There are few kitchen annoyances that get to me more than hard butter shredding my toast.
I prefer to leave a plate of room-temperature butter sitting on my pantry shelf to avoid it. While some food safety experts don’t recommend using unrefrigerated butter, as it’s a dairy product, store-bought butter is considered low risk since it’s made with pasteurized cream. The risk is especially low if the butter is salted, since salt reduces pathogen growth.
“I usually say that food safety and soft butter is really about the risk people want to take for the reward of having soft butter,” said Brita Ball, food safety consultant and adjunct professor at the University of Guelph, in an email.
But for the risk-averse or for the days when I forget to take a brick out of the fridge, I sought to find out how can it be melted quickly — say, in the time it takes most toast to pop up. Online reviews of various preheating serrated butter knives suggest even infomercial “solutions” don’t work. I tried three butter melting methods to see which offers the quickest, cleanest, most spreadable fix.
Test One: Microwave it
The Test: Everybody knows this one and everybody sucks at it. I tried three 10-second spurts in the microwave in hopes that fragmented exposure to electromagnetic radiation might prevent a plate of butter sludge.
The Result: When I poked the stick of butter it burst. The middle had been softened to a kind of mini liquid bomb. I should have left it at two 10-second rounds, but felt the butter hadn’t softened enough to be spreadable at that point. This method is passable, but the time could vary with every new butter stick, depending on the toughness and temperature of the butter.
The Rating: 5/10
Test Two: Pound it out
The Test: Put the desired amount of butter into a resealable plastic bag and use a rolling pin, meat pounder or something hard like a Mason jar to pound it out.
The Result: It’s fun — that’s about all this method has going for it. The pounding doesn’t seem to generate enough heat to soften fridge-hardened butter, and it is difficult to remove said butter from the bag. Good for anger management, bad for softening.
The Rating: 3/10
Test Three: Cover it
The Test: Pour hot water into a glass cup or container — one large enough to later sit tightly around the stick of butter. Let the water heat up the glass, then carefully but quickly pour out the water, dry the cup and place over the butter to soften.
The Result: Tap water doesn’t…