the only one who loves a chunk of cold butter on bread/toast? I'd rather bite into a piece of butter placed on a warm toast rather than to have it melt all over the toast. That being said, whipped butter is on a whole another level...
HalfPint April 23, 2019
Nope, that's how I like my toast too :)
Ronnie M. April 23, 2019
Vegetable peeler. Just sayin'.
Lulu April 23, 2019
I've done both butter stick and melting butter in a pan and soaking bread methods! My kid and I both prefer the melted butter method better though, because the bread ends up crispy too, especially if it's garlic butter. :)
Emma L. April 23, 2019
Mmmm garlic butter!
Ann G. April 23, 2019
I take the butter out of the fridge the night before so it softens a bit. In the morning when the toast is ready I run a butter knife under hot water and then use it to slice & spread the butter on the toast. (I dry the knife before using it)
Pat E. April 22, 2019
Room temperature butter, spread on both sides of the bread, fry in a frying pan as if making grilled cheese. The bread toasts on both sides and the butter soak into the bread so you get that warm, rich butter taste all the way through. It makes the BEST bread to dip into a runny lightly salted yolk.
Emma L. April 23, 2019
I believe it!
Nichole April 22, 2019
I toast the bread in the toaster oven. Then I stick a little slice of good butter on each piece of toast and put the toast back in the toaster oven to soften while I finish up whatever else I’m making. Then remove the toast and spread the softened butter around.
HalfPint April 22, 2019
I like cold toast spread with room temp or soft butter. I like the butter somewhat solid because melted butter softens crispy toast. Yeah, I'm kind of weird that way...
Linda L. August 12, 2019
Love. I thought I was the only one!
Stephen April 22, 2019
Have used the 'butter stick' method for at least 20 years. Peel back an inch er so of wrap & rub away... More pressure/more butter. Store mine (face down;) in a small square porcelain condiment dish in the refrig door.
Works perfect, but drives the wife nuts when she sees bunch of little crumbs when she uses it after me!
Smaug April 22, 2019
I don't eat a ton of bread (other than English muffins) so I usually keep it frozen. I do eat grilled cheese sandwiches sometimes, which I butter. Kind of counter intuitive, but I usually spread the butter while the bread is still frozen solid- it doesn't soften much, but you can apply quite a bit of pressure.
Emma L. April 22, 2019
Whoa! So you butter the frozen bread, then broil it?
Smaug April 22, 2019
Broil it? No, I cook it on a griddle under pressure.
Leandra B. April 22, 2019
I also make grilled cheese with from-the-freezer bread right in a hot pan!