Soften butter quickly with this trick. If you forget to let your butter come to room temperature ahead of time, use this quick and easy method.
If you find yourself baking more these days, take the time to review this helpful post. I’m so excited to republish it because understanding this crucial concept is key in your baking’s success.
Butter is the starting point for an immense amount of baked goods, so it’s important to have it prepped as the recipe suggests. But guess what? We’re all human and we forget to bring butter to room temperature first or we just don’t have the time. We make up for it by trying to heat it in the microwave, but it always ends up slightly melted. At this point, butter and sugar can’t cream properly leading to cookies over-spreading, dense cakes, overflowing cupcakes, and flat muffins.
Let me help.
Soften Butter Quickly with This Trick
Let’s dive into this a little further.
Why Softened Butter?
First, let’s discuss why you actually need softened butter for your recipe. I actually have an in-depth post about room temperature butter if you’d like to read further.
Most recipes calling for butter call for room temperature/softened butter. And there’s legitimate science involved for this particular consistency. Butter, a solid fat, is capable of holding air and the creaming process is when butter traps that air. While baking, that trapped air expands from the heat and produces a fluffy baked good. Not only this, room temperature ingredients bond together very easily since they’re warmer, creating a seamless and evenly textured batter. A smooth batter with trapped air = a uniformly textured and proper tasting baked good. Cold ingredients do not emulsify together. Period. This results in clumpy frosting, chunky cheesecake, dense cake, flat breads, and oily muffins.
- It’s literally #1 in my 10 best baking tips: if a recipe calls for room temperature butter, use room temperature butter. It can’t properly cream with sugar otherwise.
Room Temperature Butter Is Colder Than You Think
Room temperature butter is cool to the touch and about 65°F (18°C). This might be colder than your kitchen. When you press it, your finger will make an indent. Your finger won’t sink down into the butter, nor will your finger slide all around. To get that perfect consistency and temperature, leave butter out on the counter for around 1 hour prior to beginning your recipe.
How to Soften Butter Quickly
The best way to soften butter for a recipe is to set it out on the counter for about 1-2 hours. The amount of time depends on the weather and how cool you keep your kitchen. But we forget and/or we just don’t have time.
There’s a billion tricks to softening butter quickly, but the following is what works best for me. Here’s what you need:
- butter, sliced into small pieces
Step 1: Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.
Step 2: Microwave it for 2 minutes until extremely hot. Meanwhile, place butter in a heatproof bowl or on a plate.
Step 3: Remove water from the microwave. Place butter inside. Quickly close microwave. (Our microwave is one of those models in the kitchen island. I love it!)
Step 4: The radiant heat will soften the butter in about 10 minutes.
Keep This in Mind
The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. In other words, you don’t want a huge pile of butter in a small bowl. Spread it out so the pieces of butter can warm up quickly and evenly.
More Tips to Make YOU a Better Baker
- Salted vs Unsalted Butter
- My 10 Best Baking Tips
- Why Room Temperature Ingredients Make a Difference
- Baking Made Easy Email Series
- 14 Best Baking Tools That Every Baker Needs
- Baking Powder vs Baking Soda
How to Soften Butter Quickly
- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 1/2 cup
- Category: Baking
- Method: Microwave
- Cuisine: American
Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick.
- 2 cups water
- butter (sliced into pieces)*
- Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.
- Microwave it for 2 minutes until very hot. Meanwhile, place pieces of butter into a heatproof bowl or on a plate.
- Very carefully remove water from microwave. Place butter in the microwave. Immediately close the microwave door to trap hot air inside.
- The radiant heat will soften the butter in about 10 minutes.
- The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. Spread the pieces of butter out so they can warm up quickly and evenly. Thinner pieces will soften faster.
And Always Remember
If a recipe calls for room temperature butter, make sure all other ingredients are room temperature as well. This includes eggs, milk, and sour cream. When cold ingredients touch creamed butter, the butter will cool down and solidify again. And, as you now know, this sabotages your recipe. Place eggs in warm water for 10 minutes and/or microwave dairy ingredients (not butter!) for about 10 seconds prior to using. Now go make perfect sugar cookies!
