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How to Cut in Butter

How to Cut in Butter

Cutting in butter is a simple technique to master. We've outlined what it means, what tools you can use and step-by-step photos to help you through the process. Perfectly flaky pie crusts and biscuits are right around the corner!

blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

What Does it Mean to Cut in Butter?

Cutting in butter is a very common term in baking, most commonly used in the recipe instructions when making pie crust or biscuits. It’s a very simple technique that’s easy to master. Cutting in butter means incorporating cold butter into the dry ingredients (usually flour) so that the butter stays in little clumps throughout the mixture. 

Does The Butter Have to Be Cold?

Cold butter is the key to flaky, tender pie crusts, biscuits and scones. In the oven, the cold pieces of butter melt and create gaps that result in the layers essential to certain baked goods. When cutting in cold butter, key is to combine the flour and butter as quickly as possible to ensure that the butter stays cold until it is ready to be placed into the oven.

Tools Needed to Cut in Butter

You don’t necessarily need any special tools to cut in butter. Here are four different tools we recommend you use to cut in butter:

  1. A Pastry Cutter - The tool we recommend most would be a baking tool called a pastry cutter, also called a pastry blender, (seen in the pictures below). It makes creating those coarse crumbs very easy.

  2. Two butter knives – Two knives held together at an angle may be substituted for a pastry blender when cutting in butter. Use the knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the pieces of flour-coated butter become smaller and have the texture of coarse crumbs. Using knives will get the job done, but it might take a little longer than using a pastry blender.  

  3. A Fork – Just like butter knives, forks are readily available in most kitchens and are another great option for cutting in butter. When using a fork to cut in butter, simply smash the butter pieces until you have achieved the desired crumbly consistency. Before you mash, be sure that your butter is sitting in your flour, and is cold and cut into half inch pieces. Having the butter cut into smaller pieces vs. full or half sticks, will speed up the process. Mash until you have achieved the desired crumb consistency.

  4. A Food Processor - A food processor can also be used, just be careful not to over mix the ingredients. If you overmix, the butter may become too small or overworked, resulting in a pastry that is not flaky and tender.

Tools Not Recommended For Cutting in Butter:

  1. Your Hands – Although it is an option, we do not recommend using your hands to cut in butter. Butter should be cold when cutting in butter, and the heat from your fingers will soften the butter, which may result in a pastry that is not as flaky or tender as you desire.

  2. A Stand or Hand Mixer - A stand mixer or hand mixer also isn’t the right tool for cutting in butter. Neither option can keep the butter in small pieces without incorporating completely.

How to Cut in Butter

  1. Start by measuring flour into large bowl. Add cold, cubed butter.​2019 how to cut butter step one

  2. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour.2019 how to cut butter step two

  3. Continue cutting the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, the butter pieces will be about the size of peas. This is the perfect size to create the flaky layers.2019 how to cut butter step three

Recipes That Use Cutting in Butter Technique

Cutting in butter is usually the first step in a recipe. Here are a few of our favorites that use the technique – consider it practice!

Learn More About Butter

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