Should Butter Be Refrigerated Or Left Out? We Get To The Bottom Of It

refrigerate or leave out butter

Out of habit, I always refrigerate my sticks of butter. I was taught by my mother that all dairy products will spoil if they’re left out on the counter, so naturally, storing butter in the fridge is the right thing to do… or so I thought. Fast forward to my living situation now. I live with a roommate who purposely leaves sticks of butter out on the counter. Mind-boggling, right?At first, I thought this was a simple mistake, so I put it in our fridge. The next day, she informed me that her counter butter was no accident and asked that I leave it be.

My roommate explained that it’s senseless to scrape cold slices of butter onto warm toast. After all, it makes a crumby mess and ruins the entire toast experience. She would rather keep the butter at room temperature so that she’s easily able to cover her toast with it. My roommate has a valid point. Spreading cold butter is annoying AF, but what about potentially eating spoiled food?

According to State Food Safety, pasteurized and salted butter is not a TCS (time/temperature control for safety) food item, which means that the FDA doesn’t consider it to be dangerous when it’s left out at room temp. Bacteria needs water to grow, and pasteurized butter is only 20 percent water (80 percent is fat). Therefore, the chances of bacteria forming in the spread are low. And even if it does happen, the high amount of fat will stop it from expanding even further. Pasteurized butter and salted butter can be left out at room temperature and won’t make you sick.

Excuse me while I re-evaluate my life.


State Food Safety also says that even though butter can be left out at room temperature, it should always be covered. It’s also important to note that this does not prevent the spread from spoiling. It will actually spoil faster at room temperature versus when it’s in the fridge. The Huffington Post states that room temperature butter will spoil after two weeks. So, depending on your butter usage, you should determine whether leaving a stick out is really worth it.

To figure out if your butter is spoiled, give it a sniff. If it no longer smells fresh, it’s not worth spreading on your toast.


After evaluating this debate, I’m elated to know that I now have options when it comes my butter. However, I’m still going to continue storing mine in the fridge — unless I need it at room temperature for a recipe. I’m stuck in my ways (shrug) and I’d rather play it completely safe than sorry.

Here’s a tip for those who will always refrigerate their sticks of butter. When buttering your toast, use thin strips of the spreadto help it easily dissolve.


The above knife is $20 on Amazon and will help you on your journey. You can buy it here.

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