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Giving butter its own designated tray will help regulate the temperature, allowing you to spread seamlessly on a bagel or toast without ripping the bread to shreds or, worse yet, fumbling a rock-hard pat (or the whole stick) onto the floor. Beyond keeping it creamy, it also shields your butter from light, air, and bacteria that may cause spoilage outside the fridge. Some people may be wondering if butter is safe at room temperature—according to the USDA, it is for limited amounts of time, but you can keep a butter dish in the fridge if you want, too.
Here are the best butter dishes.
Best Overall: Le Creuset Heritage Butter Dish
Microwave- and oven-safe
Stain- and scratch-resistant
Accommodates two sticks butter
Available in multiple colors
Most butter dishes function the same way: They provide a clean and fuss-free storage spot for, well, your butter. That said, the best butter dishes do have a few functional features others don’t, namely they are made with sturdy material that can keep butter colder and fresher for longer.
This butter dish by Le Creuset is a favorite among consumers because it marries that functionality with an attractive aesthetic. The stoneware construction comes in a range of pretty hues but works to keep butter chilled—even on an outdoor table. Reviewers love the look, citing that it's appropriate for storing in the refrigerator but attractive enough to keep on the countertop for long periods of time.
Material: Stoneware | Dishwasher Safe: No | Dimensions: 6.75 x 5 x 3.5 inches
“I particularly love this Le Creuset butter dish—it's elegant, substantial, and a beautiful piece to add to a special occasion or everyday table. You can't go wrong with a quality crafted ceramic butter dish that you'll have on your table forever.” — Alanna O’Neil, entertaining expert and the author of "The Art of Picnics"
Best Budget: OXO Good Grips Butter Dish
Tablespoon measurement markings
On the smaller side
There’s nothing that stands out aesthetically about this butter dish, but that’s not the major draw. Instead, reviewers are drawn to this particular butter dish because of the price point. Despite being more affordable than most other options, it’s highly functional.
This particular butter dish, which is made of BPA-free plastic, has a nonslip grip bottom to prevent the butter from sliding around while slicing or in storage. There are also convenient tablespoon measurement markings so there’s no guesswork involved in food prep and a clear lid that rests on grooves to prevent it from sliding off during transport. Tens of thousands of reviewers have raved about this butter dish, citing the high-performance construction, lightweight feel, and ease of cleaning as standout features.
Material: Plastic | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Dimensions: 7.87 x 2.56 x 2 inches
Best Everyday: Pillivuyt Large Covered Butter Dish with Cover
Easy to clean
Handle for easy grasping
If you’re the type that keeps the butter dish out on the counter for long periods of time, it’s worth considering a plain white ceramic butter dish. This is a good option because its design doesn’t allow prying eyes to see inside the vessel (ideal for the end of the butter stick when things inevitably look a bit messy).
Although it's plain enough to be appropriate for everyday use in a wide range of kitchens, the porcelain butter dish does have some visual interest. It’s also more functional than a lot of the basic options, thanks to a handle and a raised base that prevents the butter from sliding during transport. Like many other options, this one is also dishwasher safe.
Material: Porcelain | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Dimensions: 7.5 x 3.75 x 3 inches
Best Special Occasion: Godinger Dublin Covered Butter Dish
Intricate Irish design
Made from lead crystal
Has a handle
Hand washing is recommended
For special occasions, holidays, or days you want your table to look a little elevated, an attractive butter dish can go a long way. This one by Godinger is functional and stylish. The Irish design and lead crystal construction feature sparkling wedge and diamond cuts for added brilliance. It’s also a large size, though it’s on the heavier side.
Amanda Bernardi, event planner and author of "The Modern Bohemian Table," points out that a "clear glass dish allows you to easily see when you need to refill, so you are never surprised with an empty dish and hot toast in need of buttering quickly." Though this is dishwasher safe, hand washing is recommended for best care.
Material: Glass | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Dimensions: 4 x 8 x 3.5 inches
Best Crock: Butter Bell The Original Butter Bell Crock
Available in multiple colors
Attractive vintage look
Yields spreadable butter
Easy to clean
Butter sometimes falls into crock water
A butter crock—also known as a butter bell or a butter keeper—is just another type of butter dish. It’s a choice with French origins that’s still widely used in Europe. Its claim to fame? Butter crocks are said to keep butter fresher for longer, thanks to an airtight seal.
The downside? It takes a little bit of effort to set up your butter crock. Instead of simply plopping the stick of butter on a dish, you have to let the butter soften, then cube it, and smoosh it down into the lid of the butter crock. Once that has been filled, you fill the opposite base with cold water to help create that airtight seal.
Most choose to store their butter crock on the countertop, but you can refrigerate it if you prefer. Either way, just be sure to change out the water every few days.
