What Is a Butter Paddle?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A butter paddle is a tool used in traditional butter making; it is also sometimes called a butter hand or Scotch hand. Typically made from wood, the utensil has a broad blade and a short handle. In some cases, the blade of the paddle may be marked with a series of small ridges, which make the tool more versatile around the kitchen. Some kitchen supply stores sell these, and the tool can also be custom-ordered from companies which specialize in butter making utensils.


When butter is made by hand, the process has multiple steps, starting with allowing the milk to sit so that the cream rises to the top. The cream is churned to solidify it, causing chunks of butter to start floating on the top of the liquid in the butter churn. These chunks are pulled out with a ladle and worked with a butter paddle to remove all of the excess liquid which might be trapped inside of them. The butter is rinsed with clear, cold water while the butter is worked.

Using a butter paddle ensures that the butter is pure butter, without pockets of liquid or air. This is extremely important, because residual buttermilk can cause butter to go rancid. It also firms the texture of the butter, allowing it to be easily packed into butter molds. When packing, the paddle is used to firmly tamp the butter down so that it evenly fills the entire butter mold.

Many consumers do not make their own butter, because it requires a great deal of milk and butter is readily available in grocery stores. Learning to make butter can be an interesting experience, however, and it can give consumers a new appreciation for the work which goes into butter making. Many consumers cheat and use a food processor instead of a butter churn for the churning process, but the butter will still need to be worked with a butter paddle to yield a storable product.

There are other uses for a butter paddle around the kitchen. Ridged paddles are often used to create ridged patterns or lines in other foods, ranging from cake frosting to pasta. The tool can also be utilized in the production of other foods which need to be worked, such as doughs. In pasta making, the butter paddle is used to make the classic lines in gnocci and garganelli pasta, which help these pasta shapes retain sauce.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


It's funny how if you make butter at home with a food processor it is cheating, but then it goes on to say nothing bad about the butter that is made in factories. Yeah, like the companies pay people to churn butter by hand.

If anything, buying butter from the store is cheating if you're not making it at home, by what ever way you choose.


@Mor - I've only made butter once, but I remember it fondly. I was on a day trip with a group of Japanese exchange students and we were at a public farm. It was the kind of place where they shear a sheep in front of you to show you how it's done, and let you taste honey straight from the comb after collecting it and so on.

They let us each try milking a cow by hand, and then brought us out some cream in closed containers. I guess they didn't have time for us to milk enough to make our own cream.

Then, the rest of the day we passed around the containers and shook them.

We saw them use a butter paddle as a demonstration of butter making tools, but our little bits of butter were just eaten as really unhealthy snacks. I guess they didn't have to worry about getting all the liquid out of it, since they weren't going to store the stuff.


I remember making my own butter when I was a kid. We did it a few times at home, I think just so we could experience it, rather than because my parents thought it was necessary.

It was quite satisfying, but it took forever, particularly for a child. We would sit in front of the TV and do it while we were watching our Saturday morning cartoons.

We didn't use wooden butter paddles though, I think because my parents just wanted us to understand where butter came from.

We just turned the cream into a substance that resembled butter, and then ate it on crackers with some cheese.

The eating was the best part!

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