Why I Love Using a Butter Bell

In this post, I am sharing my favorite butter bell that we use to keep our butter spreadable and fresh for everyday use.

Have you ever been frustrated by butter being so hard that you’re destroying a piece of bread or toast rather than spreading the butter on it?

Enter the butter bell! With this inexpensive little dish we keep our butter soft and fresh at all times.

Keep reading about my favorite brand of butter bell and tips on how to use it to make the most out of it!

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Why use a butter crock or butter bell

Here, at our gabled home, we love butter! With the raw milk that we get each week, we are able to skim off the cream and make delicious butter both with modern appliances and an old-fashioned butter churn.

However, even though we used to keep our butter in the dedicated butter compartment of our refrigerator, the butter would be very hard. In fact, so hard that a piece of fresh, homemade bread would break apart.

Now that we have been using a butter bell, we can keep butter on our kitchen counter where it stays spreadable and fresh for up to a month. Best of all, it is surprisingly easy to use!

butter bell with butter and knife next to it

What is the difference between a butter bell, butter crock, and French butter keeper?

Actually, there is none! These are just different words for the same kind of butter dish or butter keeper.

The word butter bell refers to the shape of the part that holds the butter.

The word butter crock, however, refers more to the material of earthenware that they are made of.

And the term “French butter keeper” simply refers to a method of keeping butter. Apparently, the French started using this kind of dish in the late 19th century (read more here).

How does a butter bell or butter crock work?

Whatever you call it, they all work by the same principle:

You have a two-piece dish. One is the “bell” that you fill with butter. The other is the bottom that you fill with a little bit of cold water. Then you invert the bell part into the bottom part and keep this butter crock on your kitchen counter.

The water in the bottom part of the butter bell creates an airtight seal. You see, air or oxygen is what makes the butter go rancid. Since there will be no air coming in, the butter stays fresh longer.

Also, the water gently cools by evaporation. Even though you are keeping the butter bell at room temperature, the butter will have the perfect consistency for spreading or using.

butter bell fill line

How to press the into the butter bell or butter crock

It is a good idea to start with somewhat soft butter. So take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature or close.

Then, take a spoon and press the butter into the top part of the butter bell with the back of the spoon. It helps to go slow to eliminate any air pockets. You can keep going until you have filled the entire top part.

How often to change the water in the butter crock

With the butter in the top part, you will fill the bottom of the butter bell with water. Some butter crocks have little lines to show the fill height. If yours doesn’t have that, simply fill the bottom part about ½ inch with water.

Make sure that the water is at least room temperature or cooler. If it is too warm, you can always add an ice cube to it.

Then make sure to change the water every 2-3 days.

How long does the butter stay fresh in a butter bell

If you change the water in the butter crock every 2-3 days, your butter will stay fresh for up to one month. However, I would like to think that will be going through your butter faster than that!

Sometimes, it can help to add a little bit of salt or vinegar to the water in the butter bell. This will not affect that taste of the butter!

Will the butter bell work with homemade butter?

As I have said above, we love making our own butter and make it at least once a week. That involves churning the cream until the fat separates from the whey, washing the butter, and pressing the water out.

No matter how much time I spend pressing the water out of my butter with butter paddles, I seem to never get it as “dry” as store-bought butter.

That means, that when I press the homemade butter into the butter bell, tiny bits of water comes out in the process. That makes it a bit more challenging to make the butter stick to the bell.

What I have found helpful is placing the butter on a paper towel, wrapping it, and gently squeezing it in my hands. That will squeeze the water right into the paper towel. Then I repeat the process I mentioned above: using the back of a spoon and pressing the butter into the bell.

What kinds of butter work best in a butter crock or butter bell?

If we don’t make our own butter, we love using Kerrygold butter. It is a European-style butter with a higher fat content that makes it extremely creamy. But any good American butter will work, too!

