Is a stick of butter 4 oz or 8 oz?

A stick of butter is a common unit of measurement used in cooking and baking. Butter sticks come in different sizes, typically 4 ounces or 8 ounces. Knowing whether a stick of butter contains 4 oz or 8 oz is important for accurately measuring ingredients in recipes.

Quick Answer

The quick answer is that a standard stick of butter in the United States is 4 ounces or 1/2 cup. However, some brands produce 8 ounce or 1 cup sticks for larger scale recipes and baking.

How Much Does a Stick of Butter Weigh?

A stick of butter weighs either 4 ounces or 8 ounces depending on the brand and location. Here is a breakdown of the common butter stick sizes:

4 ounces This is the standard US stick containing 1/2 cup of butter
8 ounces Some US brands produce 1 cup sticks for large recipes
113 grams The EU standard is 250 grams per packet, or approx 4.4 ounces
226 grams Larger European packets contain 500 grams, or about 8.8 ounces

As you can see, the 4 ounce and 8 ounce options are the most common. The 4 ounce stick is the default in the US, while the 8 ounce stick may be produced by some brands for bulk baking. In Europe, the metric system is used with common packets of 250 grams or 500 grams, equal to roughly 4 ounces and 8 ounces.

History of Butter Sticks

The concept of butter sticks originated in the late 19th century as a way to standardize the packaging and measurement of butter. Here is a brief timeline:

  • 1876 – A New York dairy firm packages butter in 1/2 pound sticks for the first time.
  • 1886 – N.K. Fairbank Co. in Chicago starts producing 4 ounce butter sticks wrapped in wax paper.
  • 1907 – The National Association of State Dairy and Food Departments make the 4 oz stick the standard unit of sale across the US.
  • 1920s – USDA establishes federal grading and mandatory ingredient labeling on butter sticks.
  • 1970s – Plastic wraps introduced to replace wax paper packaging on sticks.

This history shows why the 4 ounce or 1/2 cup stick became the standard unit for butter in recipes and cooking in the United States. The 8 ounce stick emerged later as an option for bulk baking purposes.

Why Does Butter Come in Sticks?

Butter manufacturers package butter in stick form for a few key reasons:

  • Standardization – Having a standard stick size allowed recipes and measuring to be standardized using the butter stick as a basic unit.
  • Portion control – The sticks made it easy to cut off a specific amount of butter needed for a recipe.
  • Ease of use – The stick shape made butter easy to handle and store in a refrigerator.
  • Wax paper wrapping – The original sticks were wrapped in wax paper which protected the shape and freshness of the butter.

The motivations behind butter sticks were to create a standard unit for measurement, make butter use more practical in the kitchen, and regulate portion sizes. These principles still hold true with butter sticks today.

How Sticks Are Used in Recipes and Cooking

When following recipes, measuring out butter with sticks makes the process straightforward. Here are some examples:

  • If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter, use 1 stick
  • A recipe needing 1 cup butter means 2 sticks
  • 1/4 cup butter equates to 4 tablespoons or 1/2 a stick
  • For 1/3 cup butter, cut slightly less than 3/4 from a stick

Sticks are perforated into tablespoons markings making it easy to cut off the precise amount of butter needed. Pastry chefs and bakers regularly rely on the standard butter sticks for accurately measuring out butter quickly and easily.

For cooking purposes like sautéing vegetables, chefs recommend cutting a chilled stick into chunks to control the melting and regulate how much butter is used. Melting an entire stick in a pan can be excessive for some recipes.

Different Types of Butter Sticks

While salted versus unsalted are the main options, several other types of butter come in stick form:

  • Whipped butter – Whipped for a lighter texture, contains air pockets.
  • European-style – Higher butterfat content with less water.
  • Ghee – Clarified butter common in Indian cooking.
  • Beurre noisette – Browned butter adding a nutty flavor.
  • Flavored butter – Types mixed with herbs, honey, garlic, etc.

The stick shape remains the popular choice across these options for easy measuring. However, whipped butter which is lighter and fluffier may come packed in tubs rather than sticks.

Different Brands Producing 4 oz and 8 oz Sticks

There are countless brands of butter producing sticks in either 4 ounce or 8 ounce sizes. Some top examples include:

4 ounce sticks:

  • Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter
  • Land O’Lakes
  • Challenge Butter
  • Tillamook
  • Cabot Creamery
  • Crystal Farms

8 ounce sticks:

  • Smart Balance Butter
  • Breakstone’s Butter
  • Blue Bonnet
  • Imperial Margarine

The majority of mainstream brands like Kerrygold, Land O’Lakes, and Tillamook produce the 4 ounce sticks. But some brands offer larger 8 ounce sticks marketed for baking purposes where more butter is required.

Price Differences Between 4 oz and 8 oz

There are noticeable price differences between purchasing 4 ounce butter sticks versus the 8 ounce sticks:

  • A pack of 4 – 4 ounce Kerrygold sticks may cost around $4.99.
  • An 8 ounce Kerrygold stick pack may cost $5.99 for 2 sticks.
  • A 4 pack of 4 oz Tillamook sticks averages about $5.49.
  • A 2 pack of 8 oz Tillamook sticks runs about $6.49.

Buying larger 8 ounce sticks often has a higher upfront price, but the per ounce cost is lower. However, the 4 ounce sticks can be more economical if you only need a small amount of butter. Buying in bulk multiples like 4 packs typically brings down the per stick cost as well.

Common Butter Substitutes

Some common butter substitutes also come formed into sticks for easier substitution in recipes:

  • Margarine – Vegetable oil spreads like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter brand.
  • Olive oil sticks – Botticelli and Bertolli brands make these.
  • Coconut oil sticks – For substituting butter in vegan recipes.

