How to Soften Butter in a Flash

For many of us, enjoying a nice slice of warm toast also involves spreading soft butter on it so that it melts smoothly. There’s no joy in spreading cold butter on warm toast unless your intention is to rip it to pieces. That’s for the birds.

How do we avoid this mistake? And how do we fix our forgetfulness when we need softened butter to bake with but it’s still sitting in the fridge? We either leave it out at room temp overnight, or pop it into an appliance. But Chef Gizzi Erskine is here to show us another trick that works.

When using the microwave or toaster oven, we have to gauge the time and temperature so we don’t end up with a pool of butter. All you bakers out there know melted butter just won’t work in cookies and cake frosting. Ugh. What do you do?

Gizzi explains that she and her team have been combing the internet for various cooking hacks. Unsure if this butter softening trick would work, she put it to the test. With a mason jar, some boiling water, and a stick of butter, she starts the experiment for the first time.

She fills a 1-quart mason jar with boiling water, and then carefully discards the water into a heat-safe bowl. With the stick of butter standing vertically, Gizzi places the mouth of the jar over the butter. And waits.
The sauna-like effect created by the jar is supposed to soften the butter enough to work with it. Ideally, it’ll be soft throughout, and not warm on the outside but still cold on the inside. So how did this fare?
On the outside, it looks just fine. The real test comes with cutting through it. Watch as Gizzi finds out what happens when a knife is used to cut, mash, and spread the butter!
You can try this one on your own with a mason jar or drinking glass. Let’s compare this for a moment with some of the other ways to soften butter up in hurry:
You can tamper with your microwave’s settings and hope for the best.

You can bag the butter and beat it into softened submission and hope for the best.

You can roll the cold stick out with a rolling pin and hope for the best.

Before you make a decision, ask yourself: What would this cookie dough prefer? Too melty, and the cookies are ruined. Too cold, and the creaming-with-sugar step won’t work. As a baker, I’d probably roll with this sauna jar every time. That is, for the times I don’t take the butter out in advance.

Don’t let cold butter destroy your toast. Don’t let melted butter make your frosting drip and drizzle all over your cake. And don’t muck up the texture of your cookies with goopy butter. Your food deserves better treatment and this hack could be the solution.

Would you try this technique in a cold butter pinch? What is your current rapid response butter softening method?