What’s a Butter Keeper? Everything to Know About the Underrated Kitchen Essential

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butter in the bell jar with lid near it
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

If you ask me, there are few things in the world better than butter. Whether it’s smeared on a crunchy English muffin, stirred into a lemony pasta sauce, or basted over a thick cut of steak, butter adds an unmistakable depth of flavor to any dish. As someone who grew up in an Irish American, butter-loving household, it’s one ingredient I’m absolutely never without, and a weekly grocery shop isn’t complete without two hunks of salted KerryGold

Quick Overview

What’s the point of a butter keeper?

A butter keeper is a two-piece system that uses water to create an airtight seal, keeping your butter fresh and spreadable, even if it’s sitting out on the counter. 

But with an affinity for butter comes preferences on how to store it, and there are passionate people in each camp. Beyond the debate between fridge and counter (in my opinion, the bulk stays in the fridge while the everyday butter sits on the counter), there are multiple methods of storing butter at room temperature. There’s the classic ceramic butter dish, the unconventional silicone stick cover, and the stainless steel butter dish, but I’d hazard a guess that most people passionate about spreadable butter own a butter keeper (also known as a butter crock). 

What Is a Butter Keeper? 

A butter keeper is a two-piece container that keeps butter fresh out on the counter, much like a butter dish. But unlike a butter dish, the butter is stored in the top portion, while the bottom portion is filled with an inch or so of water to keep the butter fresh (more on how this works in a bit). According to Butter Bell, this nifty storage system has roots in 16th-century France, where a two-part crock, called a beurrier, was developed to maintain butter’s creamy texture and prevent it from spoiling without refrigeration. 

How Does a Butter Keeper Work? 

While the United States Department of Agriculture’s formal recommendation is to only store butter at room temperature for up to two days, when stored properly (as with a butter keeper), butter can safely sit on your counter for up to two weeks. The reason butter keepers are so popular is because they’re incredibly simple in design but very effective at keeping butter fresh and free of unwanted flavor. A standard lidded butter dish doesn’t prevent air from hitting a stick of butter, which can change the color, texture, and flavor of butter, and it goes rancid more quickly. However, a butter keeper actually utilizes water in the base to create an airtight seal. Plus, if your house is on the warmer side, you can fill your bell with cold water to help regulate the temperature of the butter inside. 

How to Use a Butter Keeper

The beauty of the butter keeper is in its simplicity — just fill up the top with softened butter, add enough water in the bottom to touch the rim, and merrily enjoy your ready-to-spread butter. If you’re finding that your butter has a tendency to fall into the water, it’s likely due to the temperature of the butter or base at the time of filling or while stored. Be sure not to microwave your butter to soften it (instead leave it out on the counter to soften), and if your butter keeper has been freshly cleaned with hot water, let it cool off before filling. Further, if your home is consistently warm enough (above 70°F) to melt the butter inside, you might want to stick with the fridge or a butter dish. 

Is a Butter Keeper Worth It? 

If you only use butter for baking and cooking, you can continue storing your butter in the fridge, cutting off chunks as needed. But if you enjoy a regular supply of room-temperature, spreadable butter, a butter keeper is arguably the best way to keep things fresh. The merits of a butter keeper are as simple as its design: Unlike other butter storage methods, the butter keeper has an airtight seal that keeps butter fresh (without unwanted flavors!) at room temperature for up to two weeks. 

Our Favorite Butter Keepers

1 / 5

This is the butter keeper I own, and I absolutely love it. It holds a full stick of butter (or half a hunk of Kerrygold, of course), and I love the textured, unglazed ceramic of the outside that contrasts the smooth, nonstick glaze on the inside.

2 / 5
was $68.93

If I were to invest in a new butter crock, this speckled, bubbly-glazed one would be the first in my cart. I love how unique the red bubble detail is against the creamy white — it’s not only a place to store soft butter, but also a little piece of art for the countertop.

3 / 5

“If you regularly want softened butter for toast, this is the gadget to have,” says contributor Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm. The raised lip on the top of acts as a handle, and the blue stripes add a decidedly French farmhouse vibe.

4 / 5

“I recently decided to invest in a French-style butter crock and, frankly, I’m a little irked that I didn't do it sooner,” says contributor Rochelle Bilow, “Yes, you do have to change the water regularly, but there’s no need to get fanatical about it. I refresh mine every morning while I wait for my coffee to brew, but I’ve also gone a few days without noticing any funny (smelling) business.”

5 / 5
Williams Sonoma

If ceramic isn’t your speed and you’d rather coordinate your butter keeper to your saucepan collection, this copper option receives a glowing review from proven butter-lover, Bilow. “It’s by far the most beautiful thing I’ve ever put on my kitchen table,” she gushes. “And it’s been worth every penny. I also appreciate that it’s made to age with grace. As the dish gets older, the copper will take on a brassy, antique-looking patina. That’s all right by me, but it could be restored back to its original shine with copper cleaner. And at this price, it also makes for a great gift for any occasion whether it’s the holidays or a house-warming.”