How to Soften Butter Quickly

If you need to soften butter fast, these are the tips that really work—without melting the butter!

Forgetting to soften butter before you make a batch of cookies or frosting is one of a cook's greatest frustrations. And while we've all tried to cheat the system once or twice, we know deep down we'll never get the same perfect crumb and fluffy texture that comes from beating creamy butter into sugar granules.

soften bowl of cut up butter with a measuring cup of water in the microwave
Casey Barber

But the next time you need a soft stick of butter stat, don't sit around watching it on the counter, wondering "How long does it take for butter to soften?" Use one of these hacks and you'll have it ready to go in minutes.

How to Soften Butter in the Microwave

The quickest method

softening a stick of butter in the microwave
Casey Barber

Place a stick of butter, still in its wrapper, on a microwave-safe plate.

Microwave for 3 to 5 seconds, then flip the butter a quarter-turn. Repeat 3 more times so that each of the long, flat sides of the stick heat evenly.

If the butter feels soft enough after 2 or 3 turns, remove and use. Don't microwave it too long or the edges will start to melt.

The second-quickest method

soften bowl of cut up butter with a measuring cup of water in the microwave
Casey Barber

Fill a 1-cup microwave-safe liquid measuring cup with water.

Cube a stick of butter and place the cubes in a microwave-safe bowl.

Microwave the measuring cup until the water comes to a boil, 1 to 2 minutes.

Place the bowl of butter in the microwave next to the measuring cup. Close the door, but do not turn the microwave on.

Let the butter rest in the microwave for 10 minutes; the residual steam will help soften it.

Tip: This technique works for cream cheese as well.

How to Soften Butter Without a Microwave

The quickest method

grater, stick of butter, and grated butter on a board
Casey Barber

Grate a stick of butter on the coarse side of a box grater. The ribbons of butter will soften almost instantly.

The most anger-relieving method

flattened butter in a plastic bag with a rolling pin beside it
Casey Barber

Unwrap a stick of butter and place in a gallon-size zip-top bag.

Smack the butter with a rolling pin using definitive, up-and-down strokes. The butter will flatten into a thin sheet with just a minute of work.

Let the butter sheet sit on the counter for a few minutes more if you'd like it even softer, or use as is.

Now that you know how to soften butter quickly for that batch of cookies, learn how to clean your cookie sheets after the batch is out of the oven.

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