Butter is a dairy product made from churning cream or milk. It is a popular ingredient in many recipes due to its flavor and texture. One of the questions many cooks wonder about is how long can butter be left out before it goes bad? This article will provide an overview of the safety rules and storage recommendations for butter.

Types of Butter

There are a variety of different types of butter available on the market, each with their own quality and uses. Butters may be classified based on their fat content, taste, and processing.

  • Unsalted Butter: Also known as sweet cream butter, this type is made from pasteurized or raw fresh cream or milk. It has an 80% butterfat content and can serve as a substitute for lard or vegetable shortening in baking. Unsalted butter is ideal for all kinds of recipes and baking, leaving you with complete control to season food to your desire.
  • Salted Butter: This type is made from pasteurized cream or may be referred to as regular shelf-stable butter. Salted butter typically has an 80% fat content and a richer flavor than unsalted varieties. It’s commonly used in baking applications like cookies and pie crusts as well as breakfast foods like toast and pancakes.
  • Cultured Butter: This type is produced from fermented milk solids, lactic acid bacteria cultures, milkfat, water, salt, enzymes and other ingredients. It has a saltier taste than salted or unsalted butters because it’s rich in protein-based bacteria cultures which cause the change of milk sugars into lactic acid resulting in more flavorful notes. Cultured butter can be used for everything from savory dishes like sauces to baked goods such as cakes and scones.
  • Whipped Butter: Whipped butters typically have lower fat contents such as 70% – 75%. They have been whipped so extra air has been added giving them a light texture that’s easier to spread onto breads or toast while still maintaining its creamy deliciousness!

Proper Storage

Proper storage is essential for keeping butter fresh. Butter will stay fresh, unopened, on your counter or in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Once opened, it should be stored tightly wrapped, or in an air-tight container at 40℉ or less.

It’s important to keep butter away from other odors so it’s best not to store on uncovered shelves that may pick up strong smells. Also, avoid storing near raw vegetables and fruits which can contaminate the butter with their bacterial spores- especially in warm weather when food spoils faster.

When done properly, you can keep your butter for 3-4 weeks out of the fridge and 7-8 months under refrigeration with proper wrapping and sealing from air contact.

Room Temperature

When butter sits out at room temperature, it can still remain safe to eat, but it is important to monitor the time it is exposed to the air. Unsalted butter generally lasts around two hours at room temperature, while salted butter can last up to four hours. It is important to note that butter beyond these times should not be consumed due to potential health risks.

Here, we will discuss the specific health risks and other factors to consider when it comes to leaving butter out at room temperature:

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Unsalted Butter

Unsalted butter can be safely stored at room temperature for up to a week. Room temperature meaning normal indoor temperatures of around 60 – 70 °F (15 – 20 °C). The warmer and more humid the environment, the faster butter should be used up.

When storing unsalted butter at room temperature, it is ideal to use a butter dish with a fitted lid. A butter dish traps in moisture which helps to prevent the butter from drying out and developing an off-taste and odor. When left uncovered, the aroma and flavors of other foods may also be absorbed by the unsalted butter.

If stored properly, unsalted butter should have a pleasantly mild dairy smell and flavor, but if it has started to go bad there will be a noticeable sour smell and chalky taste due to fermentation of lactose sugars when exposed to air. Be sure to check expiration dates on store bought products as well, which will have varying times depending on manufacturer’s guidelines. If in doubt on whether your you should use your unsalted butter or not, throw it away and buy some fresh!

Salted Butter

It’s best to store butter at a cool room temperature, about 65°F. Salted butter will keep for up to three months before needing to be refrigerated in a sealed container or tightly-wrapped plastic wrap. Unsalted butter should be stored in the same manner and can keep up to six months without spoiling.

For longest shelf life, you should store butter away from foods with strong odors as it is prone to absorbing those aromas. If there are any noticeable changes in color, texture, or taste after it has been sitting out for a while, it’s best to discard the butter and purchase a new block of it.


When it comes to butter and other dairy products, refrigeration is a must in order to stay safe and prevent spoilage. But how long can butter be left out at room temperature before it should be refrigerated? In this article, we will explore the answer to this question and discuss the importance of refrigeration for butter and other dairy products.

Unsalted Butter

Unsalted butter is best when kept for no more than two days at room temperature. If the temperature is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, unsalted butter should not be left out for more than an hour. When placed in the refrigerator, unsalted butter will keep up to six months if well-wrapped. Placing the wrapped butter in the freezer allows it to keep for up to one year.

For long-term storage, it is best to wrap the butter tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or storing it in a plastic bag with most of the air pushed out before sealing.

Salted Butter

Salted butter made from pasteurized cream is usually fine to be left at room temperature for 1–2 days. When kept in a cool, dry place, salted butter has a refrigerator shelf life of 5–6 weeks after the sell-by date or 3 months in the freezer. Unsalted butter can last a bit longer because salt acts as a preservative, extending its shelf life by reducing moisture and preventing bacteria growth.

