A stick of butter takes about an hour to soften at room temperature, so we came up with two methods for speeding the process.
For baking applications where butter is creamed, cut the stick into 1-tablespoon pieces (more exposed surface area helps the butter warm evenly) and stand them on a plate. The pieces will soften in about 20 minutes. For simply spreading butter on bread or making flavored butters (such as for Pan-Seared Flank Steak with Mustard-Chive Butter, see related content), microwave the pieces at 50 percent power in 10-second increments until the butter is still solid but yields completely to pressure. It’s OK if the butter melts a little; simply stir it together until it’s uniform. Just don’t use the microwave method when baking since over softened butter can compromise baked goods.