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Jun 20, 2006 11:24 AM

Unrefrigerated Butter

  • d

I had a fridge breakdown and I would like to know how long butter can go unrefrigerated before it goes bad.


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  1. Depends on the temperature, but it can go a while. It'll smell or taste funny well before it might hurt you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MikeG
      Hungry Celeste

      My parents (69 & 70) have ALWAYS left salted butter out on the counter, unrefrigerated. Two caveats: their house is air conditioned, usually around 70-75 degrees year-round, and they probably go through a stick of butter in a week and a half. Having soft butter always at the ready is pretty nice...

      1. re: Hungry Celeste

        I highly recommend a French butter bell. I've been using one for a couple of years and couldn't do without it now. About a half cup of water is placed in the outer container, which I change every three or four days. A stick of butter fits neatly into the *bell* compartment, which when full is placed upside down into the water of the outer container. The butter is not exposed to air so it stays fresh-tasting, and is always soft and spreadable.

    2. I keep a chunk of unsalted butter out - in a covered butter dish - at all times. Except for the hottest days, it will keep reasonably well for as long as a week. Of course, toward the end of that time, it starts to smell a bit cheesy, but nothing scary or toxic. So unless your fridge has been off for longer than that, I wouldn't worry.

      If, however, you are unconvinced, just save the butter to use in cooked dishes. Or melt and clarify for sauteeing.

      1. I agree with the other posters -- I leave some butter out all the time and it usually lasts as long as it takes me to use it. Butter doesn't "spoil" in the sense of growing bacteria (although occasionally I've had butter in a butter bell get moldy; it does oxidize and get rancid eventually, but that's not harmful, it just doesn't taste good.

        Americans are such slaves to their refrigerators. Butter has been around for thousands of years -- long before there were refrigerators!

        Most of the things in your fridge would probably be fine for a couple of days, many much longer, without refrigeration, unless your kitchen is very hot. What people need to understand is that there's a huge difference between "definitely safe" and "definitely unsafe." The government and food producers are required to tell you how to store things so they are "definitely safe" but that doesn't mean that other forms of storage will make your food unsafe, it just means they can't guarantee its safety. Their idea is that it's better safe than sorry (especially producers who could be liable for food-borne illness from improperly stored products). The food industry also has a vested interest in getting you to throw stuff out and replace it.

        1. I remeber from food sanitation courses that regular butter has no problem at room temp but something bad happens to whipped butter. I don't remember why, though, something to do with the air inserted into it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: coll

            Whipped butter usually has some water in it too, so it probably starts to weep if left at room temp for long periods.

            1. re: MikeG

              Now that you mention it, I think it was the moisture that caused the possible contamination.

          2. While butter can survive outside the fridge, it is very susceptible to picking up foreign orders and flavors. Heat & light speed undesirable chemical and physical changes in butter. If left out of fridge more than three hours, it will cause flavor change. And the idea of better being safe than sorry, is a pretty good idea.

            1 Reply
            1. re: HwyStar

              Which is why you keep unrefrigerated butter in a covered butter dish out of the light and away from heat, which reduces any problem to the point of insignificant. Refrigeration has been around for less than 100 years; most of our food stuffs have been around a lot longer.