How To Soften Butter Fast

When it comes to baking, there's nothing like real butter — cookies, especially, just don't taste the same without it. While butter lasts longest when it's kept in the refrigerator, fridge butter is hard butter and this can pose a problem for the impatient cook. 

You may be tempted to try to use cold butter in your cookies, but you really shouldn't do this. Only butter that has softened will give your cookies the proper texture. While you might be tempted to pop that cold, hard stick of butter in the microwave for just a few seconds, this won't really do the trick — the outside layer of butter tends to melt, while the inside remains unthawed. Instead, there are a few tricks you can use to soften butter without having to leave it sitting out on the counter all day.

This is the best way to soften butter quickly

In order to soften butter in the quickest, easiest way, Sally's Baking Addiction does suggest using a microwave, but not in the way you think. The first step involves cutting the stick of butter up into small pieces and then placing it in a heat-proof bowl that is large enough for all of the pieces to be slightly spread out. 

Then you need to find another microwave-safe bowl or cup and fill it up with water. Tap water is fine, as the water itself won't be going into your final recipe. Place the bowl or cup of water in the microwave — not the butter! Just leave the butter sitting in its bowl on the counter for now. Microwave the water for one or two minutes until it starts boiling. At this point, open the microwave, put the bowl of butter in, shut the door and do not turn the microwave back on. You just want the cut-up butter to sit in the warm microwave for 10 minutes, at which point it should be soft enough to bake with.

Other quick butter-softening techniques

If you don't want to use the microwave (or you don't have one), The Kitchn has a few other butter-softening tricks. Just cutting the butter up in small enough pieces will help it to soften more quickly on its own, or, if your butter is so hard it's practically frozen, you can even use a box grater to shred it like cheese. You can also fill a saucepan with almost-boiling water, then fit a small metal bowl inside the saucepan and let your stick of butter soften in the bowl. This method can be tricky, though — even though it's providing indirect heat, the hot water may still start to melt the butter.

The final method is one you might enjoy if you're feeling particularly stressed out: put the butter in a Ziploc bag, then take a rolling pin or a mallet and give it a few good whacks. You don't need to beat it into a buttery pulp, just enough to flatten it out a bit. Once it's flattened, your stick of butter should be sufficiently softened to use in all your yummy cookie recipes.