If a dish doesn't contain at least a little bit of butter, I don't even want to look at it.
Kidding! But think about it...
You put butter on bread and bagels. Quesadillas before you grill them. You lay down butter in a pan before you sautee vegetables.
And obviously, you can't bake much of anything without butter.
The problem is, it's easy to overlook the calories you're getting from cooking with butter, especially when you're scooping it right out of the tub.
But there are some pretty easy ways to keep track and nail your macros if you measure properly. Here are my favorite ways to measure butter from a tub (in order):
- Use a measuring spoon
- Use a food scale
- Use water displacement
- Use division
- Eyeball it
The importance of accurately measuring butter, margarine, and other shortenings
The most effective diet and nutrition programs require you to be pretty on target with your calories.
And on these programs, the margins are usually small.
- A good cutting or weight loss program will usually put you in a 300-500 calorie deficit
- A good bulking program will put you in a 200-300 calorie surplus
Those aren't huge windows! If you're off (and let's face it, it's usually way easier to go over) by just a little bit, your weight loss could totally stall. Or if you're eating too much on a bulk, you'll end up with a lot of excess fat.
And butter from a tub is DEFINITELY one of the main culprits of underestimating your calories.
One tablespoon of butter has around 100 calories. That's a lot of calories packed in a small amount of space.
If you're scooping haphazardly and not paying close attention to how much butter you're cooking with, you could easily add an extra 200 or 300 calories to your dinner without even realizing it.
Use the tips below to get a better read on how much butter you're using. They may not always be 100% precise, but they'll get you a lot closer to your target.
1. Use a measuring spoon
This is by far the simplest method on the list for measuring butter.
It comes with a little room for error but should get you very close to the measurement you actually want to use.
Most butters and margarines you buy from the store will use 1 Tablespoon as their serving size.
And they'll list the exact calorie count for this amount on the side of the tub, under Nutritional Facts.
Simply scoop the butter straight from the tub and into the measuring spoon. Be sure to pack it in tight enough and scrape off the top... a heaping tablespoon will be too much.
If you don't have an actual tablespoon laying around, here are the most common conversions you'll need to get an accurate measurement:
- 1 cup = 16 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon = .33 tablespoons (so 3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon)
2. Use a food scale
If you don't have measuring spoons laying around, or if your recipe calls for a very specific amount of butter, you might find it helpful to eliminate the uncertainty and weigh the butter on a food scale.
The easiest way to weigh butter on a scale:
- Place a small plate or bowl on the food scale
- Use the "tare" function to zero out the scale (eliminating the weight of the container)
- Add butter to the scale until you reach your desired grams or ounces
And speaking of conversions, as we did above, here's an incredibly helpful resource that tells you how much basically any amount of butter should weigh in either grams or ounces. Some common conversions that might help:
- 1 tablespoon butter = 14.2g = .5oz
- 1 cup butter = 225g = 8oz
- 1 teaspoon butter = 4.7g = .02oz
- 1 pound butter = 450g = 16oz
This is the exact food scale (Amazon link) that I use on an everyday basis and love. It's affordable and super functional.
3. Use the water displacement method
OK, so this one sounds a little kooky, but it's actually REALLY handy and quite clever.
If you don't have a food scale or measuring spoons, surely you have a simple measuring cup in the cupboard.
Here's how you can use water displacement via your measuring cup to perfectly measure butter straight out of the tub:
- Fill the measuring cup with 1 cup water
- Add butter directly to the water until water level rises to the desired amount
- Example: If you need 1/4 cup of butter, add butter until the water line hits 1 1/4 cups
- Drain the water
- Scoop the butter out of the measuring cup
You can do this with almost any (small) amount of butter. Just make sure you adjust your starting amount of water so that all of the butter is submerged.
(Water displacement won't be accurate if some of the butter is peeking out of the surface of the water.)
It seems weird, but the water slides right off the butter, leaving it perfectly usable for cooking immediately after this measuring trick.
4. Divide the tub into equal servings
This one isn't nearly as accurate as the previous 3 tricks, but it should get you relatively close.
For the division method (which is a fancy way of eyeballing), you're going to use your butter's Nutritional Facts section to come up with a good estimate.
Most standard sized tubs of butter or margarine have about 16 servings inside, with a serving being 1 tablespoon in most cases.
(Yours may differ depending on brand or size.)
Trying to eyeball 1/16th of a tub of butter is nearly impossible. But here's how you can use this quick hack to make it easier (for a standard, 16 serving tub):
- Open the tub of butter
- Using a knife or fork, draw a cross or X in the butter that divides it into 4 equal parts.
- Optionally, you could draw 2 more lines to divide the butter into 8 parts.
- If you stick with 4 parts, simply remove about a quarter of that section of butter to get 1 tablespoon
- Adjust these instructions as needed
This really only works if you mark the butter when it's fresh and hasn't been used yet.
But it can be adjusted for most tubs. For example, I have a tub of margarine in my fridge right now that has 15, 1 tablespoon servings inside. In this case, I'd divide the tub into 3 equal sections (instead of 4), and scoop out 1/5th of a section to get a tablespoon.
It's not an exact science, but if you're very precise, this isn't a bad method!
5. Just eyeball it!
If you just don't have the time, patience, or any of the equipment to make the above tips work, you can always just learn to eyeball a serving of butter from the tub.
(Or, you could weigh it out on a food scale once to get an idea of what 1 tablespoon looks like, for example, and then just go by eye from then on.)
In general, a large sized normal dinner spoon is roughly equivalent to a tablespoon when the top of the butter fills the spoon and is slightly rounded on the top, but not heaping.
If you need a bit more, a standard coffee mug (not tall), is around 8oz... which should be just enough to hold a cup of butter.
This is probably as close as you'll need to get in most cases.
Another helpful tip for eyeballing cooking sizes: Turn a soda or beer can upside down. The little impression at the bottom is almost exactly the size of a tablespoon!
Always remember to count calories from oil, butter, shortenings, sauce, and seasonings.
They could be completely blowing your diet without you even realizing it.
Butter from a tub can be a bit tricky to measure exactly, but these tips should get you in the ballpark.
Hope this helps!