Cream cheese can be a real pain to work with. You have probably had a recipe call for cream cheese to be beaten with a mixer. You know what a frustrating battle it can be if you have ever tried to hand mix cream cheese fresh out of the refrigerator. Your hand almost falls off before you get the cream cheese to a smooth texture. Fortunately, there are ways to soften cream cheese to make your baking or cooking experience much easier.
How To Soften Cream Cheese
Option 1: Place the unwrapped 8-ounce cream cheese in the microwave for on high for 10 seconds on a microwave safe plate. Remove it from the microwave and test for softness. Return the cream cheese to the microwave for another 10 seconds if it is not soften enough. Repeat with 5 second heat times until the cream cheese is soft enough for your liking. About 20-25 seconds seems to work best for most microwaves.
Option 2: The obvious solution (but one I always forget to do) is to leave it out on the counter for about 2 hours for an 8-ounce package. The softening time will vary based on the current room temperature, but generally 1.5 to 2 hours should work well. Squeeze the product to test for softness. This is the recommended method since it is not exposed to heat, which can alter the texture.
Option 3: Place the cream cheese in zip lock bag and dunk the bag into a bowl full of hot water. Every few minutes pull the bag out of the water and squeeze the cream cheese to test for softness. Keep the cream cheese submerged in the hot water unit the desired softness is achieved.
Option 4: If you have a decent mixer it can easily mix up a cream cheese straight from the refrigerator. Unfortunately, I have a hand mixer and it is a total battle working with a firm cream cheese. Note to self, buy a quality mixer.
Tip: Cutting the cream cheese into to pieces helps it soften faster.