Stir natural peanut butter easily

You know how a jar of natural peanut butter separates into two layers: a rock hard layer of solid peanut particles on the bottom, and a liquid layer of oil that splashes onto the kitchen counter and your clothes when you try to stir the two layers together? John Falk Kelly didn't like it when that happened, so he came up with a way to mix peanut butter easily. From Wired's How-To Wiki:
When you buy a jar of all-natural peanut butter, don't stick it in the pantry. Park it on top of the refrigerator, upside down. Once a day, when you walk by it, say "hello peanut butter", and flip it over.

When you're ready to open it and stir it up, it will be half mixed for you (and not hardened into a frustrating marble block).

He says he was so pleased with the results, that filed a patent on it: U.S. Patent # 6,325,533.

I'm thinking someone could make a version of this that used some of the same circuitry and components in the hourglass random number generator project I posted earlier today. The jar of peanut butter would go where the hourglass is. The gadget could either sense the opacity of the oil and flip it when it was no longer translucent, or it could just flip it once or twice a day.

Stir natural peanut butter easily


  1. All you’d need is a somewhat gentler paint shaker. I’m sure you could make such a thing. Just pad the jaws and use a smaller motor to drive it (maybe with variable speed). If you could make one that ran quietly enough and could be clamped to a kitchen counter, it would be a fairly practical piece of equipment.

  2. I use this method and it works like a charm! And, you don’t have to flip it every day–a couple a week is fine.

  3. I use an egg beater mounted on a power drill.

    Actually I just mix it by hand usually now. My wife complains I’m going to hurt myself or break the jar when I do it the other way.

  4. Yes, if there’s one thing that needs more elaborate circuitry, it’s peanut butter. It could be USB powered!

    1. Wow, I didn’t realize the thing you’re comparing it to actually is USB powered. Stupid reality, stop stealing parody’s thunder!

      1. +1. Why people go to the extra step of using a URL shortener when it is blatantly unnecessary and potentially risky for the intended audience is beyond me.

    1. I have one of those, and they work great. I also use a variant of the “hello peanut butter” technique, I leave it on its side and give it a quarter turn every day for a couple days before I run out. This drastically shortens the amount of time you need to stir the peanut butter, even with the dedicated stirring device.

  5. I actually have one of those Witmer things. It’s great. The only downside to it is that the little rubber ring in the middle has dried/cracked. Otherwise, it works like a champ!

  6. That tends not to be a problem for me, since if I buy a peanut butter that says you should refrigerate it I do it out of fear that something terrible will happen if I don’t.

    The end result is often a clay-like substance that is so hard and crumbly that I have to mold it flat with my hands to be able to spread it on bread without obliterating it. But at least I don’t have to really stir much…..?

  7. The gadget could either sense the opacity of the oil and flip it when it was no longer translucent, or it could just flip it once or twice a day.

    Kind of like a legumous lava lamp!

    1. Yeah, what nox said! I’m suspicious of peanut butter that has too many ingredients. My fave has two (sometimes one). Smart Balance adds flaxseed oil and molasses. If I want molasses on my pb&j, I can put it there myself.

  8. How could you apply for a patent for this? I’ve been doing it for years. I should apply for a patent for hanging up my wet towels.

  9. Another successful strategy for natural peanut butter:

    When you first open the jar, scoop it into a mixing bowl, mix it thoroughly then put it back in the jar. You make a mess once, but after that it will stay mixed (in the fridge).

    I was shocked that it actually worked the first time I tried it, but for those big jars it’s totally worth the effort.

    1. I don’t know how Skippy can label it natural peanut butter when they add sugar and palm oil. My peanut butter only contains peanuts and salt.

  10. Wonderful, but I feel obligated to mention that if you fail to say hello to it on a daily basis, it will remain emotionally separated.

  11. I think the answer to this problem is to buy heavily processed peanut enriched with plenty of high-fructose corn syrup. MMMMM!

  12. It should be mentioned that your better off keeping the container out of the light to prevent the oil from going rancid.

