How to Soften Butter Quickly (Because Oops, You Forgot to Take It Out of the Fridge)

how to soften butter quickly: a stick of butter
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You volunteered to bring your world-famous chocolate chip cookies to that backyard picnic your bestie is hosting. Cut to: It’s two hours before the party and you’re scrambling in the kitchen because the recipe calls for a stick of butter “at room temperature,” and you forgot to take said butter out of the fridge. Wondering how to soften butter quickly when you’re short on time? You’re in luck: We have four stupid-simple methods that will set you up for success.

What Temperature Should ‘Room Temperature Butter’ Be?

It sounds like it should be obvious: Room temperature butter should be, well, room temperature. But anyone who’s tried baking cookies in an 80-degree kitchen knows that sometimes room temp is a little *too* warm. Instead of relying on an exact temperature, use your chef senses to determine if your butter is ready to bake with. When a recipe calls for “room temperature butter,” this means you can gently press a finger into it and leave a slight indentation without mushing through the entire stick. The butter should still feel cool, slightly firm and smooth, not warm or greasy.

Why Should You Trust Our Methods?

There are a lot of “hacks” swirling around the internet, and not all of them work. (Who hasn’t seen that “warm water in a drinking glass” trick?) We’ve personally tested all four of these butter-softening methods in our kitchen and know they work.

4 Ways to Soften Butter Quickly

1. The Plate Method

If you can stand to be a *little* patient, the plate method is the most foolproof way to soften butter on the fly. (You also won’t need any special equipment.) It works because you increase the surface area of the butter, speeding up the time it takes to lose its chill.

Step 1: Unwrap the stick of butter and slice it into pats that are slightly thinner than a tablespoon.

Step 2: Place the pats of butter in a single layer on a plate. Set aside for about 30 minutes until the butter is softened.

2. The Steam Method

Say you have about ten minutes to spare. The steam method just might be your choice to soften butter quickly, as long as you have access to a microwave.

Step 1: Fill a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup with two cups of water.

Step 2: Place the measuring cup in the microwave and heat for two minutes until very hot. Meanwhile, unwrap the stick of butter, slice it into pats and place in a medium bowl.

Step 3: When the water is hot, working quickly, remove it from the microwave and replace it with the bowl of butter, quickly closing the microwave door so steam doesn’t escape.

Step 4: Let the butter soften in the microwave for about ten minutes.

3. The Body Heat Method

A good cook is nothing if not resourceful, right? The body heat method gets a bit creative, but it’s a simple way to soften butter if you’re cool with walking around with a (wrapped) stick in your waistband. It’s not our preferred method, since the outer layer of butter will often soften faster than the inside, but it works in a pinch (and we’ll do anything for homemade cookies). This method should take about 20 minutes, give or take.

Step 1: Place the fully wrapped stick of butter in the waistband of your pants.

Step 2: Go about your business—we suggest prepping the rest of your recipe—until the butter is slightly soft. Rotate the stick of butter occasionally to encourage even softening.

4. The Microwave Method

If you’re really in a rush, you can simply microwave your butter to soften it—but we’d save this as a last-ditch effort, since it’s the easiest to overdo. (Accidentally set the timer for 20 minutes instead of 20 seconds? Been there, friend.) Here’s how to soften butter in the microwave.

Step 1: Place the wrapped stick of butter on a microwave-safe plate in the microwave.

Step 2: Microwave the butter on 20 percent power for 20 seconds, then rotate the stick to a new side. Repeat this process of 20 seconds at 20 percent power, rotate, repeat, until the butter is softened. It’s imperative that you check the temperature of the butter after each interval, because it can sometimes get too soft (or worse, melted) in the center of the stick.

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Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she’s an avid home cook and fanatic baker.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...