Best Butter Dish
Whether you like to store your butter in the refrigerator or at room temperature on the table, the DOWAN Porcelain Butter Dish is tuned to keep the maximum amount of butter as fresh as possible for the longest period of time. This porcelain tub offers plenty of storage space, accommodating two sticks of either West Coast (short) or East Coast (full-sized) sticks or an 8-ounce cube of European butter. When stored at room temperature, the butter stays perfectly spreadable, and the dish offers plenty of room if you need to cut away a tablespoon for baking purposes. Simple in appearance yet well-refined in design, it features a silicone ring around the beechwood lid — it doesn't snap shut for a true airtight seal, but it will keep butter fresh for at least two weeks at room temperature.
Though porcelain is scratch-resistant, it's certainly not drop-proof — something to consider if you're accident-prone. Compared to other models we tested, cleanup is slightly complicated by the beechwood lid, which requires handwashing. And though our butter stayed fresh, it did oxidize slightly over our two-week test period, becoming slightly discolored. For those who want to keep their butter in the fridge to avoid any issues, this dish is microwave safe, so you can easily warm your butter back up. We even considered how fun it would be to use the versatile DOWAN Dish as a miniature baking crock (though keep in mind that the lid is not oven safe!)
For those of us who are accident-prone, the incredible durability of the Cooler Kitchen Modern Bamboo Butter Dish only adds to its already impressive value. Using an all-natural resin that combines bamboo and corn fibers, designers for Cooler Kitchen improve on the classic stoneware or porcelain clay construction to create a nearly indestructible dish. Although we instinctively started using it as a tub, it is actually designed to be used as a dish with a lid; depending on storage preference, it works well from any direction. Like many of the other tubs we tested, this one also kept our butter perfectly spreadable for at least a few weeks at room temperature.
Even though this dish can accommodate West Coast, East Coast, and European cuts of butter, the limited capacity means it can only hold one stick of each. The material is also ultra-lightweight and annoyingly has a habit of sliding around on the table when you're trying to cut or scoop out butter — illustrating the importance of material, even in such a simple device. Overall, while indestructibility may not be the first thing to come to mind when considering a butter dish, the combination of durability and versatility make the Modern Bamboo dish a solid competitor for the modern kitchen.
Our lead tester is a self-professed Francophile, and if he had it his way, the Butter Bell Crock would be at the top of this list. A modern take on the classic French "beurrier," this special design requires that you pack softened butter into the lid, pour cold water into the base, and place the lid (butter side down) into the water. This helps to keep butter at a Goldilocks-like consistency — not too hard, not too soft — and can keep butter perfectly fresh for an astounding period of time (many claim to keep butter at room temperature in these crocks year-round.) The thick, heavyweight ceramic creates a better seal than others we tested, which is reflected in the ideal consistency it keeps the butter.
Unlike other dishes we tested, bell crocks technically require a bit of maintenance, in that you have to replace the water in the base from time to time. Similarly, you will have to replace the butter more often than other, larger options — the cup of the Butter Bell only fits one stick of butter (equal to 4-ounces, or half of a European block.) But for those seeking the ideal dish to keep butter at room temperature, look no further for validation than the fact that Julia Child used a butter keeper.
The OXO Good Grips Butter Dish is a thoughtfully designed single-stick dish built for the modern kitchen. Like nearly all OXO products we've tested, this simple staple is engineered with efficiency in mind. A few design highlights improve upon and set it apart from many of the other dishes we tested: side stoppers keep the butter from sliding around inside, and foam stoppers on the base keep it from sliding around on the table. There are also tablespoon markings embossed on the base of the dish, which is especially useful for those who like to bake.
While bakers may rejoice over the convenience of measurement marks and the consistency of the butter, the rest of us looking for the perfect spread are left wanting. Not only is the butter too firm at room temperature, but a clear plastic lid does not protect it from potentially melting in the sun when left out on the kitchen counter. Even though the OXO Good Grips dish represents an upgrade on other plastic dishes in this review, there is still room for improvement.
