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The #1 Right Way to Store Your Butter, According to a Chef

It's time to settle the debate: which will it be, the counter or the refrigerator?

We're asking a big question here: does butter need to be refrigerated? There is, in fact, much debate over how you should store butter in the kitchen: whether it be kept out on the counter in a covered dish or stowed away in the refrigerator.

A report from the FDA explains that pasteurized, salted butter is safe to keep out in room temperature because the pasteurization of the cream lowers the bacteria count and the churning process enables water molecules in the butter to be mixed among and separated by the fat molecules. The fat molecules, in part, make it very hard for bacteria to break through, which means the likelihood of butter spoiling is low. In other words, butter does not need to be refrigerated for safety purposes.

Because butter can be stored safely in either the refrigerator or on the countertop, we also wanted to know which of the two yielded the best flavor, which is why we called on the head chef of Hello Fresh, Claudia Sidoti, for insight. We also consulted Janell Goodwin, Food Safety Expert with the USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service, for additional information on how to store butter.

Does butter need to be refrigerated? Where is the best place to store it?

For optimal taste, the chef recommends keeping the butter in a room temperature environment. Now your butter dish serves a greater purpose than just nice decor at dinner parties!

"Keeping butter on the counter will help provide you with ready-to-spread butter. Besides being more spreadable, you will taste the delicious milk fat and ingredients way better if it's at room temperature," says Sidoti.

However, there are some recipes that may work better with cooler butter, in which case refrigeration may be the better method.

"You can also store your butter in the fridge, especially if you'll be using it in scrambled eggs, pie, or biscuits."

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So, how long can butter safely sit out on the counter for?

"It is 100 percent safe to keep butter on the counter. The cream that's used to make your standard butter is usually pasteurized, and it will take quite a bit of time for pasteurized dairy to spoil," says Sidoti. "Butter can certainly go bad, but as long as you keep it covered, it is unlikely that something will happen to the butter before you've had a chance to eat it."

As far as how long butter can remain fresh for at room temperature, that is still up for discussion.

"You can safely leave butter at room temperature for about two days. After that, the flavor can begin to turn rancid and it wouldn't be enjoyable to eat," says Goodwin. However, this is not a matter of safety, this is a matter of quality.

"The time butter will last at room temperature depends on how much light it is exposed to, if it's salted or not, and how much bacteria was in it to begin with," says Sidoti. "Usually, butter can be left out up to 10 days if stored correctly."

How long does butter typically last in the fridge?

If you buy a couple of sticks of butter at a time, you'll want to preserve them by keeping them cool. If you're unsure that you'll be able to use all of the butter between one and three months time, consider freezing it, where it will remain edible for six to nine months.

Sidoti also recommends sealing butter and storing it on an inner shelf in the fridge, as opposed to in one of the shelves inside of the door, to avoid exposure to frequent fluctuations in temperature every time the door opens.

Any tips on how to make refrigerated butter easily spreadable?

Let's say you prefer to keep butter in the refrigerator, but still want to avoid spreading cool butter on top of bread slices and effectively ripping it to shreds in the process. Sidoti recommends microwaving the butter for 10-15 seconds before spreading it.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne
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