How to Use a French Butter Dish

Simple step by step instructions for using a French butter dish to keep butter soft and spreadable without spoiling.

The French butter dish, or beurrier, is designed around centuries-old technology for keeping butter fresh without the use of refrigeration. Today, this tool allows you to keep butter at room temperature -- ideal for spreading -- without spoiling.


The amount of butter you'll need depends on the size of your butter dish. Most models are designed to hold one stick (8 ounces) of butter, although designs and sizes vary. The butter should completely fill the lid without leaving any gaps.

    Pack the Butter

  1. Soften the butter slightly before packing. It should be just soft enough to handle, but not melted.

  2. Pack the butter tightly into the lid of the dish. Press firmly to remove any air pockets. Air is what allows butter to go rancid, so removing it is essential to the success of the French butter dish.

  3. Fill the Crock

  4. The amount of water you need depends on your butter dish. One-third cup is sufficient for a model that holds 8 ounces of butter. Use just enough water to submerge the lid of the dish without overflowing.

  5. Tip

    If you plan to use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the water. This will prevent mold from growing on your butter. Salted butter doesn't need any extra salt to prevent mold growth.

    Store and Serve the Butter

  6. Keep the lid on the French butter dish when you're not serving butter. This will keep the butter submerged in the water. Store the butter dish in a cool place, away from sunlight and heat.

  7. To serve, remove the lid and place it upside-down on the table with the fresh butter facing up. When you're done, make sure the remaining butter is pressed firmly into the crock and return the lid to the butter dish.

  8. Replace the water whenever you open the dish, at least every 3 days.

How It Works

  • The French butter dish works on the simple principle that butter spoils when exposed to air. Submerging the butter in cold water forms a seal that keeps the butter fresh by limiting its exposure to air.

  • Tip

    • Use real butter, not margarine, in a French butter dish. Margarine has a higher percentage of oil than butter, and does not stay in the lid well. * French butter dishes are also called butter bells or butter bulbs.
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