Material: New bone china | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Dimensions: 5.8 x 4 x 4.25 inches
“Water butter crocks are great for storing butter safely. When you put the butter into the crock, the water completely seals the butter so that it is not exposed to oxygen or bacteria. Oxygen is what turns the butter rancid so this acts as a barrier that keeps the butter soft and fresh." — Alanna O’Neil, entertaining expert and the author of "The Art of Picnics"
Most Durable: Rubbermaid Standard Butter Dish
Great for transporting
Rim holds butter in place
Not very attractive
If you’re okay with a totally no-frills option, this butter dish may be for you. It’s a particularly good choice for families with young kids who like to help in the kitchen since it’s virtually indestructible. The dish and lid are both constructed of durable, thick plastic. This makes it lightweight and easily portable, even for little hands. It also means it won’t crack or shatter if dropped. Another bonus? Because of this construction, it’s also a great choice for backyard barbecues and picnics at the park.
It’s not pretty, but that doesn’t stop the thousands of reviewers from praising its many attributes. They say it earns top marks because it keeps butter fresh, it's easy to clean, and it's a great value.
Material: Plastic | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Dimensions: 7.8 x 3.1 x 2.1 inches
Best Glass: Royalty Art Glass Butter Dish with Handled Lid
Made from borosilicate crystal glass
If you’re looking for a simple glass butter dish, this one's for you. It has a simple but elegant design and a handle for convenience.
"I prefer butter dishes to have a handle because it's easy to pick up, especially if the cover can get a bit greasy," O’Neil says. "This is a classic and simple style that is perfect for every day."
This one is on the affordable side, so it’s a good choice for anyone new to using a butter dish. And if you’re vegan or use margarine instead of butter, this one works for all kinds of butter. Leave it in the refrigerator or on the counter or dining table for easy access.
Material: Glass | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Dimensions: 8 x 3.8 x 4 inches
The Le Creuset Heritage Butter Dish is our favorite due to its versatile nature. Not only does it add a bit of color to your kitchen, but it's also perfect for keeping butter at the perfect temperature both indoors and outdoors. However, if your main concern is durability, check out the Rubbermaid Standard Butter Dish.
What to Look for in a Butter Dish
Butter dishes come in many different materials, such as porcelain, glass, and plastic. Each of these is perfect for many different lifestyles. If you're not worried about anyone possibly breaking your dish, then you can venture out into whatever material you think best suits your kitchen. However, if you have kids, it may be best to opt for one made of a more durable material to prevent messy mishaps.
How does your kitchen cleanup routine look? If you don't mind washing things by hand, then you don't necessarily need to worry about a butter dish's wash instructions. However, if you lead a more on-the-go lifestyle, make sure to find one that's dishwasher safe.
Consider the size of a butter dish. It's important to find a butter dish that will not only fit your butter, but also keep it from sliding around when it's in transport.
How do you use a butter dish?
A butter dish allows you to have spreadable, room temperature butter any time you wish. You won’t have to try spreading cold butter on your morning toast or heat it in the microwave to get it pliable enough for baking. French butter crocks are two-piece devices that keep butter at room temperature for up to 30 days. You do need to change the water every couple of days, so there’s some maintenance involved.
"A French-style butter dish, also known as a water crock, is a great way to keep smooth, spreadable butter at the ready," Bernardi says. "Butter is packed into the cup, then flipped into the crock where a small amount of water is held in the bottom to create an airtight seal, preserving butter for even longer than a traditional dish. I prefer a crock to a dish as it makes the butter dippable, and there is no better treat than a fresh baguette and creamy butter."
Can you leave butter out in a covered butter dish?
“Nearly all butter in the United States is pasteurized, so it is safe for at least a week out on the counter so long as it is housed in a proper container and kept at a normal home temperature,” says Bernardi.
According to the USDA, butter and margarine are safe at room temperature. It's best to leave out whatever you can use within a day or two, though, to avoid the flavor of your butter turning rancid. Also, note that margarine can separate into oil or water and solids when not refrigerated.
"The FDA recommends not to keep butter out for more than two days. However, if it is kept in the right container such as a butter crock or tin and at the right temperature, it can last up to a week if properly stored," says O’Neil. "Ideally, the wrapping should be removed and it should be stored in an airtight container at a temperature no warmer than 70 degrees. Salted butter fares better left out than unsalted."
How often should you wash your butter dish?
It is always a good idea to wash your butter dish between sticks. If you are using a French crock, you want to clean the water receptacle as well to avoid any mold growth due to the water. Some are dishwasher safe, while others can be hand washed with mild soap and water.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Brigitt Earley is a freelance lifestyle writer who covers food and kitchen-related content for The Spruce Eats. She received her Masters of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University; her B.A. from Loyola University of Maryland; and her culinary degree from The French Culinary Institute in New York City.
Carrie Honaker, who updated this piece, is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine, travel, and culture. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she knows the importance of finding the right tool for the right job. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Basically, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.
Lacey Muinos is a food and wellness writer with an impressive collection of kitchen gadgets. She’s a big fan of butter on toast — specifically plant-based margarine on sourdough.