Here’s the true secret to easily spreadable butter

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It seems many people are looking for the perfect method for buttering up their toasts and bagels.  Julie was disappointed with the knife that promised to use the heat of her hand to make butter spreadable that she reviewed yesterday.  As Julie mentioned, butter can actually be left out on the counter without refrigeration, but I don’t particularly care for just leaving the butter sitting out.  I’ve tried two methods for keeping butter fresh and covered while keeping it soft and spreadable.  I’ve tried the Butter Bell (two versions seen in the top row of images) and the Butter Boat.  Both methods use the cooling properties of ceramics and water to keep the butter soft and fresh.

With the Butter Bells, you’ll have to let the butter soften at room temperature, then pack it into the bell-shaped holder under the lid.  You place cold water in the base, then put the lid on.  The surface of the butter is under water, keeping it from exposure to the air.  The water and ceramic keeps it just a bit cooled, but it’s still soft enough to spread.  You need to replace the water every couple of days to keep things fresh.

The Butter Boat is my favorite method of keeping butter out of the fridge.  You simply place a stick of butter in the top bowl.  You place cold water in the bottom bowl, where it keeps the upper bowl and the butter it holds a little chilled for freshness.  It’s not too cold, so the butter is still soft.  The lid keeps the butter covered.  You also need to replace the water in the Butter Boat every couple of days.

As I mentioned, I’ve owned and used both of these types of butter keepers.  I actually like the look and the size of the Butter Bells more, but I prefer to use the Butter Boat because the water doesn’t actually come into contact with the butter.  You can find both of these butter keepers at Amazon by searching for Butter Boat or Butter Bell.  The Butter Bells types vary from about $10 for a Norpro version (upper right), to about $22 for the actual Butter Bell (upper left), to about $35 for the Le Creuset version (not shown).  The Butter Boats are about $20.

18 thoughts on “Here’s the true secret to easily spreadable butter”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
    1. As long as you change the cold water about every 3 days or so, it will keep up to 30 days with no problem! I love mine!

  2. @Greg Carter I never really tested how long it would keep, because I would always err on the side of caution. I’d put a half stick in there, although it would hold a whole stick. We are just a family of three, so if it wasn’t all gone by the end of a week, I’d throw the bit remaining away. It still tasted fresh, though, and I’m sure it was still edible.

  3. @Greg The website says that the butter can be kept “weeks” without refrigeration.

    I would imagine if your family is more than two and loves butter at at least once a day, the butter would be used up before it went bad.

  4. I’d imagine after a few hours any of these methods will simply be at room temperature. I’ve been using a pyrex bowl with an airtight lid for a few years. We use a half stick at a time and get a clean bowl every time we change the stick which is about once a week. I’ve never sensed the slightest hint of the butter turning. Might not be okay to those who don’t want there food near plastic lids. Although, the butter doesn’t need to touch the lid. Just my two cents.

    1. This is what I’ve been doing to for the past year, and never had any issue with the butter. But then it is out for a week and it’s gone.

  5. I ran across a butter bell at a bed and breakfast a few years ago. I thought it was fantastic, but I think I’m too lazy at home to do the extra packing and cleaning this requires vs. the just unwrapping sticks to put on the current butter dish in the fridge.

    The butter boat, though, could be an interesting alternative. I found a few threads on this topic by googling and there are about as many people who never refrigerate butter as those who would never leave it out for more than 10-15 minutes. Some make a point of saying that they use salted butter to help preserve it – I like unsalted – but that is not universal. It seems like it would be worth a try if I used butter more often.

    My solution to hard butter when I’m impatient is to grab one of the really sharp knives!

  6. For those wondering how long it would last set out: I rarely use butter, and I keep it set out on the counter. (In a covered plastic dish – basically one of the cheap ones at Walmart.) As long as I keep it out of actually sitting in the sun, I’ve never had a problem, even when I’ve left it there for months without using it.

  7. I am going to try a butter boat. I live in Colorado, where it’s usually warm most of the year (a lot warmer than Wisconsin!) and our butter seems to get too melted sitting on the counter, but it’s too hard kept in the fridge. The boat seems like a lot less trouble than the bell.

  8. Thank you for this asking opportunity! – I am still un-clear about how the butter boat works — (I get how the butter bell works) – would you direct me to further reading for clarification of how the water in b.boat container works? Thanks so much –

  9. Does anyone know how much water you put in the bottom of the butter boat? Mine doesn’t have a water line in it and I don’t know how much to add!

  10. I just purchased a Butter Bell as I was looking forward to soft butter. I left my crock sitting on the counter now for 2 days and the butter is hard, not spreadable like I have read. It is very hard and I need a knife to get it out, of course, when I try to spread the butter, it definantly does not spread. I keep our house at 70 during the day and 63 at night. I understand the night temp is low and maybe that is why but by dinner I am thinking the butter should be spreadable, any ideas?

    1. Jeanne M Cavanaugh

      I have the same problem. I’m on my second make of the butter bell and my butter is as hard as if it came straight from the fridge. Grrr…

  11. I use a traditional butter tray in ceramic. It holds two sticks of salted butter and the butter sits on the counter at the house temp is 68 degrees….and the butter is so darn hard you could use it as a hammer! It is high end butter and tried different kinds and no matter what, it is not spreadable. What am I do wrong? I have tried a couple of different butter bells and no difference as well as a couple of different butter holders too.

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