There are some situations where I struggle to apply cold solid butter, which is hard to spread on breads/sandwiches. I usually cut it in small pieces, put it between the pieces of bread and microwave them. How can I handle this when I do not have access to a microwave? (Even the microwave doesn't help spread the butter evenly on the entire area.)

Usually I keep it under sunlight for some time, but during early breakfast and winter this doesn't work, and it takes time as well.

How can I overcome this scenario?

  • 2
    Get a butter dish, keep a portion (an amount you know you'll use within 4 or 5 days) of butter inside it, lid on, at room temperature all the time, never in the fridge. Not really a hack cos it means buying a dish...
    – Bamboo
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 12:13
  • 2
    You don't need anything special, we keep our butter on a plate. And uncovered. Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 16:35
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    @DougWatkins Uncovered?!! lovely breeding ground for bacteria. Still, probably adds to the taste in some way
    – Bamboo
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 17:03
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    Is it a reasonable solution to suggest switching to Margarine? Country Crock never gives me this kind of issue, even when very cold. Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 17:35

12 Answers 12


This is how I do it:

  1. Get a knife and cut thin slices of butter.
  2. Lay the butter slices on the bread, if the air in the room is warm the butter will become more soft for several minutes
  3. If the air in the room is cold, take a cup of warm water (or use your hot breakfast tea if you don't mind some butter in it) and put the knife into the cup for several second to increase its temperature.
  4. Spread the butter on the bread using the warm knife

butter on bread

Alternatively you can warm the bread before applying the butter with a toaster or similar electric appliance.

If you can't cut the butter because it is in something like a cup or due to other reason, you can warm its surface with a hairdryer and then use the knife to apply it and spread it on the bread.

  • 2
    Works like a hot knife through butter. Commented May 1, 2016 at 11:08

The breakfast dilemma of trying to spread cold butter straight from the fridge onto toast in the morning has been voted into Britain's top five breakfast annoyances!

But wait, Warburtons, the family baker in the UK, has created the Toastie Knife to help with this breakfast dilemma.

This prototype called “Toastie Knife” is basically a butter knife with some batteries in the handle that heat up the blade. It's called “the most desired breakfast innovation” by The Daily Mail. Reaching an optimum spreading temperature of 41.8oC in under 30 seconds, the Toastie Knife allows you to spread fridge-cold butter straight onto toast. So you can enjoy spreading the perfect slice of toast. For best results use a good quality bread loaf which is soft enough to guarantee a taste, but strong enough it won't tear when buttered.

This is how it works:

How to Butter the Perfect Slice of Toast - Toastie Knife

Here’s a video by Warburtons UK of this cutting-edge technology in action:

video - How to spread the perfect slice of toast by Warburtonsuk

Using this state of the art technology it can now ensure your optimum butter spread experience!

  • I wonder if there are any more reputable news sites with opinions on the Toastie Knife?
    – mwfearnley
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 15:15

I thought about this and came up with a solution. The problem is, the surface being applied to is not sufficiently rigid. Lay a plastic bag such as a ziplock bag out flat, then spread onto that. It will be necessary to mash a bit. Hold the plastic above the bread and flick the cold spread off onto the bread. It may come off in one piece, several pieces, or be crumbly. My visualization was being in a car with an ice chest containing food spread, and leaning over into the back seat while patient children waited for neat, perfect sandwiches.

You can also spread onto a board or other hard flat surface, then hang that over the bread.

Since the plastic bag is more flexible you may be able to push off from the opposite side and it will stick to the bread.

You can also roll the plastic out from under the spread, leaving it on the bread. That's how I would do it, as I think about it more.


Cut a small piece of butter with your knife. Hold the knife with the butter on top for a few seconds above a lighter (or a candle, if you happen to have one on the table). The butter immediately will start to melt on its bottom side, so take care it won't fall down.

Put the piece of butter on the bread and wait a few more seconds until the heat has distributed throughout the piece of butter. In the meantime, you can prepare another piece of butter in the same way. Then spread the butter with the knife.


Grate it like cheese over your bread!

