The term “room temperature” shows up a lot in our recipes. Often in baking recipes, we call for butter, eggs, and occasionally milk and cream to be at room temperature so they cream/incorporate better and produce a desired effect in the final baked good. And we often call for letting yeasted doughs rise at room temperature.
But what exactly does that mean? When we test recipes, we assume 67 degrees is room temperature.
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While you don’t have to adjust your thermostat every time you bake, we do suggest you remain aware of your cooking environment. If you live in a warm climate, breads and other things that rise at “room temperature” will likely reach a visual cue (such as “doubled in size”) on the shorter end of a recipe’s time range. And you may want to let butter soften in a cooler area of your kitchen or not let it sit out too long.
Conversely, if you live in a cold climate or keep the thermostat turned down, yeasted doughs will take longer to proof and we’d advise you to soften butter in the warmest parts of your kitchen (typically near your stove or a sunny window).
As for butter, depending on how cool you keep your refrigerator, it is typically around 40 degrees right out of the fridge. After 2 hours of sitting on the counter, butter is around 67 degrees and is considered “room temperature”; it should give slightly when pressed (as shown in the image below). Butter that has been sitting in the sun or near a heat source starts to lose its shape (and become too soft for most baking recipes) at around 72 degrees.
The bottom line: Room temperature varies, so we use 67 degrees as a guide. But as long as you follow the visual cues given in a recipe, you’ll be able to adjust to the temperature of your room.