The surprising truth behind how you should be storing your butter: 'It's very safe'

Get ready for some butter 101, there are some golden rules involved!

Butter. Photo: Getty
Is the fridge really the best place to store your butter? Experts weigh in. Photo: Getty

If you're like most of us, you probably store your butter in the fridge right after a trip to the supermarket. It’s just what we’ve always done, right? But what if that’s not actually the best place for it? According to those in the know, there's a bit of an art to storing butter properly, and it turns out, the fridge might not be where it's at.

That's right, you could be making a mistake in how you store your spread; butter, believe it or not, can be stored at room temperature. It's a practice straight from the culinary experts in France, and when it comes to food finesse, they certainly know a thing or two.


Contrary to popular belief, leaving your butter out on the counter won't necessarily turn it into a puddle of oily grease. In fact, keeping it at room temperature can make it more spreadable and ready to use whenever you need it.

How does this work? Well, butter is made up of a combination of fat, water, and milk solids. When it's cold, the fat solidifies, making the butter hard and difficult to spread. But at room temperature, the fat softens just enough to make it spreadable on toast, muffins, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Food scientist and nutrition researcher Dr Vincent Candrawinata — known as Dr Vincent — explains that in terms of food safety, butter is generally considered very safe and shelf-stable.

"It doesn't need to be refrigerated to keep the bacteria from growing on it, especially when it's salted butter," he told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Caption. Photo: Getty
The high fat content in butter makes it easily spreadable at room temperature. Photo: Getty

"Butter generally contains over 80% or even 85% fat, coupled with the pasteurisation process, it is very safe. The addition of salt further reduces the chance for bacteria to grow."

Of course, there are a few caveats to this method. First, make sure your kitchen isn't too toasty warm. Butter left in a hot kitchen can turn rancid quickly, and nobody wants that.

"Storing butter in an environment that is too warm or in direct sunlight, can be detrimental to the taste, texture and properties of the butter," Dr Vincent advises.

If you want to try it the European way, you'll need to think about storage. You'll want to use a dish or crock for your butter, this helps protect it from exposure to air and light, which can cause it to spoil more quickly. Plus, it looks pretty cute sitting on your countertop.

"Make sure you get a container that is not transparent as exposure to light can cause the fats to oxidise," says Dr Vincent, "and always use clean spreader because while butter is technically bacteria-free, the crumbs and food residue that stick on the surface are not."

Butter dish
Using a butter dish helps protect your butter from air and light. Photo: Getty

Now, you might be wondering, how long can butter safely sit out?

Food Technologist Alexandra Reagan from Food Safety Plus advises, "Salted butter will likely last longer than unsalted butter at room temperature because the salt acts as a preservative, slowing the growth of spoilage microorganisms."


Dr. Vincent suggests using a small portion of butter that you know you'll use every day and will replenish within a week or so.

And remember, there is a difference between what they do in France and what will work Down Under.

"For us Aussies who live in the warmer places, it's best to only keep your butter out during winter," Dr Vincent advises. "In places like Europe or even Tasmania, on average the temperature in the kitchen or pantry doesn't get too warm. If the temperature often hits over 25 degrees Celcius, fridge storage is preferable."

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