If you like using something very spreadable such as Land-O-Lakes butter spread, that will not work well with these butter crocks. These types of butter become softer and more spreadable with the addition of vegetable oils. You should be able to see that on the ingredients list.

Also, margarine does not work with a butter bell.

Even though I haven’t tried it myself, I understand that even ghee (clarified butter) or whipped butter are not recommended for use in butter bells.

butter bell with butter

Tips and tricks for using a butter crock

Keeping butter in a butter bell on the kitchen counter works best if the temperature in your kitchen is 80˚F (27˚C) or less. Should the temperature be higher, you can always add an ice cube to the water. However, that will only last so long, so check your butter regularly.

You also want to make sure to keep the butter crock away from heat such as your stove or a spot with direct sunlight. Ideally, you want to keep it in the coolest part of your kitchen.

When you first get your butter crock or in between uses, you will wash it. Just make sure the butter bell is completely dry on the inside before filling it. Otherwise, the butter will not stick to it!

Also, I recommend not pressing new butter into existing butter in your butter bell as it may not adhere well and fall into the water.

If your butter falls into the water, that is no big deal! Simply follow the steps I have outlined above for use with homemade butter!

spreading butter on cracker

How much does a butter bell cost?

At the time of writing this post, you can obtain a butter crock for as little as $10 and spend up to about $50 for it. Of course, there are so many choices in between. You can find a quality butter bell for less than $20.

Butter Bell Review

These are the butter crocks that I have reviewed:

  • Butter Bell – The Original Butter Bell Crock by L. Tremain, S25.95 – this is the most expensive one of the four that I reviewed. It has a clean design but does not have the fill line on the inside of the bottom. The manufacturer says that it will hold 1 stick of butter. It does come in 13 colors. Given that, the lack of a fill line, and the high price, it is not my favorite one.
  • DOWAN Porcelain Butter Keeper Crock, $16.99 – this is another nice one made of porcelain. It might have the biggest capacity of them (1 ½ sticks of butter according to the manufacturer). You can get it in 4 different colors. It has a bit of a mason-jar look but I find that the wide size of the lid might make it harder for smaller hands to grab it securely. Therefore, this isn’t my first choice.
  • White Handmade Marble French Butter Storage Crock, $21.49 – if you love marble, then this one might be for you! It certainly is a nice statement piece in your kitchen. Because of the material, it is heavier than the other ones, so I might be more worried about dropping it. It does come in 4 different colors but it does not have a fill line. Given that, this is not my favorite one.
  • Sweese 305.101 Porcelain Butter Keeper Crock, $13.59 – this one has a very nice, clean design. The porcelain might be just a tad off-white but I feel it would work well in any white kitchen. It does come in 8 different colors. According to the manufacturer, it holds 1 ⅓ sticks of butter. It does have a fill line. Given that, the nice design, and the affordable price makes this my top choice in this review!

I hope I have given you enough details for you to make your own choice. In any event, all these butter crocks are beautiful and do a good job at keeping your butter soft and fresh!

Other posts you might like:

How to make butter the old-fashioned way

Butter from a 1912 recipe

Artisan-style sourdough bread

Old-fashioned Kitchen Items I actually use

Best Homestead Kitchen Tools

Let me know below if you have any questions or comments!

Pin For Later:

How to use a butter bell


  1. I have been using a butter bell for over 20 years & love it! My daughter recently purchased one with a few holes in the part where the butter goes. Does she need to add water high enough to cover those holes to prevent bacteria? What is the purpose of the holes? Thank you so much!

  2. This has definitely got me thinking about how I store butter… I often get so frustrated trying to spread hard butter on bread! Thanks for the info.

  3. This was so fascinating. I’ve been intrigued to get one, but didn’t really understand how it worked. Thank you so much for explaining it and giving so many good recommendations! 🙂

  4. Love this so much. I loved reading all about this as I have never heard about a butter bell. I truly enjoy reading all your posts every week because all your posts are so informative. Thanks for sharing.

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