The Clever Storage Gadget That Keeps Butter Fresh, Soft, And Spreadable

Butter can be a bit of a confusing ingredient. When it comes to keeping it fresh, there are a lot of conflicting messages out there. The label might say to refrigerate your butter, but even the USDA says that it's perfectly safe to be kept at room temperature. Make no mistake though, butter left at room temperature can go bad in a few days. Using salted butter can help it to last a little longer, but if you aren't using a stick of butter a week you're going to end up throwing it in the trash.

Butter's temperature isn't just a matter of preservation either. If you're a toast aficionado then you'll need room-temperature butter to spread on your breakfast every morning. Plenty of baking recipes also call for room-temperature butter, and it can be a challenge to quickly soften a stick of butter without melting it.

Luckily, there is a simple kitchen gadget that can help solve most of these problems — the butter bell. 

What is a butter bell?

The butter bell (a.k.a. butter jar or butter crock) is a simple porcelain container that consists of two pieces. The top of the jar which has an inner chamber attached to it where you can keep your softened butter, and the bottom container where a small amount of water is kept. When the top piece sits in the bottom container, the water creates a seal. This keeps out air, germs, and light which can all accelerate the deterioration of your butter. This takes it a step above other countertop butter containers because most other variations are not airtight.

The butter bell was a common sight before the days of refrigeration. The famous French potters of Vallauris are credited with first creating them. In the days before refrigeration, this was not only the best way to keep butter spreadable but to simply keep it fresh without storing it in a cellar or other cool environment. This lets chefs keep their butter out on the counter without having to worry that it would go bad quickly.

With the invention of ice boxes and refrigerators, interest in keeping room-temperature butter waned, and many people got rid of their butter bells (via Butter Bells). They've been making a comeback in recent years though as the desire to keep butter fresh on the counter has grown.

How to use a butter bell

With a butter bell, you can keep your butter fresh at room temperature for up to a month. You'll need to change the water out every few days, but if you like having spreadable butter on hand it will be worth the minor hassle.

To use the butter bell all you need to do is take some softened butter and pack it into the top of the jar. It needs to be tightly pressed into the lid to help minimize air bubbles. These won't affect preservation, but if there are too many air bubbles your butter may fall into the water. Not the end of the world, but not desirable either.Make sure you add cold water then to the bottom of the butter bell. There needs to be enough to create a proper seal, but not so much that your butter is getting flooded. You can also add some salt to the water to help increase its anti-germ properties, but it isn't required.

There are also a lot of different styles of butter bells available which means that they don't have to be expensive or an eye sore. You should be able to easily find something that matches your price point and aesthetic. They would also make great gifts for any home chef.