Sometimes, there is a benefit to using plastic products over their all-natural alternatives. With a rugged, transportable design — and the only one we tested with a snap-tight lid — the Rubbermaid Standard Butter Dish is the perfect dish to add to your camping kitchen or picnic basket. There is plenty of space for the lid to snap shut without sticking to your butter, regardless of whether you are using a West or East Coast stick, and the secure lid means you don't need to worry about rogue butter in your cooler or camp kitchen setup.
Although the airtight seal keeps your butter fresher for longer than other models we tested, the butter from the Rubbermaid Standard was simply too firm at room temperature to be easily spreadable. It is also a simple, single-stick dish, so don't expect to use it for European blocks. But as a durable, inexpensive option, this is the perfect companion for car camping trips or afternoon picnics.
Matching the acclaimed quality of their classic, enameled Dutch ovens, the Le Creuset Stoneware Butter Dish can equally stand up to the test of time. This is the largest dish we tested, easily accommodating European blocks and up to three West Coast sticks side-by-side. The manufacturer claims that the "dense stoneware blocks moisture absorption to prevent cracking, crazing, and rippling" of butter. We can vouch — despite a bit of oxidation, this dish held butter at a velvety consistency for two weeks without issue.
Even though this dish was one of the highest-scoring in our review, it is hard to justify the price based on the modest difference in butter quality — it costs more than double the price of our highest rated tub. The enamel coating does protect the stoneware against scratches, especially when compared to straight porcelain, but it is not protected from crashing to the floor in pieces. However, it is hard to compare any other model in this review to the heirloom-quality and vintage aesthetic of the Le Creuset dish.
Similar in nearly every way, the Sweese Large Butter Dish is a nice alternative to the award-winning DOWAN tub. Like the other, this large-capacity tub offers enough space to fit two West or East Coast sticks side-by-side or a single European block. A comparable beechwood lid can double as a petite cutting board for cheese or other bread-toppings. The porcelain construction is more chip-resistant than stoneware, and the high-gloss exterior is available in many stylish colorways to brighten up any kitchen.
Despite the similarities, the Sweese dish doesn't quite match the keeping-quality of its direct competitor. Namely, we found that without a silicone seal around the lid, the butter oxidized slightly faster. As a result, it was softer — not inherently a bad thing — but it does open up the possibility of earlier spoilage. Besides these subtle differences (and the fact that it is priced slightly higher), this tub is directly comparable to our top option, making it a fantastic option for any kitchen.
With a look straight out of the Jetsons, the Butterie Flip-Top is an overhauled vision of a classic plastic dish. Although the recognizable flip-top design doesn't approach airtight, we were happily surprised by the consistency and freshness of the butter after our two-week trial at room temperature. A non-slip pad on the base also keeps the dish in place on the table as you cut away with the matching spreader.
The inclusion of a spreader is a nice addition, but we wish the designers of the Butterie had fashioned the cradle in a different place, as the spreader tends to slide out. Although our western locale kept us from getting our hands on East Coast-style butter to test, it is important to note that this dish will not fit two West Coast sticks side-by-side. Unlike its other plastic competitors, this dish is microwave-safe in case you'd rather keep your butter in the refrigerator and soften it up when needed.
A French butter keeper doesn't have to be a fancy addition to your kitchen — it can be simple, practical, and inexpensive. The Norpro Stoneware Butter Keeper fills that role perfectly, as a cost-effective option to pin against significantly more expensive butter crocks. The glazed stoneware sports a clean design that will surely complement any kitchen countertop — and like all bell crocks, you can expect perfectly spreadable butter throughout the seasons.