Reader Comments & Reviews
kind of on topic but off topic. the tollhouse Chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for softened butter but doesn’t mention bringing the eggs to room temperature. If I understand Sally correctly, softened butter requires room temperature eggs. or is there a difference between room temperature butter and softened butter? thanks!
Hi Walter! Yes, it would be best to use room temperature eggs as well. More on room temperature ingredients here!
I was highly skeptical. Worked like a charm, and got me out of a jam! (I watched the video to make sure I was doing it right.)
Terrible tip. Didn’t work. After going through two repetitions butter still too hard to combine with sugar.
It didn’t work for me- I ended up with a bowl of water and melted butter, that I couldn’t salvage and I don’t have enough butter to try again. Too small of pieces of butter? Not enough water to butter ratio? Not sure, but I’ll just do things the old fashioned way next time.
Don’t put the butter IN the water. I read the recipe the same way you did and realized that first, you’re supposed to dice up the butter in a microwave safe dish, then put water in a microwave safe bowl and warm it up in the microwave. THEN take the water and bowl out of the microwave and put the dish with your diced up butter in there and let it sit for 10 minutes The heat and steam from microwaving the water is what will soften your butter. 🙂
Thank you so much for the insight Sally! Does this method also work in frozen butter as well?
Hi Ruby! We don’t recommend using frozen butter for this trick – it’s best for butter straight from the fridge.
Worked fantastically! Thank you!
Thank you Thank you Thank you! I’m new to your emails and am loving them. I’ve been baking for my local Farmer’s Market for 3 years now and thought I understood my recipes. Your simple explanations have opened my eyes. Your in-depth butter email and this trick are just wonderful. I’m looking at some of my baking fails and all of my recipes with new knowledge.
So glad you’ve found the site helpful, Beth — happy baking!
Thank you for this great tip!
Now, Sally I have another question. I want to get back to baking again since I enjoy it so much. Is it necessary to buy a hand mixer? I know another secret to good baking especially when it comes to cakes and cookies . Creaming the sugar and butter is crucial. Do you recommend a hand mixer or a stationary mixer with all the fancy attachments? We have downsized to a very small apartment and need to be mindful of our small footprint. We don’t want to buy kitchenware we won’t use. Please send me the type of product you recommend. Many thanks for your knowledge and time. Love your baking site!
Hi S, We find that for most bakers a hand held mixer is used the most! You can see #2 in this post on 14+ Tools Every Baker Needs for our detailed thoughts on this subject and links to the hand mixer we use.
Such Great Information. I am working on making the perfect cookie. Learned a lot today. Thanks so much.
Great tip! A slight variation in case your microwave is busy is to use your toaster oven if you have one, skipping the water altogether. Just turn on long enough to get the same radiant heat going, about 1 minute, turn off, then set cubed butter in it on middle rack.
Thank you. Was about to start a recipe for Olive and Rosemary Bread when that OH NO moment hit, 45g of soften butter. Now it was bad enough attempting to convert a “g” into tablespoons but softened also.
Ps 45 g is 5 tablespoons right?
I thought it was 15g per 1Tbsn.
Wow! I am 76 years young and just found out how much I do not know!! I, like many of us am very concerned where this next year or so is going to take us! I expect flour and grain shortages so want to get back in shape with making bread and other goodies. I have, of course stored up on flour. I am starting to really miss our ole Milk Cow!! Sally I will be using your site, a lot and I thank you for this timely information!!
Thank you Sally for the tips! I am making your Oatmeal Cookies, and went searching for room temperature butter ideas. When I saw yours, that’s all I needed to look at. Also, thanks for giving the temperature of room temperature butter. I just got my instant read thermometer, and tested the sticks of butter. They are 67°, so no more softening necessary!
Love your emails and recipes, you are my favorite site to check first for new recipes.