What Is A Knob Of Butter?

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If you love watching culinary shows and diving into old cookbooks, you may have come across the expression “a knob of butter.” But how many of us know how much butter is considered to be a knob? 

What is a knob of butter? A knob of butter is an imprecise measurement of butter coming from old cookbooks. A knob of butter may contain 1-4 tablespoons of butter. This measurement is used for such cooking tasks as making an omelet, basting a steak, and other tasks that don’t require precision. 

Keep reading to learn how to measure a knob of butter, how exact of a measurement it is, and how many calories it contains. You will also learn more precise ways of measuring butter!

Where Did The Expression “A Knob Of Butter” Come From?

If you’re into cooking, you probably watch a lot of cooking shows. You may have heard your favorite British chefs use the word “knob” to describe the amount of butter they are using. 

If you’re like us, you may have wondered what “a knob of butter” means and how much it is. 

First off, don’t think of a door knob. You don’t need to use such a big piece of butter! In fact, there isn’t a type of knob we would recommend you think about when trying to decide how much a knob of butter is. 

Another popular question about this expression is where it comes from — a knob of butter is a holdover from old cookbooks.  

Unlike modern recipes that state the exact amounts of ingredients to be used, old cookbook writers assumed that you already have some cooking skills and know how much butter you should use for that particular dish. 

With all this being said, old cookbooks did have some precise measurements for recipes, including measuring units such as gill, pounds, quarts, etc. 

While the expression “a knob of butter” was widely used in the past, you may still encounter it in modern recipes or cooking shows. 

Because a knob of butter is not a precise measurement, it is used for cooking recipes and not for baking. We all know how important it is to measure your ingredients when baking! 

How Much Is A Knob Of Butter?

The amount of butter meant by “a knob of butter” largely depends on your imagination. However, there is a general agreement among cooks that a knob of butter is an amount between 1-4 tablespoons. 

If the recipe tells you to use a small knob of butter, use 1-2 tablespoons of butter. For a large knob of butter, use 3-4 tablespoons. A tiny knob of butter, on the other hand, can be as little as half a teaspoon of room-temperature butter. 

If you are measuring butter in grams, aim for using 12-25 grams of butter whenever a recipe tells you to add a knob of butter to the pan. 

How Do You Measure A Knob Of Butter?

A “knob” is an instinctive measurement of butter. People who use this phrase know exactly how much butter they mean. But other people may imagine a knob of butter differently!

For this reason, it is important that you know how to measure a knob of butter. 

If the butter is soft, use a tablespoon to measure a knob. Measuring a knob of butter is easier if you store your butter at room temperature. Use a dining spoon to scoop out butter. The amount you have on the spoon will be a knob of butter. 

Butter that has been stored in the fridge will be rather cold and hard and difficult to measure with a spoon. In this case, use a knife to cut out a piece of butter from the end of the butter stick. 

Many butter wrappings come with butter measurements in tablespoons, but some others come without measurements.

To divide a butter stick into tablespoon sections, cut it in half first. Then cut each piece into quarters. You will get 8 pieces of butter each measuring a tablespoon

If you have already removed the wrapping, it would be easier to allow the butter to soften a bit and then measure it with a spoon. Or, just eyeball it! Don’t take a knob of butter too seriously. 

Another way to measure a knob of butter is to add an amount of butter that will cover the bottom of the pan when melted. You would use a knob of butter to fry an egg, sauté vegetables, or add it to the steak to add richness to it.

How Exact Is A Knob Of Butter?

A knob of butter is certainly not an exact measurement used for butter. It is used to indicate an unspecified amount of butter, like saying “a pinch of salt.”

We understand the approximate amount of butter meant by “a knob,” but the exact measurements may differ from person to person. 

A knob of butter is used in recipes where the exact amount of butter isn’t of great importance. 

So, when a recipe tells you to use a knob of butter, don’t worry about using an exact amount. Just add enough butter to cook the food. In other words, eyeball it! 

How Many Calories Does A Knob Of Butter Contain?

A tablespoon of butter contains around 100 calories. A knob of butter may contain 100-400 calories depending on how big of a knob you use.

So if you are watching your diet, aim for small knobs of butter. 

Other Ways To Measure Butter 

Measuring butter with knobs isn’t a good idea for recipes where you need precision or if you are counting your calorie intake.

Here are ways to measure butter precisely! 

Measure Butter By Sticks 

The majority of butter sold in the United States comes in sticks. It will be easy and quick to measure butter by sticks if you learn how much butter is in a stick! 

A stick of butter is ½ cup, 8 tablespoons, 4 ounces, or 113 grams — make sure to check, though, as some butter comes in 8-ounce bricks.

If a recipe tells you to use 1 cup of butter, use 2 sticks. If you need to use 4 tablespoons of butter, use half of the stick, etc. 

Use Scales 

If you want to be super precise, use a kitchen scale to measure butter.

Digital scales are particularly handy if you bake often. Precision in measuring the ingredients is one way to ensure consistent baking results. 

Measure Softened Butter Using A Measuring Cup

The easiest way to measure softened butter is by using a measuring cup.

Scoop softened butter into a measuring cup using a spatula. Avoid air gaps to be as precise as possible and level off the top to be exact. 

Use A Kitchen Conversion Chart

Lastly, use a kitchen conversion chart for precise measurements. Different countries measure butter by different units. In the US, butter is measured by sticks while in other countries it is measured in grams, ounces, and cups. 

Checking a kitchen conversion chart will help you make easy conversions and allow you to use different recipes successfully no matter what units of measurements the author uses for butter. 

Use The Water Displacement Method 

The water displacement method is not the most convenient method to use to measure butter, but it works great for measuring irregular pieces of butter when you don’t have scales at hand. 

To measure butter using water, fill a measuring cup with a cup of water (8 fluid ounces). Put the butter pieces you need to measure in the measuring cup. 

Deduct 8 ounces from the new volume of the water. The result will be the volume of butter you have! You can then convert it into cups, tablespoons, or ounces. 

Related Questions

Now that we know what “a knob of butter” means and how to interpret it when cooking, here are some additional questions we thought you might have.

What is a dob of butter?

The expression “a dob of butter” is not as common as “a knob of butter,” though you may still hear some people use it to describe the amount of butter you need to use. 

The word “dob” means “a small amount of something” — this is an even more vague measurement of butter than a knob!

Whenever you are told to use a dob of butter, eyeball a small amount of butter and use your culinary instincts. You can use 1-2 teaspoons of butter whenever you need to use a dob of butter. 

How much is a pat of butter?

A pat of butter refers to individual servings of butter. It may come in foil or plastic packaging or be shaped into a ball. 

A pat of butter typically contains 1-1.5 tablespoons of butter, so there is some overlap with a knob of butter in terms of the amount. 

Do you measure butter melted or solid?

If you are new to baking, you may be confused about how you should measure butter.

Whenever a recipe calls for melted butter, measure the butter in the solid form and only then melt it. You can also soften the butter and measure it using a measuring cup. 

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