Butter is a very common cooking companion; it is a dairy product made from fat and protein components of milk or cream. Are you thinking about how to incorporate butter into your next dish? We've researched all about butter and will discuss everything from storage to melting points below!
Butter is not a water-soluble product. Water-soluble means that the chemical substance you're working with is able to dissolve in water. Butter is semi-solid when kept at room temperature; this product is composed of milk fat that has been separated from other milk components. Fat is made of oils, and as you probably imagine, oil and water don't mix! So this is why the butter doesn't dissolve in water.
Now that we understand why exactly butter doesn't dissolve in the water, we'll discuss many common questions about butter and butter storage. Keep reading for a very surprising storage secret for the perfect butter consistency for your morning toast!
Can you mix water with butter?
Have you ever cooked macaroni and cheese? Most recipes tell you to add butter to the boiling water at some point during the process. Now, have you ever watched what happens when you add the butter to the boiling water? This is emulcification. You may not be able to dissolve butter in water, but you can emulsify the butter, suspending those butter particles in the water until it is mixed.
What is emulsification?
Emulsification is a process in which an emulsion is formed, an emulsion being a liquid containing fine droplets of another liquid without forming a solution.
At what temperature does butter melt?
Butter will remain a hard solid if kept refrigerated, and if kept at room temperature, it will stay in a semi-solid state, which is optimum for spreadability. If you want the butter to be in a truly liquid form, the melting point is 38°C or 100°F.
What is butter's smoke point?
Butter has one of the lowest smoke points of any fat, about 350°. If you're planning to use butter above 350°, mix it with another oil.
If you're really set on working with butter but need a higher smoke point, say for making a stir fry, then you'll want to clarify your butter. This removes the 5% of water and milk proteins in the butter. Clarified butter is also great for dipping seafood, sautéing, and making sauces.
Clarifying butter is fairly simple, follow the steps to clarifying butter below:
- Melt the butter in a saucepan
- Once the butter is melted, you'll want to skim the milk solids from the top of the melted butter
- Let the butter rest for about 5 minutes
- Get a strainer; line the strainer with a few sheets of cheesecloth
- Strain the rest of the butter through the cheesecloth and metal strainer into the container of your choosing
How to melt butter in water?
A little-known method to melting butter is using a double boiler! If you've never used a double boiler method to melt chocolate, the instructions are similar for butter, see below!
- Take a saucepan and add about 1-2 inches of water.
- Find a bowl that fits just inside the saucepan yet doesn't reach the bottom. Make sure it has an outer edge to create a sort of seal.
- Add your desired amount of butter to the bowl.
- Bring the water to a simmer and watch your butter melt!
You can also use the double boiler to just soften your butter without melting. Heat the water in the saucepan until it's hot, then remove it from heat, place your desired amount of butter to be softened in the bowl/insert, give it a few minutes, and it will soften right up.
What is the best way to soften butter in the microwave?
Using the microwave to soften your butter can be a bit tricky; if you leave it in too long, you get butter that has turned completely liquid in the center and still semisolid on the outer edges. Nobody likes that outcome! We've found short bursts of 10 to 12 seconds on medium or low power in the microwave is the best way to soften the butter using the microwave method.
Can you solidify melted butter?
Once you melt butter, it is no longer an emulsion. You can pop the butter in the fridge, and it will harden, but it will likely not have the same consistency or texture as before. If you want it to retain the texture it had before, you'll want to take it out and stir it after it's set in the fridge with a fork a few times.
If you've partially melted your butter but your original intention was for it to be softened, a nice little hack is to take the melted butter and put it in a bowl, pop in some ice cubes, and stir with a fork or a whisk until you get a nice softened consistency. Once you get the consistency you want, go ahead and take the ice cubes out, and voila!
How do you store butter in water?
Did you know you can actually store your butter in water? There are a few nifty little storage containers that make this possible. One is called a French butter dish, also known as a butter bell or butter crock, and the other, a butter boat.
With the butter bells, you fill your base with ice-cold water, then you either soften the butter up in the microwave or let it soften at room temp, mold it into the bell, then pop into the base! The surface of the butter is underwater, keeping it unexposed to the air, creating a seal. The water and ceramic work together to keep the butter spreadable but still cooled.
Again, with a butter boat, you fill your base with nice ice-cold water, then place a stick of butter in the top portion of the container, close the lid. The boat is a little easier to work with since you don't have to soften the butter or convert it to the semisolid state, just pop it in the boat, fill that base with water, and you're good to go!
With both methods, you'll need to change out your water every day to every couple of days for maximum freshness! The water keeps the butter nice and chilled yet still nice and spreadable for that morning toast!
Is it safe to leave butter on the counter?
Storing butter depends on the type of butter. For commercial, pasteurized salted butter, experts say it's absolutely safe to keep butter on the counter for anywhere from a few days all the way up to two weeks as long as it's kept at around 70°. You will want to protect it from dust and other contaminants in the air with either a butter crock, boat, or simple butter dish.
Unsalted or whipped butter should also be stored in the refrigerator. Take it out about an hour prior to use, or use one of our softening methods listed. Any butter that is not pasteurized should always be kept in the refrigerator.
We hope we've answered all your questions and curiosities about butter! Butter is truly a wonderful addition to many recipes. If you still have more questions about butter and its uses, check out these other KitchenSeer articles below!