  • I don't think this would work from the fridge. But maybe it would if the butter was frozen solid.
    – Paulb
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 16:16
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    Maybe that's the key then... Instead of trying to heat it, freeze it solid and make it easy to grate.
    – aaron
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 17:32
  • 3
    Use stick butter. And also freeze the grater before using it. Maybe leave them together in the freezer at all times. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Paulb
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 18:34
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    Actually the premise of this nifty knife here. I wonder if there's a way to replicate that behavior with a serrated knife without buying the fancy one. Or you could just buy the fancy one. Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 1:15

Heat up your knife before trying to spread

If you try and spread the cold, hard butter with a normal temperature knife you will encounter the issue that you are having.
However, if you put your knife under a hot tap or even boiling water (steam from a kettle for a few moments should work too) will allow the knife to glide through the butter - firstly making it easier to separate from the block / tub of butter, and secondly will have slightly heated and melted the butter making it easy for you to spread onto your bread as you would normally.
(fun fact time: this is also a good method when trying to scoop ice cream out of the tub - heat up the spoon before hand, work a treat)

Some people I know actually leave their butter out in a butter pot type thing which eliminates the issue of you having cold and hard butter as it will out of the fridge so wouldn't cool down! This is something that you could think about if it interests you!


Mash the butter on the side of the plate with the knife. Doing this a few times warms the butter from the plate, and makes it spreadable.


If you are making several pieces of toast and have access to an oven then melt your butter (microwave, stove top, oven) then use a kitchen brush to apply the butter, then cook the toast in the oven on a cookie sheet. Use the broil setting and flip the toast once to get both sides. The oven toast will be MUCH better than toaster toast.


You could build or buy a butter knife with holes in the blade that function as a grater. Start with a butter knife with a rounded back, so you could spread with both sides. (Both sides are important for this.) Put a row of holes (I would try 3-4mm first) along the edge (perhaps around 1mm from the edge, with 1-2mm of steel left separating the holes, for strength). You will need a drill press for this, since the drill bit will wander if you do it by hand, and the holes will end up unevenly placed, and probably joined with each other. A high speed grinding tool would also probably work.

To use it, drag it over the butter with an acute leading angle, so the butter is pressed up into the hole and "grated". Then flip the knife around and spread the grated butter on your bread.

An Instructable is here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Butter-Knife-for-Spreading-Cold-Hard-Butter/

A Kickstarter campaign started this idea, but it's over now: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1070983896/the-stupendous-splendiferous-butterup?ref=nav_search

  • Hi @piojo. Some people do not like your questions because they feel that it lacks content. You should expand on this more possibly by explaining the Instructable you linked to and the product from Kickstarter :)
    – michaelpri
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 1:16
  • I sympathize with the problem of links disappearing. I've added as many details as I can. No photos, because I assume you wouldn't be interested the spoon that I first failed to pound into a satisfactory knife, then failed to drill properly spaced holes into.
    – piojo
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 7:08

For spreading cold butter, just cut some off the block and then mash it up a bit then it will spread nicely.

  • 1
    this is also what I do. low tech and works well. Use a fork to press on it many times. The heat from the force will soften it much evenly than using direct heat as others suggest.
    – Zig Mandel
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 20:14

To soften butter,

  1. microwave,

[This method works best for softening butter to use as a spread.]

place the butter in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on 30 percent power (defrost) for 15 seconds. (This will not melt the butter)

  1. Warm water bath

If still in hurry, Set the butter over a warm water bath. **

  1. Cut up the butter

Divide and rule method - cut the butter block into small chunks. Smaller chunks will rapidly absorb outer heat/ release inner cold compared to bigger chunk.

There are other methods like below which may take more time than above methods,

Beat it: Use electric mixer to beat the butter block and get job done.

Pound the butter: Store the butter block into a locked bag and use roller on the bag to flatten the butter. It will give you slim block but still cold.


I simply buy "spreadable butter" -- this is real butter mixed with a small percentage of vegetable oil so it stays soft enough to spread at refrigerator temperature. It's sold in small tubs, similar to soft margarine, and costs about the same (per weight) as ordinary butter. In theory, you could make this at home, by softening butter at room temperature and mixing in a little olive or canola oil -- though it would take some experimentation to get the oil proportion just right -- and then putting it into a covered bowl in the refrigerator.

For cream cheese, I use "cream cheese spread" which is similarly formulated with something added to keep it soft enough in the fridge to spread fairly easily. This is probably less simple to make at home, in part because I'm not sure what's added to it, but I'd start with ordinary whipping cream.

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