An expert shares two genius tips for better baking.

If you've ever decided to bake a batch of cookies at the last minute, you know that bringing a stick or two of butter to room temperature safely and quickly is important—but it's also tricky business. Softening butter in the microwave or on top of a warm oven can lead to inconsistently melted butter, which can negatively impact the texture of dough or batter. On the other hand, leaving your butter out on the counter at all times can degrade its flavor and structure. So, what's the best method for bringing a stick of butter to room temperature quickly? Kim Anderson, culinary center team lead for Land O'Lakes, shares her butter tips for baking success.

Butter on Cutting Board
Credit: Creativ Studio Heinemann

What Is Room Temperature Butter?

Many baking recipes call for room temperature butter, but what exactly does that mean? "Most people over-soften their butter. It should not be soft to the point where if you touch it, it loses its shape. It should be firm and cold to the touch," says Anderson. Depending on factors like temperature and humidity, 30 to 45 minutes is the ideal amount of time required to soften a stick of butter. While the ideal temperature for room temperature butter is between 63 and 68 degrees, a better gauge is how the butter feels when you touch it.

Grating Sticks of Butter

You may read recipes for scones or biscuits that call for grated butter; while this method helps to incorporate the butter evenly into the dough, it's also a way to quickly soften the essential ingredient when you're in a pinch. Use the largest setting on a box grater to get consistent pieces of grated butter—this method works with butter from either the freezer or the refrigerator.

Cubing Sticks of Butter

Rather than softening a whole stick of butter, Anderson recommends cutting the stick into smaller cubes, even if the recipe doesn't say to do so. "That can reduce your time in half just because there is more surface area that is exposed to warm air," she says. Quarter a stick of butter then cut it into half-inch cubes and watch as it softens in a flash.

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
March 18, 2020
Thank you so much for this. I always use the microwave and that isn't the best thing to do.