The Physics
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Melting Point of Butter

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Belitz, Hans-Dieter and Grosch, Werner. Food Chemistry. New York: Springer, 1999: 485. [Look at the table below: Melting Characteristics of Butterfat] < 40 °C
Francis, Frederick J. "Butter and Butter Products." Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology. Indiana: Wiley, 2000: 226. "Butter samples made from low melting liquid fractions and from a combination of primarily low melting liquid fractions and a small amount of high melting solid fractions exhibited good spreadability at refrigerator temperature (4 °C) but were almost melted at room temperature (21 °C)." 21 °C
Butter: The Natural Choice. 13 May 2003. "Melting Point: 82.4–96.8 °F (28–36 °C)
Analysis: Melting point measures the temperature range at which a solid becomes a liquid. Butter's narrow melting range provides a sharp melting curve, for a quick flavor release and smooth mouthfeel."
28–36 °C
Difference betweeen butter and margarine, including melting points. ochef. com. 13 May 2003. "The melting point of butter is between 90 °F and 95 °C (32 °C and 35 °C)." 32–35 °C
I determined the melting point of butter myself.
Melting Point (°C)
trial 1 trial 2
33 38
35.5 °C

Butter is a fatty food extracted from cream that was first produced sometime around 2000 BCE In ancient Rome people used it as hairdressing or skin cream and elsewhere in ancient times it was used as an ointment and medicine. Nowadays, butter is primarily used as a tasty spread for bread and as an ingredient in many baked foods. There are three steps into the butter-making process: pasteurization (which kills harmful bacteria and prevents spoilage), churning (a continuous process done by large machines that rapidly beat the cream to separate the fat from the water), and packaging.

Butter contains fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. There are over 120 different compounds in which contribute to butter's unique flavor, such as lactones, fatty acids, diacetyl, methyl ketones, and dimethyl sulfide (the primary factors responsible for its flavor). Butter consists of at least 82% butterfat, a fat that is found in milk and cream, and at most 16% water. A small amount of salt is also added to most butters. (The presence of salt lowers the melting point slightly.) Many countries over the world have used butter. However, butter consumption has dropped over the years due to its association with health problems, such as obesity and heart disease.

The point at which butter begins to melt lies between 21 °C and 40 °C. The larger amount of short-chain fatty acids in butter indicates sharpness in the melting curve. From the table below, the solid content percentage varies with the temperature at which it melts, an indication that butter doesn't have a definite melting point.

Table: Melting Characteristics of Butterfat
Temperature (°C) Solid Content (%) Temperature (°C) Solid Content (%)
5 43–47 30 6–8
10 40–43 35 1–2
20 21–22 40 0

I determined the melting point of butter by the following process:

  1. Hold a test tube containing a small quantity of butter into a half-filled beaker with water. Heat the water slowly in a beaker. Keep shaking the tube gently. As soon as the butter melts, remove the tube from the water and check the temperature with a thermometer.
  2. Repeat the experiment twice.
    1. Melting point of butter: 33 degrees Celsius
    2. Melting point of butter: 38 degrees Celsius
  3. Melting point of butter (average) from the two trials: (33 °C + 38 °C)/2 = 35.5 °C

Jessica Cheung -- 2003

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