It might seem like a simple task, but knowing how to melt butter for baking (or for any recipe) is a must-know for anyone that spends time in the kitchen. Follow these tips for melting butter in the microwave or on the stove top. Plus, find info on measuring butter and our favorite ways to use melted butter.

By BH&G Food Editors
Updated September 09, 2020
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Ah, melted butter. It's the go-to topping for homemade popcorn, a rich dip for lobster tails, and the base of your favorite crispy cereal treats. Whether you've melted more sticks than you can count or are a novice baker, it's good to know how to melt butter the right way. Solid butter is easily melted on the stove top or in the microwave, but since butter can burn, the key is to be attentive. The melting point of butter is somewhere between 82°F and 97°F. This means it can even melt on the counter on a hot day. 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. Read on for the best ways to melt butter.

Credit: Jay Wilde

How to Melt Butter

Butter has a low smoke point (the point that fat starts smoking), which is why it's recommended to work with low heat.

How to Melt Butter on the Stove Top

Place butter pieces in a heavy saucepan ($17, Target). 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 bowl ($20, Target). Microwave, uncovered, on 100% 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.

How to Measure Butter

To know exactly how much butter to melt, use the measurement guides on the wrapper of each stick of butter. With a paring knife ($10, Crate & Barrel), cut the butter and remove the wrapper. Here's some basic butter math:

  • 4 sticks butter = 1 pound = 2 cups (32 Tbsp.)
  • 2 sticks butter = 1 cup (16 Tbsp.)
  • 1 stick butter = ½ cup (8 Tbsp.)
  • ½ stick butter = ¼ cup (4 Tbsp.)

Test Kitchen Tip: Even if you are melting whole sticks, cut them up so the butter melts faster and more evenly.

Easy Ways 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°F oven until toasted.

Once you know how to melt butter, you'll be able to take it a step further. Follow our Test Kitchen tips on browning butter for a deeper flavor that makes a perfect sauce for pasta, veggies, popcorn, and more. Clarifying butter (aka ghee) removes the solids, leaving a clear butter that is not only prettier but also more stable. This also means it usually doesn't burn as quickly when heated. Try using clarified butter as an accompaniment to your favorite seafood dishes for an attractive presentation.

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