Recipes often instruct the cook to “dot” the top of baked desserts with butter for extra richness and browning. But cutting the butter into small pieces and then sprinkling them over the dish with warm hands can be a messy proposition. Instead, keep a stick of butter, in its wrapper, in the freezer. When a recipe calls for dotting with a certain quantity of butter, peel back the wrapper and use a paring knife to mark the proper amount. Then, using the large holes of a flat grater, grate the butter directly over the baking dish, distributing it evenly.
Many recipes call for chilled butter cut into small dice. Although this sounds easy enough, the butter can soften if you start chopping away with abandon. To handle the task quickly and efficiently, cut the butter lengthwise into 3 even strips, then separate the strips and cut each lengthwise into thirds. Then stack the strips on top of each other and cut them crosswise into a small dice.
Use a vegetable peeler to grace the top of a dish with butter, shaving the desired amount from a frozen stick of butter and letting the pieces fall onto the food in fine curls. Like these? See more quick tips at Cook's Illustrated.