The sticks allow the butter alternatives to be measured in the same manner. However, these may use different weight sticks than 4 ounces or 8 ounces, so checking the label is important.

Nutrition Facts: 4 oz vs. 8 oz Sticks

The nutrition facts differ based on the size stick:

4 ounce stick nutrition:

  • Calories: 800
  • Total fat: 88g
  • Saturated fat: 51g
  • Trans fat: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 215mg
  • Sodium: 660mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

8 ounce stick nutrition:

  • Calories: 1600
  • Total fat: 176g
  • Saturated fat: 102g
  • Trans fat: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 430mg
  • Sodium: 1290mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

As shown, the 8 ounce stick simply doubles the amounts of the nutrients versus the 4 ounce size. The main elements are total and saturated fat. Butter is calorie-dense; a 4 ounce stick contains 800 calories while an 8 ounce stick has 1600 calories.

Baking With 4 oz and 8 oz Butter Sticks

When baking with butter, the decision between 4 ounce and 8 ounce sticks impacts recipe yields and nutritionals:

  • Using 8 ounce sticks doubles the amount of butter versus 4 ounces.
  • This doubles the calories, fats, cholesterol, etc. from the butter.
  • Recipes must account for the extra volume and moisture from more butter.
  • For large batch baking, 8 oz sticks mean less measuring and cutting of butter.

If adapting a recipe to use an 8 ounce stick, the wet and dry ingredients likely need adjusting to account for the extra butter. Doubling a small recipe by simply using an 8 ounce stick can throw off the balance.

Is European Butter Sold in 8 oz Sticks?

European style imported butters like Kerrygold are not typically sold in 8 ounce sticks. Rather, these Irish, French, or other imported butters use the European metric weight sticks. Common sizes are:

  • 250 gram stick = 4.4 ounces
  • 500 gram stick = 17.6 ounces

So a 500 gram European style stick is over double the size of an American 8 ounce stick. European butter tends to have a higher butterfat content as well.

Unsalted or Salted Stick Butter?

This comes down to preference, but here are a few distinctions between unsalted and salted butters:

  • Unsalted – Preferred for cooking and baking when you control salt. Fresher taste.
  • Salted – Contains added salt as a preservative. Convenient for spreading on bread.
  • Butter sticks – Available salted and unsalted in both 4 oz and 8 oz.
  • Whipped butter – Often just sold salted. Added air makes it spreadable.

Chefs frequently recommend unsalted butter for cooking and baking so you can control the exact amount of salt added. However, salted butter is fine for general use and tastes great on toast or hot rolls.

Whipping Butter to Soften

Cold butter directly from the refrigerator can be challenging to spread and measure. Whipping butter helps soften it to room temperature quickly:

  • Cut the stick into chunks first to make whipping easier.
  • Use a stand mixer or hand mixer to whip the butter for 1-2 minutes.
  • Whipping aerates the butter, allowing it to cream faster.
  • Letting butter sit at room temp takes much longer to soften.
  • Be careful not to overwhip into a melted mess.

This is a handy technique before creaming butter and sugar when baking. The whipped, malleable consistency integrates sugar faster without chunks.

Storing Butter to Maintain Freshness

Properly storing unused stick butter maintains optimum freshness and flavor:

  • Keep butter tightly wrapped when storing to prevent air exposure.
  • Refrigerate sticks for up to 3-4 months past the “best by” date.
  • Freeze extra sticks for 6-9 months if not using soon.
  • Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations in the fridge.
  • Store sticks in a butter compartment or designated area of the fridge.

Wrapping or sealing sticks in their original packaging prevents butter from absorbing fridge odors. Freezing lengthens shelf life significantly if you buy multipacks on sale.

Signs of Bad Butter

Check for these signs that your butter sticks have spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Mold growth – visible fuzzy spots or darker discoloration
  • Rancid smell – harsh, unpleasant odor indicates spoilage
  • Separation – watery liquid or clear grease floating on top
  • Texture changes – appears clumpy, grainy, or gelatinous
  • Off color – shifted from bright yellow to pale or faded

Properly stored, wrapped butter can maintain quality in the fridge or freezer for many months. But if you notice any of these red flags, it’s best to play it safe and throw the sticks out.

Butter Stick FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about butter sticks:

Why are some butter sticks long instead of short & wide?

Long, thin “European style” sticks make it easier to slice pats off the end. The shape fits better in narrow butter dishes.

Can butter be refrozen after thawing?

It’s best not to refreeze thawed butter. Refreezing causes more deterioration in texture and moisture.

How long does butter last unrefrigerated?

Left out on the counter, butter can last 2-3 days but quality declines quickly. Refrigeration extends shelf life greatly.

What is cultured butter?

Cultured butter is churned from cream fermented with live bacterial cultures, creating a tangy, yogurt-like flavor.

Is butter made from goat’s milk or other milks?

Goat butter, sheep butter, and other specialty animal milk butters are made, but cow milk butter dominates worldwide production.


While both 4 ounce and 8 ounce sticks are common, the 4 ounce (or 1/2 cup) size remains the standard butter stick in the United States. When purchasing butter make sure to check the size markings on the packaging. The nutritionals, baking utility, and pricing differ between the two sizes. Whipped butter and European style sticks may come in other sizes based on location. Knowing if a recipe calls for the smaller or larger stick prevents baking failures or any need to adjust ingredient amounts. With proper refrigerated storage, butter sticks can maintain quality for months beyond the “sell by” date.

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