Want butter that’s spreadable the second you need it? Butter that doesn’t take on the other flavours of your fridge (buh-bye buttered toast with garlic notes). And butter that stays fresh for up to a month? You need a French butter bell.
I used to keep butter on my counter in a mini-sized butter dish. The small volume of the dish was great because we could finish the butter before it spoiled. On the other hand, it felt like we were constantly refilling it. And in the summer, the warm temperature meant that it often became too soft.
Then I discovered the butter bell, also known as a butter crock. Made of two parts that fit together, it keeps butter fresh for up a month. The design couldn’t be simpler. The lid has a cup attached to it that you smoosh butter into, and the base holds water, which forms an airtight seal with the lid when the two are put together. This water seal is the secret to why the butter stays fresh: no oxygen = no spoilage. The water also helps keep the butter a consistent temperature, meaning it stays spreadable but not melty. The hardest part is remembering to change the water twice a week.
I’m loyal to the Le Creuset version (they call it a butter crock; it retails for $55). I had a less-expensive one before it, which worked fine, but the Le Creuset butter crock has several advantages my old one. First: The base has a little fill line so you know exactly how much water to pour in, instead of guessing and ending up with frequent spill overs (totally speaking from experience). Another is a tiny air hole in the lid. I don’t know exactly what the hole is for, but I think it helps keep the butter a more consistent temperature. The cute Le Creuset colours don’t hurt either. And because this stoneware crock is finished with a non-porous enameled glaze, it doesn’t absorb cooking odours—so your butter always tastes like delicious butter, and nothing else.
How to use a butter bell
For best results, let your butter come up to room temperature and then use the back of a spoon to pack it in. If you just cut off a butter chunk and drop it in, it’ll end up falling out when you turn the lid over—trust me on this. The Le Creuset crock holds up to a stick and a half of butter, but it still works if you use less. Once the butter is packed in, pour water into the base to the fill line (if you don’t have a fill line, about a quarter-inch of water is all you need) and then invert the lid into the base. Give it a quick wash (it’s dishwasher safe) between butter changes and you’re all set. This is one stylish and practical kitchen item you won’t mind taking up counter space.
Originally published April 2018; Updated May 2019.