The question of how long butter lasts out of the fridge cannot be easily answered, but it is important to understand how to keep your butter fresh. There are a few tips that you can follow to ensure that your butter stays fresh for as long as possible.
People often leave butter on the counter to soften it so it can be used in baking or spread on bread. Here’s a look at what butter is made of and how it affects how long you can leave it at room temperature.
What Exactly is Butter?
Butter is made by churning milk or cream to make butter. The solids (butterfat) are separated from the liquid (buttermilk) during the churning process. According to U.S. rules, at least 80% of the fat in butter must be from milk. The butter color can range from white to a darker yellow, depending on what the cow eats.
If your butter says “sweet cream butter” on the label, it means that the cream used to make it was heated to kill harmful bacteria. In the pasteurization process, heat kills harmful microorganisms in the cream. In the U.S., you can’t sell raw butter made with raw milk or cream.
Some bacteria, like S. aureus, L. monocytogenes, and Y. enterocolitis, have been linked to butter. Bacteria can get into the butter when handled at home or by someone who works with food in a restaurant.
Is it Safe to Leave Butter Out on the Counter?
Leaving butter on the counter or eating butter out of the fridge for a while is almost always safe. Unlike soft cheeses like cream cheese, ricotta, or cottage cheese, butter can stay out of the fridge for hours or even days without going bad or causing food safety problems.
Bri Bell, a registered dietitian and food safety expert, says butter is safe to eat after it has been at room temperature for a while. “It doesn’t go bad as quickly as other dairy products at room temperature because it’s low in carbohydrates and proteins, which are mould and bacteria’s favourite foods.”
How to Keep Butter at Room Temperature without Going Bad?
Even though leaving butter on the counter is usually safe, you should still follow a few food safety rules. Keeping butter at room temperature will help maintain its flavor and consistency longer.
1. Make sure the right kind is on the counter.
At room temperature, unsalted butter is fine, but salted butter is better. Bell says that because salt is a natural preservative, salted butter can stay on the counter for longer without going bad. That means the salt keeps bacteria from growing.
2. Put it in the right place.
If you plan to leave the stick of butter out for more than a few hours, don’t leave it in the wax paper wrapper it comes in. Instead, look for a dish for the butter that will keep air and light away.
Better yet, opt for a butter crock or butter bell. To keep out air, these storage containers put a small pot of butter under water.
3. Make sure it’s not too hot
How long butter can stay out of the fridge depends on how hot or cold it is. If the butter is in a hot place, it may not go well faster or lose its texture. If your kitchen is usually warmer than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping the food in the fridge is safer.
Suggestions for Storing Butter on the Counter
Some kinds of butter should be kept in the fridge, but regular salted butter is fine to keep on the counter.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure your room-temperature butter stays fresh:
- Keep only a small amount on the counter at a time. Keep the rest in the refrigerator or freezer for later.
- Use a dark container or a closed cabinet to keep light from getting to it.
- Put it in a container that won’t let air in.
- Keep it away from the sun, the stove, and other heat sources.
- Keep butter out of the fridge only if the temperature in the room stays between 21 and 77°F (70 and 25°C).
Special butter dishes can meet most of these needs, but an opaque plastic storage container also works well.
How Long can you Leave Butter Out?
The US Department of Agriculture says butter should not be left at room temperature for more than two days. This will make the food taste bad and feel weird. The butter can go bad after that amount of time.
But if you keep the above butter storage tips in mind, butter can stay fresh on the counter for up to two weeks.
The best temperature for butter that isn’t in the fridge is room temperature, but if you live in the south or your house is warm, there’s another way: Ceramic butter crocks, or “bells,” keep the butter cool and safe, which makes it last longer.
If you have ghee, keep it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months or in the fridge for a whole year. Since the milk solids are strained when making ghee, it lasts much longer than butter at room temperature. However, like all dairy products, it will eventually go bad.
At What Temperature should Butter be kept?
Most dairy products need to be kept in a cool, dry place. Butter should be held at a temperature of 40°F or less. We suggest that people follow the “Keep Refrigerated” instructions and the “BEST BY” date printed on the package.
What is the Ideal Method for Storing Butter?
Don’t just leave butter on a platter out in the open! That exposes it to impurities and plain old dust. To keep butter safe, keep it in a covered butter dish or crock. Certain butter keepers, like the well-known Butter Bell, combine a water reservoir and a domed cap to keep butter safe at room temperature. (Here are some additional favorite butter tools.)
In addition to keeping butter covered, store it away from heat sources like your oven and out of direct sunlight.
Should Butter be Kept in the Refrigerator?
A stick of butter that will melt can start straight from the fridge. Still, if you need softened butter to spread on toast, cream with sugar, or whip into a fluffy buttercream frosting, you may want to leave it on the counter indefinitely to keep it at a nice, spreadable consistency.
Still, if you want to keep your butter for a long time, it’s best to keep it in the fridge, away from heat and light.
Butter can last up to three months in a normal refrigerator (but keep your eye on use-by dates for a ballpark gauge of freshness).
Does Butter Expire?
Butter does, indeed, expire. It will not go well if you keep it in the fridge. That’s why it’s a good idea to check the expiration date on the box or wrapper. At the very least, butter should last until that date. It could last anywhere from a month to a year if it’s well-wrapped and kept in the fridge or freezer.
But the fat inside butter (and most foods) breaks down when exposed to heat, light, and oxygen. This is what makes them go bad. Keeping things cold, like in a fridge or freezer, helps prevent that.
“Most fats have a pretty long shelf life, but butter goes rancid faster because it has a lot of milk solids,” says Matt Regusci, a food safety expert with ASI Food. “The product will last much longer if you take out the milk fats and make ghee, which is a type of clarified butter.”
Still, even butter kept in the fridge will go bad at some point. Except for butter, none of these foods should be eaten after expiration.
How do you Know When the Butter has gone Bad?
The old joke about Betty Baker buying bitter butter isn’t just silly nonsense. A bitter taste is a sign that butter has gone bad. So is a taste or smell that is old or strong.
For the record, rancidity is caused by fat that has been oxidized. This happens faster when the butter is exposed to the elements, like when the sun shines on your kitchen counter or when it comes in contact with certain metals, like a butter knife. The faster it goes bad, the more it’s exposed to.
When does Butter Go Spoiled After its Expiration Date?
Once more, how it has been stored will determine this. If it is unopened, chilled butter should remain fresh for up to a month beyond the written expiration date. If the butter is opened, it can continue to be used up to two weeks after the indicated expiration date. Unopened butter in the freezer can be kept for up to a year after the expiration date if you’re storing it for longer.
However, be cautious about inspecting the butter for telltale signs of expiration before using it. You don’t want to eat any butter with mold, even if it is well inside the authorized time range!
How can I Quickly Bring Cold Butter to Room Temperature?
Don’t worry if it seems like too much labor to keep butter out! (Additionally, cold butter is preferred in baked items.) Butter softens rapidly and easily.
The editors of Lifehacker have discovered the quickest way to soften butter: Put the butter on a dish you wish to unwind. A glass should be filled with hot water, left to stand for a minute, drained, and dried. Over the butter, invert it. Remove the mirror after a minute or so. Ta-da! In minutes, perfectly spreadable butter.
Butter stays freshest in the fridge, but if you leave it out on the counter, it stays soft and can be spread immediately.
Keeping regular, salted butter out of the fridge is fine as long as it’s hidden from heat, light, and air.
But if you store in the fridge or freezer anything you won’t use in a few days or weeks, it will stay fresher longer.
On the other hand, you should keep unsalted, whipped, or raw butter in the fridge.