This is not one of the larger dishes we tested, nor is it one of the larger crocks on the market — its cup only fits one stick (¼-pound) of butter at a time. Most importantly, make sure that your butter is already warmed up to room temperature before filling the cup — temperature appears to have a major effect on the butter adhering to the interior glaze. We eventually learned our lesson but had butter fall out and into the water base on a few occasions after replenishing the cup with butter straight from the refrigerator. If you're skeptical of this design, the Norpro Butter Keeper provides a low cost of entry for those wanting to try out this style of butter crock.
The Kangaroo Glass Butter Dish is about as basic as it gets. This is a no-frills dish, with no extras beyond a clear glass cover to store butter out of the package. If you would rather store it in the refrigerator, this dish is also microwave safe if you want to use that process to soften it up.
Regardless of which side of the country you reside on, the lid on the Kangaroo is too short to adequately fit any size stick of butter. Butter will smush and smudge the glass top, and, in some extreme instances, it will actually adhere the top and bottom together when you try to take the top off — we expect this to eventually end in a disaster of broken glass. But if all you want is a simple glass dish, this is certainly a low-cost option.
Why You Should Trust Us
One of our kitchen experts, Aaron Rice, is a firm believer in this school of thought, making him the perfect candidate to highlight this category. His grandfather taught him the magic of cooking with natural fats — but also taught him to enjoy all good things, like butter, in moderation. Beyond cooking at home and sharing good food with friends and family, Aaron has spent the better portion of a decade working in and around professional kitchens. In the summers, he and his wife grow and co-manage an on-site market garden for a fine-dining restaurant in Santa Fe, NM. During the colder months, Aaron works full-time as an avalanche educator and ski patroller, as well as being a regular contributor to OutdoorGearLab.
- Julia Child
Before getting to the golden goods, our team of experts always carries out their due diligence of online research. We spent hours examining the pros and cons of some of the best and most popular products on the market. After settling on a selection to test side-by-side, we purchased all of these products at retail value to ensure an unbiased review. Our testing process is equally objective — our experts analyzed every detail and considered both the best and worst parts of these dishes through everyday use. Our intensive testing period is backed up with a detailed testing plan, which allows us to compare and contrast these products in a real-world setting. Our comprehensive guide is designed to help you find the best butter dish for your own kitchen.
Analysis and Test Results
From sautéing onions and mushrooms to spreading over freshly baked bread, butter is a staple ingredient and flavor in many Western kitchens. The modern butter dish emerged, curiously, almost simultaneously in the United States and France in the last decades of the 19th century. Originally intended as a way to keep butter fresh without refrigeration, they have become more popular with the modern convenience of buying butter in sticks — a dish allows you to take the butter out of the wrapper and store it in an accessible and aesthetically pleasing way. Besides the obvious differences between the French and American designs, many of these dishes seem nearly identical. So we chose four metrics, designed to be both comprehensive and mutually exclusive, to examine the most important characteristics: versatility; consistency [of butter]; cleaning & maintenance; and durability. We choose to only test some of the best products on the market, so every product included in this review is a worthy addition to your kitchen. It is also important to note that because we test products side-by-side, they are ranked relative to one another — a lower-ranking product does not inherently mean it is of poor quality; it simply means it doesn't function as well as others in our review.
When we discuss the 'versatility' of a butter dish, we're focused on one major aspect: what size sticks it will fit and how much. While you can often find butter in everything from rolls to tubs, there are a few particular sizes and shapes to the sticks most commonly found in grocery stores.
Common Sizes and Shapes of Butter
Depending on whether or not you've cooked on both sides of the country, you may not be aware that butter comes in two regionally distinctive shapes here in the United States. And while there are plenty of other differences between American and European butters, for the sake of this discussion, we're going to focus on size and shape.
East Coast: Sometimes referred to as Elgin sticks (named for both the company and the city in Illinois where they were originally produced), these are the 4-ounce skinny sticks.
West Coast: A result of advances in cutting and packaging equipment, these stubby-sticks are short and fat but still contain the same 4-ounces of butter.European: Setting aside the differences in the creaming process, European-style butter is almost ubiquitously packaged in a wider, flatter block cut. Most notably, these European "sticks" weigh 8-ounces instead of 4.
