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Aug 4, 2006 04:40 PM

How to Measure Butter from a Block of it

I've been buying the "gourmet", organic, european butter lately (Kerrigold, stuff from Trader Joe's, etc). I agree that it tastes better than the run of the mill, ultra mass produced stuff. My question is this: the butter comes in a single, huge block. How do you measure this block for tablespoons or sticks (8 T) for a recipe? When I buy the butter I don't think to measure it out ahead of time and I use it as necessary for buttering toast, cutting chunks out to fry meat in, etc. How are people measuring out butter if they don't have a scale? Do I have to approximate the amounts out when I buy the butter and cut it up ahead of time -- wouldn't doing so also mean the butter wouldn't last as long too?

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  1. After noting the weight of the block on the packaging, you could then lightly score lines on the block to indicate 1/2, 1/4 or whatever, and then you could make the calculations you needed.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      This shape of block is confusing. I'd suggest using a 'sacrifice' block to see how much you need to shave off the end to get a tablespoon, or 4 tablespoons(1/4 cup). Then practice cutting more equal-sized measurements. The visual memory should stay with you.

      What to do with your practice butter? Soften it slightly and pack it into a butter bell for table use.

      remember that 1# butter has 32 T (Tablespoons)
      16 T = 1 cup = 1/2 #
      4 T = 1/4 cup = 1/8 #
      8 T = 1/2 cup = 1/4 # just tell me how to make this butter shape fit in my butter dish!

      1. re: toodie jane

        You are awesome! This just came in extremely handy. Mwaah!

    2. depending on the recipe I usually weigh it or use a measuring cup with water... adding butter to displace the amount i need. (also works well with shortening and peanut butter, etc.)

      10 Replies
      1. re: withalonge

        How do you add butter to a measuring cup to displace the water? Normally what I have are recipes for cookies where it's best to keep the butter as cold as possible and if I were to try to put the butter in a measuring cup the butter would have to be soft, woudldn't it?

        1. re: peachblossom

          For example: If you need 1/2 cup of butter, put 1/2 cup of water in a liquid measuring cup. Add chunks of cold butter until the water line reaches 1 cup. Voila!

          1. re: peachblossom

            Wow. That is a very cool technique. I'll have to try it!

            1. re: peachblossom

              This method, assuming you do it right, is just as accurate as using a scale (at least for baking needs). (There's some physics behind it about equal volume displacement, but that's WAY beyond my capacity to explain).

              One caveat, if you need to measure 3/4 of a cup or more of butter, fill your measuring cup to 1 and 1/4 cups, otherwise you won't have enough water to displace to get an accurate measurement.

              1. re: Jonathan Saw

                This is how I always measure my peanut butter for cookies!

              2. re: peachblossom

                Actually, this is Archimedes principal. He discovered it in the bathtub, when he noted his weight displaced the water, so it is very scientific. As Archimedes said EUREKA. It is one of the founding formulae.

                1. re: faijay

                  Brought a smile to me face when I read "withalonge's" post. This exact demonstration of measuring out butter by displacement is how the Archimedes principle was explained to me when I was 8 years old. Then we made cookies! As you see, the lesson has stuck with me all these years.

                  1. re: faijay

                    Me too, that's why I answered. Actually, it was my mother showing me how to measure Crisco to make pie crust.

                    1. re: faijay

                      My mother measured Crisco this way, also.

                      Just to clarify (as a physics professor, I am helpless to withhold my knowledge):

                      It was Archimedes' volume, not his weight that displaced the water. Something with equal volume but greater density would have displaced the same amount of water while weighing more. So I guess that is the physics behind it-- immersing an object of some volume in a liquid displaces that exact volume of liquid. Weight and volume are related by density, and assuming most butter has the same (known) density, weighing the butter would also tell you the volume, and vice versa.

                      Archimedes' principle fully is that the buoyant force on an object is equal to the weight of displaced liquid. This allows you to calculate the density of an object (like Archimedes and the questionably pure gold wreath) if you measure the difference in the weight of the object in and out of the water.

                      Thus endeth the lesson.

                      1. re: faijay

                        JGrey, thanks for the correction. Coincidentally, Stanford had an announcement about Archimedes last week -

                2. You might consider investing in a scale. It will be a basic tool for as long as you cook. Weights are far more accurate than measuring by volume.

                  1. I usually have some butter sitting out at room temperature, so I just scoop out what I need with a measuring spoon. But I do like the idea of displacing water. And I wish I had a scale.

                    1. I agree, you gotta have a scale. It's good for bunches of things--baking using European recipes, portion control, etc.