You've likely tried to melt butter in the microwave only to end up cleaning greasy splatters off the sides and door. Not only do you have a mess, but now your measurements may be off if you were melting a specific amount for a recipe.
The reason behind this butter explosion is that as butter warms up, the water separates from the milk fats. Once it reaches a specific temperature and overheats, the fat goes flying. Fortunately, there is a clean and foolproof way to melt butter.
How to Melt Butter in the Microwave
The easiest way to melt butter without a mess is to lower the power setting on your microwave (microwaves that have a "melt butter" function automatically do this). By heating it for a limited time at low power, the butter will heat slower and you're less likely to have an explosion.
- Place the amount of butter needed in a microwave-safe bowl, such as a clear glass custard cup.
- Put the bowl in the microwave, and microwave for 30 seconds at 40 percent power.
- If the butter has not melted, stir the butter or tip the bowl from side to side. Moving unmelted butter around in the hot melted portion may complete the melting process with no further heat required.
- When there's still unmelted butter, return it to the microwave and heat in 10- to 30-second increments at 40 percent power until it's completely melted. Repeat the stirring process each time.
- Cut full sticks and larger chunks of butter into smaller pieces to allow for more even and faster melting.
- Stop heating a full stick of butter when there's just a pat left unmelted; Stirring should melt the remainder.
- Always use a potholder or a kitchen towel to grip the bowl when it's hot.
- Before you perfect the technique, it's wise to loosely cover the bowl with a paper towel or plate, wax or parchment paper, or silicone baking form to keep the spatter confined. While the cover will block your view of the melting process, it will mean less clean-up if you still get spatter.
- Some people have found that placing a second small bowl filled with water in the microwave reduces butter splatter as well.
Melted vs. Solid Butter Measurements
When you need a specific quantity of melted butter for a recipe, be sure to read the ingredient list carefully. Solid butter is mixed with air, so the volume of solid butter will not be the same when it's melted.
If the recipe calls for "1/4 cup of melted butter," you must melt the butter first. Melt a little more than 1/4 cup to make up for the air mixed into the cold butter, then measure 1/4 cup of the melted butter in a liquid measuring cup.
When a recipe calls for "1/4 cup of butter, melted," you can measure 1/4 cup of the cold, solid butter, and then melt it. Measuring solid butter is easiest when using sticks of butter because the wrapper conveniently indicates tablespoon measurements.