All of the dishes we tested will fit at least one stick of either West or East Coast butter, but only the DOWAN and Sweese tubs are large enough to accommodate two sticks of either variety. Both of these, as well as the Butterie Flip-Top and the Le Creuset, will also accommodate the wider proportions of a full European slab. The Le Creuset is actually the dish with the highest capacity of any we tested and will fit up to three sticks of (only) West Coast butter.
Beyond just maximum butter capacity, certain dishes have been designed to be particularly user-friendly. The OXO Good Grips, with tablespoon markings embossed on the dish, will appeal to bakers (or anyone measuring their butter consumption.) The DOWAN tub utilizes a silicone ring around the lid for a fresher seal, and the Rubbermaid snaps shut for an airtight seal and improved portability. For those who wish to keep their butter in the fridge to increase shelf-life but who don't want to miss out on the joy of perfectly spreadable butter, all but the two plastic models (the OXO and Rubbermaid) are microwave-friendly — although it is not necessary to heat up either the Butter Bell or Norpro French crocks to achieve the same ends.
A dish is only as good as the consistency of the butter which it keeps. Many like to keep their butter out on the table for convenience, and so we asked the question: how long will these dishes keep butter fresh? We set all of the dishes out in the same location, at room temperature, and routinely checked on the butter for both consistency and freshness over the course of a two-week trial.
Aside from any personal preferences, the Butter Bell crock not only kept butter fresh for the longest period of time, but it also produced butter with the best consistency — soft enough to spread easily, yet just hard enough to slice off bits for cooking. Thanks to the silicone seal around the lid, the DOWAN dish produced a similar consistency, just with slightly more oxidation (discoloration) of the butter. Despite no semblance of an airtight seal, the Butterie Flip-Top also kept butter at a fantastic consistency, although undoubtedly it will not keep quite as long at room temperature as the other two based on this lack of seal.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Butter can be messy. Whether on fingertips or knife ends, butterfat tends to leave a smudge on anything it comes into contact with. We recommend regular cleanings between replenishing butter, so cleaning and general upkeep become an integral part of keeping your butter dish sanitary. When it comes to regular maintenance, only the Butter Bell and Norpro crocks require changing out the water in the dish regularly.
With the exception of the beechwood lids on the DOWAN and Sweese tubs — which are recommended hand wash only — all of the dishes in this review are dishwasher safe. For those of us not blessed by the convenience of a dishwasher, the durable plastic of the OXO Good Grips and Rubbermaid containers are notably easy to hand wash. If you are more inclined to use products made with all-natural materials, the wide, flat basin of the Le Creuset dish is particularly easy to rinse off, and the Cooler Kitchen Modern Bamboo dish is both easy to hand wash and fits snugly in the dishwasher.
Beyond the possible disaster scenarios resulting from sticky butter and glass dishes, most of the products we tested are remarkably durable. Just as long as you don't drop one of the glass, porcelain, or stoneware pieces on the floor, they are all designed to stand up to normal use and washing. But the Le Creuset dish is a particular standout in this regard, as enamel glaze is especially good at resisting both stains and scratches from metal utensils.
It may be obvious that plastic options like the OXO Good Grips, Butterie Flip-Top, and Rubbermaid dishes are going to be the most durable. In particular, we love the Rubbermaid container for rough-and-tumble activities like road trips or camping. But surprisingly, it is the bamboo-resin of the Cooler Kitchen dish that stood up best to the everyday wear-and-tear of knife scrapes and even accidental drops.
Go ahead: take your butter out of the package, and display it with pride. After testing some of the most popular products on the market, we have definitive suggestions for choosing the best butter dish. Whether you want to keep a single stick in the refrigerator or have perfectly spreadable butter in a crock on the counter, our comprehensive review offers a variety of selections that will be right at home in any kitchen. Bon appetit!
— Aaron Rice
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