Keep your butter tasting fresh and spreading easily for any occasion.
By Ellen Gray | Published May 20, 2022 3:10 PM
“Eat butter first, and eat it last, and live till a hundred years be past.”—Old Dutch proverb
Simply put, the use of butter dishes stemmed from the need to keep butter cool in the absence of refrigerators, while also keeping it protected from light, air, pesky flies, wayward fingers, and bacteria. Because absorption leads to oxidation, butter that is improperly wrapped and stored runs the risk of taking on ‘off’ flavors and potentially spoiling.
Before butter was mass-produced in stick form, butter was handmade and shaped in rounds. Early butter dishes reflected this; a circular bowl or dish was paired with a domed cover, often featuring an ice chamber with a pierced liner that kept the butter cool. Ceramic butter crocks were also prominent, credited to French potters in the late 1800s, replacing hard-to-clean wooden containers. Today, butter is commonly stored in elongated dishes, the result of machine-made quarter-pound sticks of butter. Additionally, there is a resurgence of butter bells or butter crocks, which store spreadable butter upside down on your counter. Finding the one that best suits your needs depends on several things. Namely, how much butter you consume on a regular basis and the type of style you feel best coordinates with your kitchen and table decor.
Whether you’re a toast or a bagel fan, or simply a baker wishing to portion butter with ease, consider a butter dish, bell, or crock (and consider buying some of the best butters on the market, too). Anyone who has grown weary of battling with cold, stubborn-to-spread butter sticks will find a true keeper amongst our top picks.
Material: Stoneware | Amount of Butter To Store: two- 4 oz. sticks or one- half pound block | 6.75 x 5 x 3.5 inches Chip Resistant Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Why we chose it: A jewel box of a butter dish, Le Creuset delivers a classically French-style vessel crafted out of premium stoneware. Comfortably (and beautifully) accommodates three West Coast sticks, two East Coast sticks, or one half pound block of butter.
This butter dish is all dressed up and ready to go, either in the fridge, on the countertop, or on your dining table. Le Creuset’s stoneware dish protects butter both in and out of the refrigerator and in such a wide color palette that it’s hard to choose a favorite. Roomy enough to accommodate up to a half-pound of butter, a graceful handle is easy to grasp, and testers appreciated how steadily the lid sits on the wide base. A beautiful addition to a counter or tabletop, when left out of the fridge, butter maintains a spreadable consistency and stays fresh, protecting it from unwanted odors and glaring sun. The lid is thoughtfully designed so it doesn’t bump into two sticks of butter stored side by side (or a larger European-style block). This is a luxury item well worth the investment. Treat it with care and hand-wash to extend its lifespan.
Single or Set: Single | Scratch-Resistant: No | Microwave-Safe: Yes | Non-Slip Base: Yes | Material: Plastic | Dimensions: 2 3/4 x 7 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches | Amount of Butter To Store: 4 oz. Stick or 8 oz. block | Handle: No
Why we chose it: Stay fresh tabs provide airtight storage in a sturdy, no-frills butter container that resists breakage and keeps butter fresh and easy to spread.
Refrigerator-, freezer-, and microwave-safe, this casual container is useful for storing butter in the fridge or on the counter. This may look like a standard food storage receptacle, but it’s cleverly designed to be used upside down. The “lid” serves as a tray with a flat cutting surface. Easy to open and close, an airtight seal keeps butter well protected. (Also a good, airtight container for refrigerating cream cheese.) Just the ticket for a picnic setting or on the kitchen counter. For more formal occasions, transfer the butter to a serving dish.
Single or Set: Single | Scratch-Resistant: yes | Microwave-Safe: No | Non-Slip Base: Ridged Base | Material: Pressed Glass | Dimensions: 6 3/4 x 4 x 3 inches | Amount of Butter To Store: 8 oz. | Handle: No
Why we chose it: Good looks combined with a well-crafted glass dish that cradles both European style and American style butter with ease.
