Perfectly Softened: Butter is soft (leaves a slight indentation when touched lightly) yet still holds its shape. Too Soft: Butter is overly softened and doesn’t hold its shape. Partially Melted: Butter is overly softened and has started to melt.
Let butter soften at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. You can also soften it in the microwave. If the butter is too soft, the dough will be too soft and will cause the cookies to spread too much. If the butter is too cold, it won’t cream well.
Always store butter in the fridge. Keep butter either in its original container or a re-sealable plastic food bag for up to a month. (This will keep the unwanted flavors of other foods out.) Find the coldest spot in the fridge to store butter, rather than the refrigerator door.
Thinking ahead? Freeze butter by wrapping the original carton in an airtight re-sealable plastic bag or aluminum foil. Freeze for four-to-six months. Once thawed, use within a month.
Cookie recipes call for butter in a number of ways: by the stick, cup, tablespoon, or pound. Wrappers on sticks of butter are usually marked into tablespoons to make it easy to measure.
If not using sticks, push softened butter into a dry measuring cup that has been coated with a cooking spray for easy removal. Press with a spoon or spatula to remove air pockets and level off with a knife.