Is 1 cup of butter equal to 1 stick?

Butter is a staple ingredient used in baking, cooking, and spreading on breads. When following recipes, butter is often called for in measurements of sticks, cups, tablespoons, or grams. This can cause confusion for home cooks when a recipe calls for “1 stick” versus “1 cup” of butter. So is 1 cup of butter really equal to 1 stick?

The short answer

Yes, 1 cup of butter is generally equal to 1 stick. A stick of butter refers to one standard block of butter weighing 4 ounces (113 grams). This equals 8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup. Therefore, 2 sticks of butter (8 ounces) equals 1 cup (16 tablespoons).

Understanding butter measurements

When working with butter, it helps to understand the common measurements:

  • 1 tablespoon of butter = 0.5 ounces = 14 grams
  • 1/4 cup butter = 4 tablespoons = 2 ounces = 57 grams
  • 1/3 cup butter = 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 2.6 ounces = 74 grams
  • 1/2 cup butter = 8 tablespoons = 4 ounces = 113 grams
  • 1 stick butter = 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup = 4 ounces = 113 grams
  • 1 cup butter = 16 tablespoons = 2 sticks = 8 ounces = 227 grams

As you can see, 1 stick or 1/2 cup of butter weighs 4 ounces. And 2 sticks or 1 cup of butter weighs 8 ounces. So in terms of volume vs weight, 1 cup is equivalent to 1 stick.

Why does a stick of butter weigh 4 ounces?

The reason a standard stick of butter became defined as 4 ounces (1/2 cup) can be traced back to history. According to the National Dairy Council, in the 1860s, U.S. dairy producers started distributing butter in 4-ounce blocks wrapped in parchment paper. Consumers found this size convenient to use in recipes and for spreading.

Over time, recipes standardized around the 4-ounce stick of butter. So when you see “1 stick” in a recipe today, you can know it refers to 1/2 cup or 4 ounces of butter.

Metric measures of butter

In metric system countries like Australia and the UK, butter is sold in 250 gram blocks. Here is how metric butter measurements convert:

  • 125 grams butter = 4.4 ounces
  • 250 grams butter = 8.8 ounces (close to 1 US stick)
  • 500 grams butter = 17.6 ounces (close to 2 US sticks/1 cup)

So while the exact weight is a bit different, 125-250 grams of butter is very close to a 4-ounce American stick. Either way, when cooking, it’s more important to know the equivalencies than stick to an exact weight.

Does butter packaging vary?

There can be slight variations in the size of butter sticks and blocks across different brands. For example:

  • Kerrygold butter comes in 4-ounce (113 gram) sticks
  • Land O’Lakes butter is sold in 4-ounce (113 gram) sticks
  • Challenge butter sticks weigh 4.4 ounces (125 grams)
  • Tillamook butter is portioned into 4-ounce (113 gram) sticks

While a few brands like Challenge may differ slightly, a pound of butter everywhere contains 4 sticks totaling 16 ounces or 2 cups. So you can count on a stick equaling 1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons no matter the brand.

Substituting butter measurements in recipes

Understanding how much butter is in a stick, cup, tablespoon, or gram makes substituting amounts simple. Here are some common butter measurement conversions for recipes:

Butter Needed Measurement Substitutions
1 tablespoon 1/2 ounce OR 14 grams OR 1/8 stick OR 1/16 cup
1/4 cup 2 ounces OR 57 grams OR 1/4 stick OR 4 tablespoons
1/3 cup 2.6 ounces OR 74 grams OR 2.6 tablespoons
1/2 cup OR 1 stick 4 ounces OR 113 grams OR 8 tablespoons
2/3 cup 5.3 ounces OR 150 grams OR 10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons
3/4 cup 6 ounces OR 170 grams OR 12 tablespoons
1 cup OR 2 sticks 8 ounces OR 227 grams OR 16 tablespoons

So if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter and you only have sticks, you know to use 1 stick. Or if you only have tablespoons on hand, then 8 tablespoons butter equals the 1/2 cup needed.

How to measure butter from a stick

If a recipe calls for a certain amount of butter and you need to cut it from a stick, here are some tips:

  • Cut off 1 tablespoon slices from the end of a chilled stick of butter
  • 4 tablespoons butter = 1/4 cup
  • 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter = 1/3 cup
  • 8 tablespoons butter = 1/2 cup OR 1 stick
  • 10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons = 2/3 cup

Mark measurements on the stick’s wrapper with a knife tip to easily cut off the portion you need.

How to soften butter from the refrigerator

When baking, room temperature softened butter helps batters cream together and rise properly. Here are some ways to soften refrigerated butter quickly:

  • Leave butter out at room temperature for 1-2 hours
  • Slice butter into thin slices to speed softening
  • Use the “defrost” setting in the microwave, checking often
  • Place butter in a bowl and microwave in 10 second bursts, stirring
  • Grate cold butter with a cheese grater or food processor
  • Cut cold butter into small cubes to soften faster

Avoid leaving butter to soften for longer than 2 hours or it can begin to melt and oil may separate. Softened butter should give slightly but still hold its shape.

How to measure soft or melted butter

When butter is already softened or melted, use these tricks for mess-free measuring:

  • Pack stick butter firmly into a measuring cup to “reform” the shape, then level off
  • Pour melted butter into a measuring cup, let it solidify, then measure amounts
  • For small amounts of softened butter, pack it into tablespoons or teaspoons for measuring
  • Weigh softened butter in grams for most accuracy

If you need to substitute solid butter for melted (or vice versa) in a recipe, keep in mind that 1 cup melted butter equals about 7/8 cup solid. Melting causes butter to lose a bit of volume so reduce the amount slightly.

When to weigh vs. measure butter

For most baking recipes at home, the small differences between weighing or measuring butter in cups, tablespoons, or sticks won’t make a noticeable difference. However, more precision is ideal for certain cases:

  • High-fat, butter-based doughs like croissants or brioche where ratios impact flakiness
  • Recipes where butter is the star like buttercream frosting
  • When you’re altering a recipe’s butter amount (so the adjusted weight/volume is exact)
  • For consistent quality of baked goods in commercial kitchens

Otherwise basic cup or tablespoon measures work fine for most home bakers. And with butter, making small replacements is very forgiving compared to pedantic measuring.

Key takeaways

So in summary:

  • 1 cup of butter equals 1 stick, with both weighing 4 ounces (113 grams)
  • 2 sticks or 1 pound of butter equals 2 cups or 16 ounces
  • Butter packaging can vary slightly but 1 stick almost always equals 1/2 cup
  • Knowing butter equivalencies allows easy substitution when measuring
  • Weighing gives the most precise butter measurements, but volume is fine for home recipes

Understanding how much butter is in a stick vs cup or tablespoon provides flexibility when cooking and baking. So next time your recipe calls for a stick of butter and you only have cups handy, you’ll know just how much to use.

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