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Is it Safe to Leave Butter on the Counter?

It’s sometimes very tempting to leave your butter unrefrigerated, on the counter. In the fridge it can get VERY hard, which might not matter much if you only use it in certain recipes – it’s easy enough to simply cut off what you need.

But if you want some butter to spread on a piece of bread, for example, or need softened butter for baking, then using it straight from the fridge isn’t so easy!

Rosemary Bread Photo

But does butter HAVE to be refrigerated? Is it safe to leave butter on the counter?

The USDA says that butter is perfectly safe at room termperature.

But as it’s so high in fat (at least 80%) it’s possible that it can turn rancid after a few days without refrigeration. This gives it an unmistakeably unpleasant flavor!

In colder climates it may take longer for butter to turn rancid, whereas in warmer weather it can begin to have an ‘off’ flavor quite quickly if left on the counter.

Italian Butter Cookies Picture

If you do choose to leave your butter on the counter, choose the salted kind rather than unsalted. The higher the salt content, the better it will last, so check the packaging to compare different brands.

It’s also a good idea to store it in a butter crock, also known as a butter keeper or butter bell. This can really prolong the life of butter kept on the counter at room temperature and can make it last for up to 30 days without refrigeration.

Fluffy Banana Muffins Pic

To use a butter crock – which comes in two pieces – you simply soften a stick of butter until it’s soft enough to push into the ‘bell’ part.

You then fill the crock with water, just enough to line it up with the butter and make it airtight. Then you place the butter-filled bell into the crock, upside down. You need to change the water in the crock once every few days.

The only time we wouldn’t recommend using a butter bell or crock is if the weather is VERY hot. Unfortunately, the butter is likely to start melting and will slide right down into the water!

The alternative to leaving butter out on the counter

If you like to always have nice, soft butter on hand for your baking needs, or to spread on your toast or freshly cut bread, then why not try whipped butter, or butter marketed as ‘spreadable from the fridge’?

English Crumpets Picture

Whipping butter adds air to it, which makes it much easier to spread, even if it comes straight from the refrigerator. 

There are, of course, also lots of other spreadable butter substitutes on the market. But if you’re looking for something to spread on your freshly toasted crumpets, or to create a delicious cake or pastry, you’ll probably agree that nothing but real butter will do!