  13. I just use a normal mixer, but only put one beater in it.

    Works like a charm, easy clean up (“Who wants to lick the beater?”) and no single-task gadgets to buy.

  14. Most natural peanut butter says “refrigerate after opening,” where it slowly hardens over weeks into a rock.

    I keep mine upside down until it’s fully solidified. Flipping not really necessary.

  15. I just store the jar on its side. That way when you use it you have some of each of the oil and solids at the top of the jar, which are easily stirred together.

    I wish manufacturers would put it in square jars to keep it from rolling around.

  16. It seems to me that it would take a lot longer than a day for the oil to make it’s way up into the solidified peanut butter.
    Maybe it should be microwaved first.

  17. I love the modern mindset: look, here’s a really simple trick done many times over that I’ve applied to a new situation. I’ll share it with the world, but first, I will try to exploit my idea in the hopes of gaining more green pieces of paper!

    Gotta love capitalism.

  18. When I use this trick as described, all that happens is that the separated oil moves from the top of the jar to the bottom of the jar, still unmixed.

  19. I saw a tool on “this old house” that would work. It was a gadget you put on a reciprocating saw. they put a can of spray paint in it, but a jar of peanut butter would work! You just turn the saw on for a while.

  20. I’m going to have to buy me some natural peanut butter, as I recently found out the normal stuff has the peanut oil extracted (cos it’s worth something), and palm oil added back in! That piece of information helped me to finally understand why there was so much saturated fat in my peanut butter.

    Also, where I live only a few brands have added sugar. Us NZers enjoy peanut butter as a savoury food.

  21. The patent really covers a motorized jar flipper with a temperature or pressure sensor that periodically automaticlaly flips the containiner based on the temperature or pressure (outside the container). If you flip your own jar it is probably not covered by the patent. Even if you have a motorized flipper if it runs all the time or based on a timer (and not on a temperature or air pressure sensor trigger) then that also probably doesn’t infringe. The controlling language of patent is found in the claims, not the general description.

  22. For a site that is so conscious of IP issues, I’m surprised there’s no ridicule for such a clearly ridiculous patent.

    I eat natural peanut butter (Laura Scudder’s, baby!) on apples almost every night. My system is even easier:

    1. Pour off the oil.

    2. Stir. Without oil to slop all over, it’s really not a difficult task if the peanut butter is at room temperature.

    Added benefits:

    1. Less fat, with better taste and texture for peanut butter apples (oily peanut butter tends to drool all over).

    2. Peanut oil is great to have around for Thai food, salads, and poultry.

    And just think, I gave away that information freely!

  23. I’ve been buying 5 pound vats of natural peanut butter at Costco, about 1/2 the price of what the same exact product sells for at the grocery. But the settling problem was a real nuisance. Peanut oil slopped over the edge of the jar when I’d try to stir it, and I could never really get the hard stuff on the bottom to ever mix properly.

    After some experimentation, I found a good solution: Dump the contents of the jar into a large glass bowl and stick it in the microwave for about 3 or 4 minutes. Take out and stir, making sure to break up the solid chunks and mix in the oil. Repeat until the chunks are gone and it’s all mixed uniformly. Put it all into a 64 ounce food storage container and pop it into the ‘fridge.

    Each time you use it, give it a quick stir with a butter knife, made easy because of the open shape of the storage container as opposed to the jar it came in. It’s all just a bit of effort, but it works well and saves me $$$.

    Did I just write a 3 paragraph treatise on stirring peanut butter? Yes, I did.

  24. My whole family has been doing this for as long as I can remember. This whole patent business is absolutely silly.

  25. All you need to do is mircowave it for 10-15 seconds and stir. It stays smooth until it’s gone after that.

  26. Isn’t the top of the fridge too warm? Or is that part of the plan? Things grow on food that rests atop the fridge in our house.

  27. Since everyone has their nickers in a wad over this, how about something more common and vastly less complicated than a rotating, timed, flipper.

    A rock tumbler.

    Pop the jar on it, turn it on, walk away.

