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Here's Everything You Need To Know About Storing Butter At Room Temperature

We talked to the FDA, a germ expert, and a prominent NYC chef.

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Everyone knows the frustrating experience of trying to spread cold butter onto a piece of toast.

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And despite how much bread we ruin using cold butter, most of us still store ours in the fridge for food safety reasons — at least according to this poll.

Most people said they store their butter in the fridge, though many others did admit to leaving theirs out on the counter.
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Most people said they store their butter in the fridge, though many others did admit to leaving theirs out on the counter.

I wanted to know: Is it actually dangerous to leave butter at room temperature? Or have I been ruining dozens of toasts with cold butter for no reason at all? To get to the bottom of these questions, I decided to ask the experts.

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I turned to three of them: Peter Cassell, an FDA rep, Kelly Reynolds, a germ expert and health professor at the University of Arizona, and Chef Testa, a NYC chef who uses butter in his cooking on a daily basis.

I've always stored my butter in the fridge because of contamination concerns. I wanted to know whether the practice was useless or warranted.

Their answers, in my honest, non-exaggerated opinion were SHOCKING...

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According to Peter Cassell, from the FDA, a good quality butter can be stored for up to ten days at 68°F. TEN DAYS!!! 😱

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According to the FDA, a lot of factors will ultimately affect what makes a butter prone to contamination, including whether it's made with pasteurized cream, salted, or left to sit in a relatively cooler room (all of which are factors that would make butter more resistant to oxidation rates).

But the bottom line is that a good quality butter can be stored for up to ten days outside of the fridge, as long as the room is moderately cool. And FYI, it should be noted that if you live in a frigid climate, "a good quality butter can be stored for up to 20 days at 50°F, or frozen for up to two years."

Obviously, regardless of whether you have a good butter or what temperature you store it at, you should toss it if it passes its printed expiration date, or kitchen dust and potentially pathogen-carrying flies get in it (storing your butter in one of these babies could help with that).

Well, that was completely unexpected 🤔. So, I got a second opinion from germ expert Kelly Reynolds.

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Her response? "Pasteurized butter is generally safe to leave out for up to ten days without spoiling."

MTV

Okay, I swear I'm not making this stuff up.

In addition to an official FDA spokesperson, we now have an actual expert confirming that it is fine to leave out pasteurized butter for up to 10 days. According to Reynolds, that's thanks to butter's powerful combination of low water availability, high fat content, reduction of original bacteria due to pasteurization (and FYI, all US butters are pasteurized), and in some cases, addition of salt.

Professor Reynolds did offer a qualification, though, adding that "depending on how the butter was processed and stored, it could spoil sooner." So, things like exposure to light, air, dust, and environmental contaminants could make the fats and oils turn rancid quicker than expected.

At this point, I'm beginning to believe this theory of leaving butter at room temperature. For final confirmation, I asked a chef who feeds hundreds of people on a daily basis, Chef Nick Testa of The Bonnie (NYC).

ABC

And no surprises here, even Chef Testa prefers to leave butter out, for optimal deliciousness.

"At brunch, we serve our guests room temperature butter with their toast because it's more spreadable and it does taste better. You don’t taste the grassiness or the delicious milk fat in a high quality butter, if it's too cold."
Sam Ortiz / The Bonnie

"At brunch, we serve our guests room temperature butter with their toast because it's more spreadable and it does taste better. You don’t taste the grassiness or the delicious milk fat in a high quality butter, if it's too cold."

According to Chef Testa, there are a few times when it pays to store butter in the fridge though. Namely, if you're making biscuits or want fluffier eggs.

"If I’m cooking scrambled eggs, I like putting cold butter into the pan: the butter slowly melts into the eggs as you scramble them, which I feel makes them lighter and fluffier," Chef Testa says. "Also, biscuit dough works better when the butter is freezing cold: it creates the flaky layers in the biscuit." And FYI, the same goes for pie dough.
Msphotographic / Getty Images

"If I’m cooking scrambled eggs, I like putting cold butter into the pan: the butter slowly melts into the eggs as you scramble them, which I feel makes them lighter and fluffier," Chef Testa says. "Also, biscuit dough works better when the butter is freezing cold: it creates the flaky layers in the biscuit." And FYI, the same goes for pie dough.

So, it's official: According to two health authorities and one culinary expert, you are free to leave your butter out on the counter.

Universal Pictures

You're welcome.

  1. Will you start storing your butter at room temperature now?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Never putting butter in the fridge again.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    I've been leaving butter outside the fridge for years.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Nope, not convinced.
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Will you start storing your butter at room temperature now?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Never putting butter in the fridge again.
  2.  
    vote votes
    I've been leaving butter outside the fridge for years.
  3.  
    vote votes
    Nope, not convinced.
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