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Storing butter outside of fridge

My wife has run into two people this week that store their butter on the counter or in the cupboard to keep the butter soft for spreading. I have read a few articles and the ones that say it is safe to do mention that salted butter is the best choice because of the salt acting like a preservative. They also suggest that you can do this for just a few days before the butter goes rancid but no article gives definitive amounts of time. Is this practice done widely? Thanks.

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  1. oops. my computer died and I didn't realize my other post made it. heehee

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    1. There's always a stick of butter in a glass covered butter dish on the counter, the rest is in the butter thingy in the fridge door.
      We use unsalted butter, and never once has it gone rancid on the counter, even in summer.

      2 Replies
        1. re: kitchengardengal

          Me too. Been doing it for over 30 years.

        2. Yeah, this is completely normal. You could use a butter bell. My great aunt (smallest household I can think of- just 2 people) keeps her butter out and just uses it a stick at a time until its done. I have no idea how long it keeps but I've never heard of it going bad. Maybe we just eat a lot of butter ...

          1. That's what I do. I use salted butter. It only goes in the fridge if we get super hot weather in the summer.

            1. I received a butter keep that I have used for years and I love it. It consists of a butter holder with a lid that sits inside a larger dish of water. As the water evaporates it keeps the butter at a cool temperature, soft and easily spread, but never melted. I don't know the chemistry of how it works, but it does.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ski_gpsy

                I have two of these, and I've had mold in the water, or on the surface of the butter, after maybe a week. I gave up on the 'butter bell' concept.

                1. re: jeanmarieok

                  I had the same thing happen, consistently, with my old butter bell--the butter in it always molded after a few days. So, I gave up using it for a while. Then our cat discovered what was inside that covered dish on the counter, and so much for that butter dish! I decided to try a butter bell again--it seemed more cat-proof. I bought a new one...and the butter has never molded again. We'd also moved across town, so I don't know if it's something about my new kitchen, or the new butter bell, or what it was that made the difference. But something did!

                2. re: ski_gpsy

                  I have this butter dish also. Works great and I leave my butter out all the time.

                3. I had to settle a debate with a friend regarding this and phoned the Land O Lakes 800 number to ask :) They replied that it is safe for 2 weeks at room temp. I do notice if I leave it out for longer than that it tends to not taste as fresh as it once did. Anyway cheers to soft butter! I can't stand it out of the fridge.

                  1. I use a French Butter Bell (Emile Henry) there are a number of them out there. The top compartment can hold 2 sticks (1/2 lb) and the bottom section has water. The water seals the butter but keeps it at room temp. Perfect room temp all of the time.

                    1. My butter is kept at room temp at all times without ever having a problem.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Samalicious

                        Thanks everyone. This has been most interesting.

                      2. I can only keep certain butters at room temperature. We use a lot of Kerrygold and at room temperature it melts too readily but all others we leave out quite often.

                        1. I thought butter dishes and butter bells were common features in most households. I don't use butter very often so I don't keep it out, but I wouldn't be surprised if others did so.

                          1. I kept a stick in a covered container on my counter for years.

                            I just recently bought a bell and it keeps the butter much fresher.

                            1. Until moving to Hawaii 35 years ago our family always kept butter on a shelf in the cupboard. That was in the SF area and the temperature in our kitchen rarely exceeded 70 degrees. Living in Hawaii where the temperature in my kitchen hovers around 80 degrees it's a different story. From late November till sometime in March I can leave butter in the cupboard or on the counter, the rest of the time it has to be in the fridge or it becomes semi liquid and separates on the plate. One word of caution, don't leave unsalted butter out at room temperature, it will start to turn rancid within a couple of days.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                <<<<<<<One word of caution, don't leave unsalted butter out at room temperature, it will start to turn rancid within a couple of days.>>>>>>>

                                Not so! We've done it for years with no rancidity/spoilage issues; I am extremely sensitive to both and no problems ever.

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  I use only unsalted butter and never have a problem with it turning rancid. It stays on the counter in a covered dish except when the temperature is too high. I use a stick in less than a week, but generally more than two days.

                                2. We leave butters of all types out for long periods and have never had any go bad. I have no idea what people are talking about who say unsalted butter will "go rancid" in a few days (we use unsalted butter exclusively).

                                  This is likely not relevant for most, but I buy 5 lb. tubs of unsalted clarified Plugra butter at Restaurant Depot and simply leave them out at the side of the range, and scoop out whatever I need when I need it for cooking purposes. A typical tub probably lasts me a couple of months. Never any issue, but of course these are clarified and, since they are Plugra, presumably a bit higher in fat content, all of which should help them keep longer than common table butter.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: johnb

                                    Clarified butter is nearly all fat, and much less of the "milk solid" content which actually spoils at room temp.