    I mean if we are going to waste electricity doing it, it’ll be creamy smooth when ready to eat.

    Or I’ll just stick to my heavily processed Jif, and good old white bread

  28. How about just storing it upside down all the time? If the oil is on the bottom to begin with, then the stirring shouldn’t slosh anything around. And if the really congealed bits are hard to get to on the bottom, well, now they are on the top! Problem solved, and no daily maintenance or scheduled peanut butter check-ins.

  29. If Cory weren’t on holiday, he’d have turned this into a 500-word rant on the patent system, complete with quotes from Eben Moglen.

    (No, I didn’t really have anything worthwhile to contribute; I just wanted to type out the words “Eben Moglen.”)

  30. I am going to put a jar of Trader Joes unsalted Natural PB in the Orange vest of the cigar smoking jackhammer operator who woke me this morning to mix up for me ….

  31. I have a dozen metal skewers that I bought years ago for a couple of dollars. They have a ring on one end and a point on the other. I put the skewer in a cordless drill and use the ring end to stir the peanut butter. It only takes a minute and is easy to clean up. It also works on separated tahini.

  32. wait…what…why can’t I bake with natural peanut butter? I did it all the time when I was growing up. I generally have SKIPPY around now because I hate getting peanut butter oil all over the place, but I don’t remember creating any black holes by making peanut butter cookies with Adam’s when I was a kid…

  33. so if i do this, won’t i get sued?

    and how come you can get away with divulging a patented secret?

    maybe i should sue,

    sue everybody!

  34. I use the upside down jar method with Tomato paste. By storing it upside down it creates a more sterilised seal & I find will last weeks longer without going mouldy.

  35. I just break out my handy dandy rock tumbler – fill the can with the jar and pack it with some cardboard.

    I never tumble rocks anymore – I use the thing in the kitchen too much. (Will marinate and tenderize the hell out of white meats.)

  36. Thanks for bringing up repressed memories of the thoroughly soggy sandwiches I had to suffer with at school lunchtime, thanks to my parents insisting on Adams Natural. Even worse, I couldn’t trade them for anything better.

  37. Screw the patent — it’s prior art. When I was a little kid, I stored my model paints on top of the fridge for exactly that reason.

  38. I’ve tried the turn-it-upside-down trick but it never worked for me. I guess the refrigerator is the key? The warmth? Smucker’s just seems to require a big mixing bowl and a strong arm. Also: I’ve had natural peanut butter that sat around, unrefrigerated (but out of direct light) for over a year and it has never gone rancid for me. Luck, or peanut butter mojo? Well, if you live in a fairly temperate climate, perhaps you don’t need to worry so much about it. Enjoy!

  39. Nuke it to soften the block and mix it with a fork. My grandmother does this and never has to restir it.

  40. Patented?! You’ve got to be fucking kidding. I notice that this patent was filed in 1999, and assigned to IBM. I also worked for IBM at that time. So you patented this technique for a measly $1000 in payback from Big Blue Brother. If anyone ever gets sued under this patent, Mr. Kelley, you deserve a nut-sacking of truly monumental proportions…

  41. I guess I’m not cool enough to know about Laura Scudder’s, but good old Smucker’s brand natural peanut butter has 2 ingredients: peanuts and salt.

    Thanks to this article, I have flipped the unopened jar in my pantry upside down. :)

  42. I’ve recently taken to grinding my own peanut butter at the co-op (peanuts only, no salt…I add a little when I eat it) and because the amount at any one time is not so huge and I go through it relatively fast, it never gets the chance to separate.

  43. I haven’t read through all the comments so I don’t know if this has been mentioned yet.

    Why not just put a timer circuit on a rock tumbling machine and place your jar on the rollers. Set it to spin for five minutes or so ever couple hours.

  44. Huh? This is pretty silly all around. I quit buying peanut butter in a jar over 25 years ago. Most decent stores should have a grind your own as much as you want option. Virtually all the oil in a jar of peanut butter, so-called natural or not, is added. Total rip.

