Is It Safe To Keep Butter Unrefrigerated? Expert Explains The 1 Rule You Must Follow
Marilyn Caylor 9/9/2017
For foodies, the sound of a cold pat of butter scraping against toast is enough to make our skin crawl. Rock hard, refrigerated butter has no purpose in life, other than to ruin our bagels, croissants, and especially our mornings.
Most of us would love to have access to silky-smooth, spreadable butter 24/7! At some point, you may have wondered if it's safe to leave butter unrefrigerated. Well, this full-fat delight has been around for thousands of years, and it was invented long before either the fridge or ice box.
Since butter didn't come from the frozen tundras of the north, one has to wonder - how did our ancestors keep butter fresh? Experts finally weigh in on the age-old question - is it safe to leave butter unrefrigerated?
Apparently, the debate is finally over. Butter is totally fine left out on the countertop! According to an article written by Ben Chapman on the "barfblog," it's totally okay to do so! In fact, he claims that room temperature butter will remain free of foodborne pathogens and toxic staph bacteria formations. Dr. Chapman should know his stuff, since he's actually an associate professor and food safety expert at North Carolina State University.
There is one caveat, however. Not all butter is created equal, and I'm not referring to grassfed versus conventionally raised dairy, either. The key is knowing which type of butter is allowed to roam free on your countertop. If you plan on storing butter out in the open, then you must take care of it. It's almost like having a pet - a butter buddy, if you will!
Salt has been used for millennia to preserve food - it's like kryptonite for bacteria. When full fat cream is mixed with salt and processed into butter, it creates a saline solution of salt and water that surrounds the fat molecules. According to Dr. Chapman, pathogens can't grow inside a saline solution, which means salted butter is the only variety that's safe to store at room temperature.
Even the USDA agrees. They've released a chart on their website that indicates which foods are safe to consume after a power outage, and butter is marked as "safe."
Give Butter A Proper Home
Don't leave your butter buddy exposed on a plate, all by its lonely self. You wouldn't leave your dog outside on a sweltering hot day, would you? Well, light and oxygen are butter's natural enemies, so you'll want to bring it inside and give it a home. Use a covered butter crock with a tight-fitting lid, or store it inside a French butter bell, which makes use of water to keep the air out.
Avoiding cross-contamination is something you should always practice in the kitchen. For example, you should never use the same cutting board for slicing raw meat and vegetables, nor are you supposed to stick a peanut butter coated knife into a jelly jar. That's how bacteria spreads! So, always make sure to use a clean utensil for your butter, and never double dip. That means keeping your fingers out of the buttery goodness, too!
Know When To Toss It
All good things must come to an end, and the same goes for butter. Once it's bad, it can't be saved. Butter, after all, is fat - and all fat goes rancid after a time. If you're not using a butter bell, the butter can degrade after about a week. So, Dr. Chapman recommends only storing the amount that you will use within a week's time. For some folks, this is actually not an issue - that stick of butter will be gone before nightfall. Yum!
Watch the video below to learn how to use a butter bell.