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Butter Temperature 101

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2011

Butter temperature can dramatically affect the texture of baked goods, but terms like “chilled,” “softened,” or “melted and cooled” are imprecise.

To clarify the nomenclature in our recipes, we came up with the following temperature ranges and tactile clues. (For best results, check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer.)

CHILLED: About 35 Degrees

Tactile Clue: Unyielding when pressed with a finger and cold to the touch

Common Application: Pie dough

Method: Cut into small pieces and freeze until very firm, 10 to 15 minutes.

Result: Cold butter melts during baking, leaving behind small pockets that create flaky layers

SOFTENED: 65 to 67 Degrees

Tactile Clue: Easily bends without breaking and gives slightly when pressed

Common Application: Cake

Method: Let refrigerated butter sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes

Result: Properly softened butter is flexible enough to be whipped but firm enough that it retains the air incorporated during creaming

MELTED & COOLED: 85 to 90 Degrees

Tactile Clue: Fluid and slightly warm to the touch

Common Application: Cookies and bars

Method: Melt in small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl and cool about 5 minutes

Result: Melted butter is the key to chewy cookies and bars