Perfectly suited to any tabletop decor, a glass butter dish emblazoned with the word BUTTER is iconic. Ideal for keeping butter at room temperature or chilled (and easy to spot in the fridge), the well-fitting lid discourages extraneous odors from hindering freshness. Handsome enough for everyday use yet dressy enough for a more formal table setting. Testers loved the look and the weight of the dish plus appreciated that it is dishwasher safe. A great gift to give or receive.
Single or Set: Single | Scratch-Resistant: Yes | Microwave-Safe: TK | Non-Slip Base: TK | Material: Glazed Stoneware | Dimensions: 3.75 x 3.75 x 4 inches | Amount of Butter To Store: 4 oz. | Handle: Yes
This butter keeper keeps its promise: creamy, spreadable butter stays soft at room temperature for several days. A clever design feature curves the lip slightly inward, preventing the butter from slipping out. Take the time to pack the butter in securely and keep this out of direct sunlight. For best results, change the water every 2-3 days.
Why we chose it: A hybrid of French design and American craftsmanship, this well-made, handcrafted butter keeper is for butter lovers who appreciate simplicity in a bright color palette.
Single or Set: Single | Scratch-Resistant: Yes Microwave-Safe: No | Non-Slip Base: Yes | Material: Plastic | Dimensions: 7.8 x 2.7 x 2.7 inches | Amount of Butter To Store: 4 oz. | Handle: No
Why we chose it: A no-nonsense new take on the traditional butter dish with clever design features that make storing and serving butter a breeze.
A winning combination of features makes this dish stand out. Soft rubber feet hold the butter dish in place when in use. Raised edges on the base help scrape the knife clean or transfer butter from one side of the knife to the other. The cleverly designed lid has extended feet, preventing stray butter from landing on the counter or table. Testers applauded the clever magnet-in-the-lid design which keeps the enclosed butter spreader handy. The only drawback is that the dish is fairly lightweight, but the ingenuity of the design makes this a winner.
Single or Set: Single | Scratch-Resistant: Yes | Microwave-Safe: No | Non-Slip Base: No | Material: Ceramic | Dimensions: 4.25 x 3.78 inches | Amount of Butter To Store: 4 oz. | Handle: Yes
Why we chose it: Beautiful and functional, the two-piece design features an inverted bell-shaped lid and crock base. Fashioned after the original French beurrier, the classic design is tempting in many colors and decorative styles.
There’s a good reason this butter crock has been enormously popular for more than 25 years; it is fashioned after the original French “beurrier ” designed by L. Tremaine. For anyone passionate about spreadable butter, this is the kitchen gadget for you. Make sure to read the directions in order to best utilize the butter crock and take care to press the butter in when filling it to avoid air pockets. Water needs to be changed every two-three days and both pieces need to be thoroughly washed and dried between uses. This is not a fill-it-and-forget-it dish; it requires some diligence to safely maintain butter. But your morning toast, afternoon grilled cheese, or freshly baked baguette will thank you.
Products were tested by professional bakers and pastry chefs using unsalted, American, and European style butter. Filled butter bells were left at room temperature for three days; the water was changed accordingly. Butter dishes were tested with butter left at room temperature for three days and also refrigerated; criteria included the resulting spreadability and taste of the butter, ease of handling and cleaning of the product, plus design strengths and flaws. Butter was tasted on days one, two, and three to determine freshness and quality. Additionally, staff at high-end gourmet retailers weighed in on what are popular registry picks for good reason.
Butter dishes are typically fashioned out of glass, porcelain, plastic, or stoneware; personal preference and need will determine your choice. Regardless of where the dish is going to be used (kitchen, tabletop, or picnic), a well-made dish is less likely to become damaged, will protect butter from the elements, and will clean up easily. It is also important to read the manufacturer’s recommendations concerning proper use and care.
Butter maintains freshness in a well-sealed dish with a tight-fitting lid. Keeping butter out of direct sunlight will also contribute to its freshness. As with any dairy product, it is important to be proactive and keep an eye (and a taste) on butter left out on a counter. If butter tastes the slightest bit off, it’s best to pitch it and start afresh.
