How to Freeze Butter to Save Money and Always Have It on Hand

Everyone's favorite baking ingredient freezes like a dream. Here's how!

a dish of butter with a knife
Photo: Getty

Butter isn't the kind of cooking and baking staple you want to run out of—how disappointing would it be to discover you're out of butter when you want to bake cookies? The good news is that butter—both salted and unsalted—freezes really well and the freezing and thawing process is a snap. That means the next time you find butter on sale, you can stock up so you always have some on hand for making pie dough, mashed potatoes or just a piece of toast. It also means that if you don't use butter often, you can freeze it and use it at your own pace and none will go to waste. Read on for everything you need to know about freezing and thawing butter, plus tips and recipes for how to use it.

How long can butter be frozen?

Butter can be frozen for six to nine months, with salted butter lasting longer than unsalted. Butter frozen longer than that will still be safe to eat, but you may see signs of freezer burn or the butter may absorb flavors and odors from the freezer. It's always best to freeze butter when it is fresh and not when it's past its prime, so check the best by date on the packaging.

What's the best way to wrap butter for freezing?

If possible, keep butter in its original packaging, so you know the best-by date, then place it in a resealable freezer bag to protect it from freezer flavors and odors. Alternatively, wrap sticks or blocks of butter in foil or plastic wrap before placing in a resealable freezer bag. Depending on how you typically use butter, you may want to cut it into smaller quantities, wrap those individually and then place them in a resealable freezer bag. In the freezer, it's best to store butter away from anything that might have an odor. And, as with all freezing, be sure to label and date the packaging so you can easily identify it and use it in a timely manner.

What's the best way to thaw frozen butter?

Frozen butter can be slowly defrosted in the refrigerator for six to seven hours or overnight. If your thawed butter is still a bit firm, take a cue from baking pro Dorie Greenspan, who says it's easy—and fun—to soften it by bashing it with a rolling pin.

When you're in a hurry, grate frozen butter using the large holes of a box grater. Grated frozen butter is ideal for making pie dough because it's super-cold and in small pieces that will blend with flour quickly and easily. In fact, this method works so well, you may find yourself freezing and grating butter every time you want to make pie. For other uses, such as when you want to blend butter with sugar to make cookies, leave the grated butter at room temperature and it will be ready to use in no time at all.

If you need soft or room-temperature butter, it's best to avoid the microwave, as it will thaw butter unevenly, melting some parts and potentially splashing and making a mess. However, as long as you're careful, you can use the microwave to melt butter whether you need it to make cookies, brownies or even potatoes or asparagus. Some, microwaves have a "melt butter" option, but you can also use a lower power and heat it in 10-second bursts.

What's the best way to use previously frozen butter?

As long as butter is frozen and thawed properly, including freezing it when it's still fresh, previously frozen butter can be used like fresh. Once thawed, previously frozen butter should be used within 30 days.

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