Mythbusters: Do You Have To Refrigerate Butter?
In an effort to crack down on all of the things that many of us do wrong in the kitchen, we are on a quest to bust long-held food myths. One that seems to get asked quite a lot has to do with butter. Does it need to be refrigerated, or not? You’ll visit some homes where butter is left on the counter, while others would balk at ever leaving a dairy product outside of the refrigerator for long.
The official USDA guideline states that butter should be refrigerated and only softened “ten to fifteen minutes” before use. Though, according John Bruhn, a dairy-foods specialist at the University of California at Davis: “Most butter contains added salt, which impedes the growth of spoilage bacteria.” So, while butter will go bad, it happens much more slowly than with unfermented dairy products, such as milk.
Today’s salted butter will rarely spoil, even if you leave it unrefrigerated all the time. Unsalted butter takes about a week to spoil, but it contains enough natural salt to slow the growth of bacteria that causes spoiling.
The real issue to consider is rancidity, when butter develops an off taste and smell. The rate of butter going rancid can be reduced by always covering butter left out to soften as you don’t want butter to have contact with air.
One way that butter can be preserved at room temperature is by using a French butter keeper. The pot will keep your butter immersed in cold water, and will keep your butter both soft and cold.
And there you have it. No need to sound the alarm bells if you forget to put your butter away after dinner. At the same time, if you are looking to preserve your butter for a long length of time, you should probably stick it in the fridge.