When buying salted butter, it is important to check the expiration date on the packaging and buy accordingly. The cooler temperature and humidity of a refrigerator may cause condensation on salted butter, so it should be stored in an airtight container instead. If left out for too long at room temperature, salted butter may become rancid or spoiled due to exposure to air and bacteria. It should never be stored above 75°F (24°C).

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One way to extend the shelf life of butter is to freeze it. Butter can stay in the freezer for up to 9 months, depending on the quality and quantity. Since butter is mostly composed of fat, it will not spoil due to freezer burn. When properly stored, frozen butter can retain its flavour and texture and is a great way to preserve it.

Unsalted Butter

Unsalted butter can remain at room temperature for up to one month, just like salted butter. As unrefrigerated salted butter retains its freshness much longer than unsalted varieties, it may have originally been added to prolong the shelf-life of butter; before refrigeration was commonplace. Unsalted butter should be stored in an airtight container at temperatures between 32° and 60°F (0° and 15.5°C).

However, there are a few exceptions when freezing can be beneficial or necessary—storing butter that is not going to be used soon and avoiding waste.

  • If unrefrigerated, a stick of unsalted butter can last up to around 2 weeks before it starts developing an unpleasant flavor and aroma. The precise amount of time will depend on the storage conditions, but most often 2 weeks is a safe upper limit when stored at temperatures between 32° and 60°F (0° and 15.5°C).
  • When stored in the refrigerator, however, 1 stick (1/4 pound) of unsalted butter can last several months without going bad or losing its fresh taste and texture.
  • When frozen either in its original packaging or parchment paper-wrapped tightly in an airtight container, the same quantity of unsalted butter can pretty much keep indefintely- up to 3 months!

Salted Butter

Salted butter is a combination of butter and salt, two separate ingredients that both benefit from long-term storage. If you keep salted butter at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, it’s best to refrigerate it and use it within the recommended storage time. Unsalted butter will generally last a few hours sitting out on the counter before becoming too soft and inedible. It’s important to note that once either salted or unsalted butter is softened or melted, it needs to be used immediately or discarded.

However, both salted and unsalted butter can be frozen for up to six months with minimal change in texture or flavor. When freezing butter, make sure it’s tightly wrapped in parchment paper or aluminum foil – plastic wrap can get stuck to the product – then slide it into an airtight container before setting in the freezer. If you don’t have airtight containers on hand, seal freezer-safe bags shut with a vacuum sealer for optimal results and extend the shelf life of your stored goods.

Safety Considerations

When it comes to food safety, one of the key requirements is to keep food stored correctly and make sure it is not left out at room temperature for too long. Butter is considered a high-risk food item, meaning it can become hazardous to your health if not handled and stored properly. In this section, we will explore the safety considerations that come with leaving butter out and how long it can be safely left out.

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Food-borne Illness

When it comes to butter and other dairy products, it is important to understand the risk of food-borne illness in order to keep your family safe. Bacteria such as salmonella and listeria can be found in dairy products, and can lead to serious health issues if consumed.

  • Butter should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours and should never be left out overnight.
  • If the butter is being used while cooking, it should also not remain out of refrigeration for more than an hour at a time.
  • Furthermore, many experts recommend discarding any opened butter after three weeks; unopened butter can last up to six months in the refrigerator.
  • Additionally, it is important to properly store butter; keep it tightly wrapped or covered and away from foods with identifiable odors such as garlic or onion.

To further reduce the likelihood of food-borne illness, always practice proper hygiene while handling any dairy product. This includes washing hands before and during preparation as well as between tasks using hot water and soap. Following these safety tips will help ensure that you are consuming quality products that are free from bacteria that may cause serious health issues if ingested.

Discoloration and Odor

When butter is stored outside the refrigerator for an extended period, it will start to change color and develop an off odor. Butter that has been held at room temperature for more than two hours should not be consumed due to the potential risk of bacterial growth; discoloration and a sour odor are indicators of spoilage. If your butter starts to discolor, it should be discarded immediately. Even in refrigeration, chunks of butter can go bad if they are not used within a few weeks.

Noticing a change in taste or odor is one way to test if your butter has gone bad; however, there other ways to check without consuming potentially spoiled product. If you have opened the packaging and noticed that the color is becoming inconsistent or that lumps are beginning to form, your butter may be spoilage. Butter will also start to soften and take on a watery texture when exposed to temperatures above forty degrees Fahrenheit; this means that bacteria is beginning reproduce on the food surface. When this begins, it is best to discard your butter as soon as possible for safety reasons.


When it comes to storing butter, refrigeration is key. Butter should never be left out at a room temperature for extended periods of time. Bacteria can quickly multiply and contaminate the butter, leading to food-borne illnesses.

Generally, if kept in its original packaging and stored around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit, butter in its solid form can last from 7-21 days unopened. Once it has been opened or melted and then cooled, use it within one week for best results.

If you want your butter to last longer than a week outside of the refrigerator, try freezing it for up to four months. When you are ready to use the butter again just thaw out the butter overnight in the refrigerator before using.

By Reiki

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