  45. Dumbest patent ever, I’m not clicking, tell me it’s fake.

    #65 is right, stir with a fork! It creates all the channels in the peanut butter to absorb the oil.

    And isn’t the oil added in the final process from the manufacturer?

  46. Dumbest patent ever? I dunno, my favorite dumb patent is still the Blinking Cursor. And that’s not even close to the patent(s) that outrage me most. Patent troll butt kissing judges need to be impeached. Patent trolls themselves should have their DNA patented by heroic counter-trolls who then win their cases and get to confiscate the patent troll’s DNA, one strand at a time.

  47. How about just making a peanut butter container shaped like a dodecahedron / d20? That way, the “up” on the container would tend to vary naturally during normal use. Especially if there were lids on more than one face.

  48. Funny. People have been doing this to old windows for a long time, turning them over every 50 years or so to ensure that the glass doesn’t warp too much.

  49. We could all be saved the trouble of how to mix the peanut butter if it was delivered in trucks which turned themselves upside down once a day.

    Hello truck.

  50. Thanks! I’m teaching patent law next semester at an English university, and this will make a superb example of the failings of the US patent system: low to non-existent tests for obviousness and inventive step, and almost wilful blindness to prior art.

  51. In the warmer months, I leave my peanut butter in the trunk of the car for a day. The vibrations always stir the peanut butter perfectly.

  52. I shake the peanut butter vigorously when I bring it home and place it in the fridge. That way it’s all mixed and not so viscous when I’m ready to make my daily peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

  53. Unless you eat peanut butter very slowly, don’t bother with the refrigerator. It’s easy to stir and spread at room temperature and unless you live in a hot region with no AC, it’s going to be fine for at least 3 weeks.

  54. Prior art indeed! In my home, it’s Trader Joe’s Almond Butter w/Sea Salt, flipped repeatedly then stirred violently before opening and refrigeration.

  55. Or you could stir it once and put it in the refrigerator. Most peanut butters won’t get that stiff when cold.

    Seems a lot less annoying than turning you PB jar over daily, especially if you don’t eat PB every day.

  56. this reminded me of john steinbeck’s method for washing clothes, in book travels with charlie. he hung a 5 gallon plastic bucket in the back of his station wagon/truck, a little soap, drive for an hour the clothes are washed.

  57. I read some of the text in the patent number link. He isn’t patenting the technique of flipping the jar over by hand. He’s patenting a device that does it for you. There are pictures and stuff. He even says in the Wired article:
    “I got so exercised about how well this worked, I filed a patent on it: U.S. Patent # 6,325,533

    (Ok, the patent works for other things besides peanut butter, but you now know where I got the idea.)”

    But, by the way that’s it’s worded here, you would think he’s patenting the flipping by hand.

  58. It’s not complicated. Leave a fresh jar upside-down on the kitchen counter for a day, then put right-side-up in the fridge. No stirring required.

  59. Stirring peanut butter isn’t that hard, or that messy, if you know how to do it. Just take a sturdy butter knife and stab it down into the center. Then slowly start to rotate the knife handle in a circle, angling the top end out toward the rim a bit while leaving the point centered. This creates a hole for the oil to drain down into.

    Keep rotating the knife handle out in larger circles, keeping the point centered (go slow at first, to avoid sloshing of loose oil). This process basically creates a slow vortex that blends everything without splashing, and using a knife instead of a spoon means you’re cutting through the mass rather than having to muscle through. No mess, no fuss, no fancy tricks.

  60. I’m sure anyone who has worked in the natural food service industry would have plenty of prior art. I used to do this with the 10Kg pails of peanut butter when they arrived. Every few days I’d flip them over.

  61. You guys are all missing the point, though #21 did touch upon this. The genius of this technique, and the qualifier which makes it patent-worthy is the “Hello Peanut Butter”. Because inanimate objects are our FRIENDS.

  62. Actually, I know a better solution. Once you buy it, stir it up, then stick it in the fridge; the oil and peanut butter will solidify and won’t separate.

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