Brow Beat

Buttering Bread Before You Toast It: Weird or Kind of Brilliant?

Toasted bread with a knife cutting butter.
Rocky Luten and Ty Mecham

Is there a better way to start the day than buttered toast? Of course not. Maybe because it tastes sooo good. Or maybe because it’s the kind of “recipe” that requires next to no thinking.

Or does it?

The obvious instructions for buttered toast are: Butter toast. But what temperature is the butter? And what tool do you use to spread? And when do you spread? And when do you toast? If you’re like us here at Food52, you have a lot of feelings about all of this…

1. Toast the bread, then spread with straight-from-the-fridge butter.

Use a butter knife. I grew up in a cold-butter house (and my parents have yet to change their ways). Letting the cold butter pat sit between two pieces of warm toast lessens toast damage. But, either way, you’re gonna end up with torn-up toast.

Pretend the butter stick “is like a glue stick.” This idea came by way of our brilliant assistant editor of partner content Erin Alexander. “Wait, you actually do this?” I wondered. “Maybe,” she said. But does it work? “Kind of!” Good enough for me.

Use a cheese slicer. According to the internet, this is a thing. A shaved sheet of butter will melt easier than a chunky hunk, sure. But do people actually do this in real life? You tell me.

Use a cheese grater. Apparently also a thing. I’ve grated cold butter in baking—for flaky pastries like scones, pie crust, etc. But for toast? What a world.

Use a Japanese butter knife. Now we’re talking. See those tiny holes? Those turn cold butter into softened curls, ready to glide onto warm toast. Plus, if you’re having people over for brunch—talk about a party trick.

Use a butter curler. Like the Japanese butter knife, this encourages cold-ish butter to spread onto toast with grace. Cute butter orbs: coming right up.

2. Toast the bread, then spread with room-temperature butter.

Use a butter dish. Nothing fancy here. Think of it as a little butter house—usually fits one stick, stays on your countertop for when toast time strikes. My current go-to method.

Use a butter keeper. It’s no secret that we here at Food52 love butter keepers. If you’re wondering, Wait, what’s a butter keeper? it’s a two-piece magician that holds butter over a little dish of water, which helps the butter stay silky-smooth and ultra-spreadable.

3. Spread the bread with room-temperature butter, then toast it.

Follow the same room-temperature butter strategies listed above, but flip the order of application. This was the sworn-by strategy when I worked at Scratch Baking in Durham, North Carolina (and, let me tell you, a lot of buttered toast came out of that kitchen). Epicurious Digital Director David Tamarkin also preached the pros of this method in a recent article, saying the results are “richer and crispier.” (Think: more butter-soaking! A good thing.) The con? This method only works in a toaster oven, extra-hot oven, or broiler.

4. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the bread.

Is this really toast? Or is it just fried bread? Who cares, says Senior Editor Eric Kim. It’s good is what it is. “I love melting butter in a pan (like, apply cold stick of butter to pan and melt off a tablespoon) and just toasting the bread in that,” he told me. “It’s a certain taste, reminds me of the buttery toast they gave out with canned chicken noodle soup in elementary school.”

More from Food52:
How Do You Like Your Butter? A “Heated” Debate
The “Bell-less, Whistle-less, Damn Good French Toast” Beloved by 3,208 of Us
3 Simple (And Colorful) Spruce-Ups for Plain Old Toast
Avocado + Crispy Kale + Tahini + Seasoning Salt Toast
Pomegranate + Lox Toast
Roasted Grape + Ricotta + Thyme Toast