                                    1. re: KarenDW

                                      Correct. That's exactly why clarified is OK to not refrigerate -- it acts almost like vegetable oil which keeps forever without refrigeration. It is, as you point out, the milk solids in regular butter that go "rancid," even if such rancidity is greatly oversold in the popular imagination, which in turn could be looked at as the foundation of this thread.

                                  2. I do it in my kitchen, but of course we live in northern Maine and have about 8 months of winter per year.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: PotatoHouse

                                      I've done it in the kitchen a few times and it's lots of fun, but I'm not too sure about the Winter part.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          I'm sure he worries about shrinkage in cold weather. :-x

                                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                                            But at least he thinks it's lots of fun!

                                    2. I have a covered butter dish on the kitchen counter at all times. I've never had rancid butter, at all. I would bet on average, that stick of butter lasts 7 - 9 days. Then we wash the dish before putting a new stick out.

                                      1. My butter is always out on counter. Found a nice glass "refrigerator" container that holds 2 stick perfectly. If butter goes from soft to SOFT... time to put AC on!?!

                                        1. I have a tendency to leave butter out to soften for long periods, and have never had it go rancid. One thing we ARE careful of however is of dust getting into the butter (use a cover), at which point we throw it away.

                                          Ghee (Hindi clarified butter) won't melt if you live in a place with high heat, like the person who just mentioned he/she lives in Hawaii. Inside the fridge or outside it is the EXACT same consistency and is delicious on toast. I also don't think that goes rancid either.

                                          1. We used to have a stick of butter on a small plate on the counter. About six years ago we started to use a butter bell and it works great. We have never noticed any mold and the water gets changed every couple of days (usually by me).

                                            1. I keep butter (usually a half-stick or less) in the microwave because the cat can't open it and devour the whole thing.

                                              Butter was designed as a way of keeping milk. I wouldn't leave it out on the part of the counter that gets the morning sun (a great place for sun-drying, though) but in my climate I don't consider it much of a risk.

                                              1. Not to answer your question directly, but some people use butter bell to keep their butter at room temperature fresh -- for longer period of time.




                                                1. We did this when I was a kid with no problem. I don't do it now because we dont' use butter all that often in spreadable form, and because in the summer it melts into a puddle at room temperature.

                                                  I do keep the ghee at room temperature, and it can last for over a year with no problem.

                                                  1. no way can you leave butter out in so fl except 3 days in winter melts all over and now I try never to eat that fat!

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: sandyrab

                                                      I am a lifelong resident of MN/WI and my only warm climate living has been winter in Arizona which is like spring/summer in Minnesota. Wouldn't the air conditioning keep the kitchen cool enough for butter to be out of the refrigerator, such as in a butter bell?

                                                      (It got up to 77° today which is about as warm as I like it. A week ago tomorrow we got an inch of snow, a week before that we got 5 inches and an hour south of the Twin Cities they got 15.5 inches of snow.)

                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                        Depends... Air conditioners are really only meant to cool rooms/homes to about 20 degrees less than the outside temperature. They are also ridiculously expensive in terms of electricity costs (and trying to cool beyond 20 degrees below outdoor temp costs even more). In the summer, I set my a/c to 80 degrees. That is enough to make indoors more comfortable that outdoors, but not enough to make butter on the counter OK from June-August.

                                                      2. re: sandyrab

                                                        I live in So Fl and I always leave butter on the counter in a butter dish. A stick lasts me about 2-3 weeks and it's never gone rancid or melted. My AC is on but I put it to 77F when I go out, so I wouldn't say my house is freezing cold.

                                                      3. We live in the PNW, and ambient temp of our southeast-facing kitchen averages 75-85º year-round, although much warmer on a sunny day. The double-walled butter dish houses about 1/2 stick of salted butter at any time. I tried a butter bell, but the dish got too hot in the sun, even w/ the water... and we ended up with butter floating in the lower chamber. Ick.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: KarenDW

                                                          In the PNW your kitchen is 75-85º year-round? I can't believe it's that warm in the winter.

                                                          Did you try placing the butter bell somewhere where direct sunlight does not hit it? Our kitchen gets to 80 in the summer with the AC on and the butter is a little softer, but does not spoil and does not fall. It has been my experience the only time the butter falls is when it gets warm AND there isn't enough water in the base. It's the water pressure that keeps the butter in the bell.

