If you're working with a stick of butter, you'll notice 8 tablespoon markings on the wrapper. Just cut off what you need with a sharp knife. You can also follow these easy conversions:
1/ stick = 1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons
1 stick = 1/2 cup = 8 tablespoons
4 sticks = 1 pound
Most baked goods require that you beat butter into a bowl with an electric mixer -- a step that's difficult to do if the butter is cold and hard. You'll wind up with lumps of butter instead of smooth, whipped butter that easily incorporates with the other ingredients.
If you've forgotten to soften the butter on your counter for an hour or so before you need it, you can soften it in the microwave. Put butter in a microwave-safe dish and cook at 30 percent power (defrost) for 15 seconds. Check and repeat if necessary, being careful not to let it melt.
Cold Butter: Cold butter is firm and slices easily. Use it when the recipe just calls for "butter" in the ingredients list.
Softened Butter: Softened butter has been allowed to come to room temperature. It is spreadable and blends easily into recipes.
Melted Butter: Melted butter is sometimes used instead of cooking oil in a recipe.