ingenious design

I Found an Even Better Butter-Spreading Knife

MoMA Butterup Knife - Strategist Butterup Knife Review 2018
It transforms even cold butter into delicate curlicues. Photo: Courtesy of MoMA

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the Strategist in April 2018, and over two years later, it remains an example of a product that does what it’s supposed to do — exceptionally well. So we’re republishing it today, as part of Ingenious Design Week.

Last fall, on this very site (in fact, right below), I encouraged anyone who cared about perfecting a smooth and even schmear to purchase this spreading knife. I said it’d do a better job than your regular butter knife; I said you needed it. And look, I stand behind that story — it’s a good, solid, reliable knife. But I’d be remiss, negligent even, if I didn’t update you with my recent findings. My morning-toast experience has reached new and unthinkable heights thanks to the Butterup Knife.

Even though it’s MoMA-made (meaning for the uptown crowd), plebes like me can purchase it on Amazon or at the MoMA store (though that will cost $8 shipping). And please consider doing so because it has a very special design feature — tiny little holes along the perimeter of the knife that might not look like much but are completely magical. When you dig into a cold stick, the row of circles breaks even straight-from-the-fridge butter into the most delicate little curlicues. It not only makes butter immediately usable but renders it superior the way warm butter is always superior to cold — sliceable, spreadable, and perfectly meltable on just-crisped toast.

It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it (it’d actually make a great Mother’s Day gift for a food-snob mom). You might think that you’re fine with the butter knife you’ve got. You might even think that you’re fine with the butter knife I told you to get (I did!). But after having read my previous piece on the lack of good spreading knives at my boyfriend’s house, my mother was indignant. “How does this man not have a decent butter knife?” she asked me over the phone. So, on Christmas morning, my mother gifted my boyfriend with his very first spreading knife — the Butterup. “You’ve got yourself a real butter knife now,” my mother said, howling with laughter. I was skeptical. “Why didn’t you get him the one we’ve used for years?” I asked, protective of tradition. “Trust me,” she said, “Just trust me, Collier.”

Of course, my mother was as right as she’d ever been. Our new MoMA knife makes us butter art every morning.

The First Butter Knife

I’ve had plenty of overnights at my boyfriend’s apartment when he’ll offer me toast and tea (I don’t drink coffee). I’m grateful for the hospitality, but of course, there’s just one problem: He doesn’t own spreading knives. Using a butter knife to spread still-cold butter on my toast means that it inevitably gets clumped on my bread; some bites have only the faintest taste of butter, while other parts feel like eating globs of fat. It looks a fright, but worse, I have to take giant bites to create a more acceptable bread-to-butter ratio in my mouth. This is in part the fault of Americans’ obsession with refrigeration, but it’s also because of bad knives. If only he owned a set of spreading knives.

The spreading knife is not a butter knife, though it does a far better job of applying a thin layer of the stuff than the cutlery that actually has butter in the name. It looks more like a metal spatula — the kind you’d use to frost a cupcake — only with a slightly serrated edge. My mother actually was my spreading-knife evangelist; our family has had one in our kitchen for as long as I can remember. When I was young and dumb, I would take out a butter knife to add cream cheese to my Murray’s Sturgeon Sunday bagels, only to have my mother yank the knife out of my hand and replace it with a spreading knife. The spreading knife yielded the perfect schmear — unlike a butter knife (which is too narrow to allow you to spread with precision), the wider surface area of the spreading knife ensured that no part of the bagel was thicker with cream cheese than others. Each bite was an equal-opportunity flavor experience.

You don’t even have to use it exclusively with cream cheese or butter. I’ve used it to spread Brie on bread for dinner-party guests; I’ve brought it along on hikes in the woods to spread tuna salad on wheat. It’s great for peanut butter and jelly, mayonnaise in a BLT, or just leveling some brownie batter. Actually, it does everything the butter knife is supposed to, only well.

Chef Tour Wide H Stainless Steel Sandwich and Butter Spreader, Set of 4

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I Found an Even Better Butter-Spreading Knife