Spreading soft butter on a slice of toast or melting butter for popcorn makes you realize that butter is an essential ingredients for goodness. From browning to defrosting, what is the best way to microwave butter without making a big mess?
Depend on temperature of butter, microwave wattage and amount you are microwaving, results may vary. However, you need to understand the different phases that butter goes through.
When microwaving butter, change the setting to low power and nuke for 15 seconds at a time. Depending on the goal, you may need to cover the microwave-safe bowl with the butter wrapper or paper towel to avoid splattering.
Butter is made of butterfat, water, and milk solids. When butter melts, the fat component changes viscosity and become more liquid and less sludgy.
As the temperature warms, the fats start to become softer and eventually liquify. The water does not change much, but it will be trapped underneath the layer of fat.
Is it safe to microwave butter?
Microwaving butter is totally safe. The solids separate from the liquids, and butter melts in a very short amount of time.
However, butter can explode in the microwave without using caution. The reason why is because butter is mostly fat, so if its cooked too long on too high setting then it explodes.
In addition, if the inside stick of butter is softer than the outside, it will melt before the outside does and explode.
These are reasons why the microwave needs to be set on low power to start with so that you avoid any unnecessary accidents.
Can you microwave butter wrapper?
It is very common to soften butter by microwaving it with the original wrapper.
If the butter wrapper is foil wrapper, then you need to remove it and use a microwave-safe container to microwave butter. However, if the wrapper is made of wax paper than it is ok to microwave.
I suggest to only microwave the butter wrapper for softening on the defrost setting. For melting or browning, avoid microwaving the wrappers otherwise you’ll end up making a mess.
What happens to butter when heated?
When heated, butter can be prepared in many different ways. From softened to melting and using nutty flavors of brown butter, there are multiple uses for heated butter.
As the temperature increases, the fats start to move and transition from soften to brown butter:
- Soften: Adjust the microwave on 30% power for 15 seconds and use microwave-safe dish to soften butter in the microwave. If the butter wrapper is wax paper, the you can use the original wrappers depend on the temperature of butter before putting in. If the wrapper is foil, you must remove the wrapper before microwaving.
- Melting: Use microwave-safe bowl instead of a plate to melt butter in the microwave smoothly. For quick turnaround, adjust to 100% power on high about 30 to 45 seconds or until the butter is completely melted.
- Clarifying: When you clarify butter in the microwave, dice butter into cubes and place into a tall microwave-safe measuring cup. Stop microwaving when the butter reaches the top edge of the cup and look for the butter to separate into three layers. Discard top layer of milk foam and the bottom layer of water, only keep middle layer of butterfat for cooking.
- Browning: To brown butter in the microwave, use a microwave-safe bowl, cover loosely with a lid and nuke for 3 to 5 minutes. Check often to achieve your desired brown butter between light brown to dark amber brown, which will have a more intense nutty and rich flavor.
- Defrost: Use defrost setting on the microwave or adjust the power level to 30% to thaw frozen butter quickly. Bend the stick of butter to see if it is at room temperature and is good enough to use. To defrost butter in the microwave quickly, you may keep the butter in its original wrapper unless the wrapper is made of foil.
There is around 15% water in butter, so when it is heated in the microwave for extended periods of time, the only thing that happens to butter is the water evaporates and the butterfat and milk solids are left behind. For that reason, you can use butter in so many different forms for all cooking.
How long should you microwave butter?
With a microwave, you can soften, melt, and even brown the butter within just a few minute. But it can get tricky when it comes to finding the right amount of time to keep the form as you desired.
Due to heat distribution, turntable features and inconsistent wattages, the microwave can produce uneven heat spots.
Depending on the amount of butter and microwave power setting, it will take about 30 to 45 seconds to melt butter, 15 seconds to soften and defrost butter, 2 minutes to clarify butter, 3 minutes to brown butter in the microwave.
The timing will vary depending on the wattage of your microwave and how much you are heating as well. Simply watch closely and keep flipping, rotating and stirring to help the butter heat evenly.
Things to know before microwaving butter
Know the various characteristics of butter from solid to liquid phase in order to utilize the proper method. You can safely microwave butter to meet the needs for any of your cooking or baking recipes.
Here are essentials things you need to know to microwave butter quickly and enhance your skills to the next level:
- Cut the stick of butter into ½” or 1” cubes to microwave quickly.
- If your microwave does not have a defrost setting, lower the power manually to 30% to defrost or soften the butter.
- Always transfer butter to a microwave-safe dish to avoid burning or splattering.
- Nuke in short time increments to reach the desired butter phase you need.
- Stay below the smoke point of butter which is 302 degrees Fahrenheit. Smoking is evidence that the fat is breaking down due to high heat.
- Use a cheesecloth or a coffee filter to purify the browning butter and remove the milk solids from the translucent butterfat.
Depend on the amount of butter and microwave heat level, to melt butter will take about 30 to 45 seconds, to soften and defrost butter takes 15 seconds, to clarify butter takes 2 minutes, and to brown butter takes 3 minutes.
From melted to browning and defrosting to softening, microwave butter with confidence to ache the results you are looking for. Overheated butter can escalate above the melting point, which can totally change the form of butter you need.
Whether you use butter for cooking or baking, use this ultimate guide to microwave butter to achieve the form and phase you need for each specific recipe.