                                                        2. It depends on how warm your kitchen is. Butter transitions between 65F and 68F from somewhat firm to softened.

                                                          1. I keep the butter in the refrigerator so that it will be rock hard and unappealing. Cuts way down on the usage.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: kengk

                                                              Most restaurants use that same strategy :-)

                                                            2. Several years ago, I bought a butter bell and tried using it to keep our butter on the counter. Invariably, within a few days, the butter developed nasty blue mold. I changed the water regularly but it didn't seem to help. I have never had butter mold otherwise, before or since, but it did in that butter bell--consistently. So we gave up on the butter bell and tossed it out, and went back to a ceramic butter dish.

                                                              Fast forward a few years...our cat finally discovered what was in that funny little plate under the ceramic cover on the kitchen counter (we learned this when we found it, smashed and licked clean, on the kitchen floor). There was no good, non-refrigerated place to keep a new butter dish where the cat wouldn't find it again (she might be slow on the uptake, but once she learns a trick, she remembers). Since I had to buy a new butter dish anyway, I decided to try a butter bell again--it seemed more cat-proof. Bought a new one, over mu husband's objections...and now, no mold. We've been using it for a couple of years now, changing the water every few days (or longer, to be perfectly honest--certainly less frequently than with the first one). The butter stays fresh and tasty and spreadable, and it has never molded once.

                                                              So what made the difference? Was the first butter bell somehow defective? It was basic glazed ceramic, no visible cracks or flaws. Was there something about my kitchen? It was a different house, same city, but much closer to the beach--could that make a difference? We didn't have a particular problem with anything else molding there. I have no idea..it's a mystery!

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                I have wondered about whether the type of water makes a difference.

                                                                  1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                    I think the difference might be the house. The old house had more mold spores than where you are living now. I checked your profile and you seem to be living in Seattle or at least the PNW. i wonder if the damp air has something to do with this phenomenom.

                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                      I always use cold tap water, and it's always salted butter. Yes, I live in and around Seattle--was in West Seattle right by the Sound, now in SeaTac, a few miles from the water. It's almost always a little damp here, no matter what neighborhood you're in--they don't call it the Great Northwet for nothing! But I've always wondered if there weren't just more mold spores floating around the old place, for some reason. Very odd.

                                                                  2. here in england butter doesnt seem to go off when left out of the fridge. if it does turn a little just make some couscous or a tagine and pretend that its smen; the fermented butter of Morocco

                                                                    1. We have left ours out in a covered butter dish on the counter for years! Never have had any problem.

                                                                      1. We live in northeast PA and all but the hottest days of summer our salted butter is in a ceramic crock (not a butter bell) in a cupboard in the kitchen ready for use. I think we use less as I can spread very thin on soft bread. At any rate a honking big lump of cold hard butter does nothing for me. We are in our 70's and have not yet died of food poisoning from our soft butter.If worried, put out one half stick at a time.

                                                                        1. I'm 67 and I have always stored butter on the counter. I've never encountered rancid butter. I use a fair amount of butter and a stick doesn't last a week.

                                                                          I store the rest of the butter in the fridge or the freezer.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: cheapandlazygourmet

                                                                            Really cheapandlazygourmet! Who knew???

                                                                            My grandmother kept her butter in a butter dish on the kitchen table. My mother keeps her butter in a dish on the counter. I keep mine in a butter dish on the counter.

                                                                            I had no idea that generations of reckless butter storage was such a potential health hazard (according to some).

                                                                            But in spite of it's high moisture content, low butterfat, salted self, I am going to continue to keep my butter in a butter dish on the counter. God help us.

                                                                          2. I leave mine out in Maryland most of the year but in June July and August it is very warm and my kitchen is on the south sie of the house and hot in the afternoon even with the ac on. So it goes in the frig then. At our cabin in Pa it stays on the counter all the time.
                                                                            Having said that when I buy homemade butter it is kep in the frig until abut a half hour before I want to use it. It seems to melt faster an of course gets strong fast.

                                                                            1. European type butter (higher fat content) is the ONLY type you can store in a butter bell... American butter has a higher moisture content, and will indeed go moldy after only one week in a butter bell... even if you change the water daily! Regular American butter will actually keep longer - several weeks (unsalted) - at room temp just in a closed butter dish. On the other hand, European (type) butter is best kept in a butter bell during summer months to regulate warm summer temps and to keep it from getting too melted... Dairy in general, suffers more from multiple temperature fluctuations (in and out of the fridge for long stretches) than from simply remaining at one constant temp.. and butter is quite happy remaining at room temp.