Consider the type of butter you most frequently use before purchasing a butter dish. If you tend to utilize sticks of butter, a butter dish will accommodate a traditional 4 oz. stick. If you prefer European size butter, which comes in an 8 oz. block, consider a suitably wide butter dish. For room temperature butter stored in a butter crock/bell, keep in mind their capacity is generally limited to 4 oz., or a touch less.
Butter dishes and keepers range in style from classic to contemporary, decorative to sleek. Choose a style that coordinates with your kitchen and dining room; some designs will move seamlessly from refrigerator to countertop to tabletop, while others are more utilitarian, but it is important to decide what best suits your needs.
Depending upon the region in which you dwell, butter is sold as either long, slender 4 oz. sticks or chubbier 4 oz. sticks, dubbed East Coast and West Coast, respectively. The two styles originated as the butter industry expanded from the East to West coast; over the years, new equipment was introduced in the newer West Coast butter factories, resulting in a separate style, according to the now-defunct UC-Davis Dairy Research and Information Center. European butter, such as Plugra, is commonly sold in 8 oz. blocks. A common cause of butter spoilage is how it is stored and how a butter keeper is maintained. Choose a butter keeper that you will clean thoroughly on a regular basis.
To minimize the chances of bacterial growth, the. U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends leaving butter at room temperature no more than two days.
Beyond that length of time, the butter runs the risk of turning rancid, causing off flavors and an unpleasant, greasy texture and brownish-yellow appearance. However, most of the butter sold in this country is pasteurized and hovers somewhere around 80 percent in fat content, 16 percent in water, and four percent in milk solids. The milk solids—comprised of protein, sugar, and minerals—are what gives butter its rich flavor. Unsalted butter is fine kept at room temperature for several days, but salted butter is notably better because salt acts as a preservative and can sit on the countertop for a longer period of time. If your kitchen is exposed to direct sunlight and is typically warmer than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, take care to leave smaller quantities of butter on the counter for less time, and replenish your dish with butter kept in the refrigerator.
A butter keeper or butter bell will keep butter spreadable; its softness is impacted by the heat of your kitchen. Placing a small amount of cold water in the bottom of a butter crock or bell helps regulate the temperature of the butter, keeping it soft but solid. (Note that the water needs to be changed regularly.) Butter stored in a butter dish at room temperature will likewise keep butter spreadable. Both kitchen temperature and direct sunlight will impact the degree of butter’s softness in both a butter keeper and a butter dish.
An airtight butter dish prevents the butter from picking up any off-flavors that float around your kitchen or refrigerator. Butter stored in an airtight container is also less likely to become contaminated by elements in the environment or other foods. The longer the butter sits out, the more apt it is to degrade, pick up an unpleasant taste, and potentially spoil. An airtight butter dish will protect the quality and extend the freshness of the butter.
Because salt is a natural preservative, salted butter can sit out on the countertop for a longer period without spoiling than unsalted butter. The salt protects against bacterial growth; however, both unsalted and salted butter are perishable dairy products and should not be left out indefinitely. It is always preferable to refill a clean butter dish with fresh butter from the refrigerator and let it soften than to risk consuming tainted butter.
A butter dish is an elongated dish with a tight-fitting lid, designed to protect butter from air, light, and heat, extending its shelf life and preserving freshness. A butter keeper is a container that stores softened butter at room temperature in a small pot that is immersed in water, creating an airtight seal. Storing butter at room temperature in either will enhance spreadability, but neither vessel can protect butter indefinitely.
Choose a butter dish or butter keeper best suited to your needs and decor preference. A good butter dish will prolong the taste and quality of your butter; if spreadable butter is key, consider using a butter bell or crock, though it requires more maintenance than a butter dish. Keeping butter in the refrigerator in a well-sealed dish or container is the most foolproof way of keeping it safe.
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