Good Question: Do Butter Bells Really Work?

updated Jun 9, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Dear Kitchen,

I like toast with a little bit of butter for breakfast. My problem is that butter right out of the fridge is too cold to spread. I’ve seen butter bells in gourmet stores and in Chefs Catalog. Do they solve this problem?


(To All Good Questions)

Dear Bruce,

I bought a butter bell this spring in a fancy kitchen store at the end of a wine tasting in Sonoma. It was the first time I’d seen one. Though I’m trying to cut back on gadgets, I had to have it. Since then, I’ve been seeing butter bells and their crockery side kick the salt pig around more and more.

This diagram (via For Your Kitchen) explains the science of how the butter bell works:

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Yes, the butter bell works decently, but the cure comes with a few side effects. To squeeze a fresh stick of cold butter into the bell shaped holder, I had to soften it and then mold the stick into the bell.

Butter bell caretakers also have to remember to change the water every couple of days and keep the butter bell in a cool place. My apartment doesn’t have a cool spot. When the butter gets too warm, the butter drops from the top of the bell and goes for a swim in the water below.

Style-wise, I wish I’d waited to buy one that matched the color of my kitchen and I prefer the less alien looking style of the Emile Henry Couleurs Butter Pot.

I use my butter bell once in a while, when I’m anticipating lots of toast, but here’s two other suggestions:

  • Microwave to Soften: My new microwave has a “soften butter” setting that works better than I thought it might. If you happen to have that setting, give it a try.
  • Try Different Butter: Right now I’m using butter from Ronnybrook Farm. Their butter comes in a small round container instead of the ubiquitous stick. The Ronnybrook butter is easier to spread right out of the refrigerator.

Butter lovers, look back in our archive for a tip on buttering your sweet corn and a recipe for herb butter.