Butter becomes liquid between approximately 82 degrees F and 97 degrees F, which means it can even melt on the counter on a hot day. You can melt solid butter easily on the stove top or in the microwave. The key is to be attentive, since butter does burn, especially at higher heat. Butter has a low smoke point -- the point that a fat starts smoking -- which is why low heat is best. While you don't want the butter to burn and taste scorched, you can let it cook long enough to brown slightly, which gives it a wonderful nutty flavor. See how below.
To give you an idea of how much butter to melt, use the measurement guides on the wrapper of each stick of butter. Here's some basic butter math:
2 sticks butter equals 1 cup (16 tablespoons)
1 stick butter equals 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons)
1/2 stick butter equals 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons)
Cut the Butter
With a paring knife, cut the butter and remove the wrapper. Even if you are melting whole sticks, you may want to cut them up so the butter melts faster and more evenly.
How to Melt Butter on the Stove Top
Place butter pieces in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. The low heat will help keep the melted butter from burning. Remove from heat as soon as the butter is melted.
How to Melt Butter in the Microwave
Place butter pieces in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave, uncovered, on 100 percent power (high) until butter is melted, about 30 to 45 seconds depending on the amount of butter. If you still have just a few small pieces left in the dish, you can stir the butter until they melt. Keep an eye on the butter as it melts since it can spatter or burn if it gets too hot.
Melt the butter as directed. Continue to heat the butter slowly until it starts to change color and turn light brown, stirring occasionally. Watch the butter closely so it doesn't burn.
Clarifying butter removes the solids, leaving a clear butter that is not only prettier but also more stable. This means it usually doesn't burn as quickly when heated. Clarified butter is often served as an accompaniment with seafood since it makes an attractive presentation. Here's how:
- In a 1-quart saucepan melt 1/2 cup butter over low heat without stirring. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Using a spoon skim off the milky top layer, if present, and discard. Pour off the clear top layer and save. This is the clarified butter. Discard the milky bottom layer.
How to Use Melted Butter
Melted butter has a rich feel and flavor that enhances a wide variety of dishes. Here are a few easy ways to use it:
- Garlic-Herb Bread: Stir snipped fresh herbs and minced garlic into the melted butter; heat through. Serve with a baguette or Italian bread slices for dipping. Or brush atop bread slices before toasting in the oven.
- Veggie Toss: Brown the butter in a medium saucepan and toss in cooked vegetables to coat.
- Croutons: Melt butter seasoned with garlic salt in a large skillet. Add bread cubes and toss. Transfer the cubes to a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degrees F oven until toasted.