Cooks already know that measurements for ingredients must be precise in order for the dish to turn out right, so when the instructions say to use a “knob” of butter, it’s easy to get confused.
What Is a ‘Knob’?
As a general rule, a knob is meant as an unspecified amount, as in an amount used to grease a pan or brown some meat. Some people think that a knob of butter is two tablespoons, while others swear that it is two teaspoons, yet there is a big difference between these two amounts.
If you use between half an ounce and a full ounce of butter, that is generally enough to be considered a knob.
In the U.S., butter is often sold in sticks, with four sticks in a box. Each stick is one-quarter of a pound (four ounces). So if you cut off one-eighth to one-quarter of that stick, you’ve got yourself a knob of butter. (In other countries, a quarter-pound of butter might be called 113 grams.)
A ‘Knob’ Is for Cooking, Not Baking
Keep in mind that the term “knob” is usually used in cooking and not in baking, since the latter requires very exact measurements for all ingredients. This should ease your mind a bit whenever you see this instruction in your recipe. Often, a knob of butter is used when you sauté something or when you’re instructed to put some butter on top of a steak or other piece of meat. For these purposes, the amount you use doesn’t have to be exact.
You might also see instructions that call for a “small” or “large” knob of butter, but using your best judgment should allow for a great dish in the end. In the U.S., most people use one or two tablespoons of butter when a knob is required.
Some recipes may say to “dot with butter.” We explain what dot with butter means in a separate article.