                                                                              1. I don't keep it out in warm weather, we don't go through it fast enough to avoid decline in quality. But my kitchen is on the cool side the rest of the year and it's always on the counter, in a terra cotta covered butter dish.

                                                                                The higher the fat content, the slower stuff goes rancid.

                                                                                1. Here're the recommendations from Tillamook (my brand):


                                                                                  There's nothing in there about salt making a difference. I keep one stick in a covered butter dish on the counter when it isn't too warm. I refrigerate it in hot weather.

                                                                                  1. I've kept butter on the counter for years, and have never had a problem. Right now I keep it in a Buddha butter dish that my son bought for me - I love it!

                                                                                    1. I'm 61 and have never kept butter in the fridge for other than storage of several pounds bought to have on hand. Most of the time I freeze the extra's and then when I want to have butter I take out a frozen pound, put into a keeper dish (I have a rectangular refrigerator dish in glass with a lid) put the pound in and have it on the counter or table. Lately I have been buying butter portions like they serve in the restaurants, and those are kept in a large plastic bin on the counter, with the rest of the over 700 portion box simply on a shelf in my basement. My mother never used anything but a saucer with half a pound of butter on it, and when they had cows, the butter was in a small crock in the cool, with what was needed for several days dished out onto a saucer or small sauce dish and placed on the counter. No covers, and it can get damn hot up here, over 86 degrees sometimes for days with hot nights, it was over 32C the other day which is around 90F and my butter was fine in a non airconditioned house on the counter. The only time I have extra soft butter is when the temps hit 90+ for several days, but its never rancid, only hard to get onto the bread or toast.
                                                                                      By the way my mother was a cook in several places over the years, and they usually kept a can on the stove top or grill with melted butter and a paint brush (clean natural bristles) to butter the toast with, when it got low they just added a fresh pound of butter. This is great for adding butter to veggies, some over mashed potatoes, or corn on the cob, and of course garlic toast, regular toast and so forth. Probably frowned upon these days, but it works well.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: EvaB

                                                                                        Yeah, they would probably disapprove even more of the way they did it when my mother was waiting tables, back in the 1940's. She said they had the same can of melted butter on the back of the stove, but the butter in it often came from the leftovers that came back to the kitchen on customer's dirty plates!

                                                                                        1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                          It's probably common to recycle butter that way in restaurants, but the one I worked in many years ago served butter on separate plates and reused it for cooking only if it appeared to be untouched.

                                                                                      2. I just googled this topic because I just heard someone saying that butter can't be stored at room temp, and it floored me. I'm 35 years old have never met anyone who didn't store butter in a covered dish on the counter. Even unsalted. Even in summer. I've never seen or heard of a problem resulting from this practice.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: JessyMessy

                                                                                          In the USA you need to look out for the butter police. Making business expensive for over 30 years.

                                                                                          1. re: genoO

                                                                                            Nonsense. There are no "butter police." There are inspectors who enforce a certain level of sanitation in restaurants. I doubt there are many restaurant patrons who think it would be better if there were no regulation of restaurant sanitation. If the rules apply to every restaurant then the cost is unimportant, because it is distributed fairly across the industry and just added to the cost of dining out.

                                                                                            You can't reasonably blame the food inspectors if your restaurant is not profitable.

                                                                                        2. Shelf-life, know when spoiled, and storage tips at: http://www.eatbydate.com/dairy/spread... this site clearly says only a few days at room temperature. Unsure how they tested while they go on to say butter will smell, mold, loose color, and not spread if goes bad. Butter stores way longer in the fridge or freezer so we store on counter only what have plans to use soon.

                                                                                          The way to go is a device often ceramic topped by a butter-bell sometimes called a butter crock. See on more counters in the Southern USA. Stores room temperature butter inverted in a cup of water that keeps bugs, smells, tastes, and rodents away. Necessary because butter is like a sponge. Counter-top butter storage comes in a range of materials and prices - become useful 'art' on the counter:


                                                                                          So nice. Very easy to spread. Short storage of a few days at about 65 degrees F. We never eat older than a week. Try to consume fresh when thaw and change out the water every few days. Clean hands with utensils before use. Cramming the butter bell with cold butter by hand was a pain so learned to let get to room temperature to install with a rubber spatula to will minimize mess. Can use the 'fill' as opportunity to mix in a combination of fine chopped fresh herbs like: dill, parsley, chives, tarragon, or fresh smashed garlic. Wash Butter Bell Butter Crock very well with lots of soap and hot water between use and sometimes takes multiple cycles to feel squeaky clean before use again.

                                                                                          TIP: Only use clean utensils never hands or your butter may prematurely spoil.