When it comes to kitchen ingredients, few are as indispensable as butter. If you’ve ever wondered why restaurant food tastes so much better than home cooked meals, its probably because the first and last thing in the pan is a knob of butter. Still, the question remains: what is the best way to store your butter? For a long time, the debate has been whether it’s better to keep butter in the fridge or out on the counter so it’s easier to spread.
Fortunately, we have some official information on this topic to finally set the record straight.
The facts are that within reason, butter can be left out on the counter—but there are some guidelines you have to follow.
According to an article on BuzzFeed News, representatives from the FDA say that high-quality butter can be stored for up to 10 days at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which is approximately room temperature. Still, there are other factors that go into whether butter that’s left out on the counter will stay good or not. If the butter is made with pasteurized cream or if it’s salted, it’s more likely to hold up for longer (and vice versa).
If you live in a particularly hot area, though, this advice might not be so helpful.
As the FDA said, the optimal temperature for this kind of storage is what most people would consider room temperature, meaning somewhat cold. If the temperature gets higher than that, you may be better off putting your butter in the fridge. Beyond that, butter in the fridge can be kept for about 20 days before it starts to spoil and become less safe to eat. If you want to keep butter for longer than that, it’s best to freeze it (where you can keep it for up to two years).
Beyond the questions of general safeness, you may be wondering about how many germs could live in butter at higher temperatures.
As it turns out, though, even room temperature butter is relatively safe according to the guidelines listed above. According to Kelly Reynolds, an expert in food safety in disease transmission, butter has high fat content, low water availability and fewer germs in general because it is pasteurized. Still, although the butter itself may be fine in a clean container, that doesn’t mean that environmental influences around it couldn’t make it spoil faster on the counter.
In conclusion, it looks like you may not need to be so worried about leaving butter out on the counter after all.
Let’s face it: leaving the butter out can be a lot more convenient than having it tucked away in the fridge. When you go to make toast or muffins in the morning, it’s already spreadable. If you’re making eggs, you can throw a knob of it in your pan with ease. Still, anyone who lives in a hot climate where the temperature is regularly in the high 70s or 80s, it’s probably best to keep the butter safely in the fridge.
How do you store your butter? Let us know in the comments below.
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