The Only Type Of Butter You Should Leave Out At Room Temperature

We've had a fraught relationship with butter. For the longest time, the cholesterol and fat found in ordinary butter were the stuff of clogged arteries and heart disease. Margarine was much more preferable ... until it wasn't. Upon discovering that margarine is loaded with unhealthy trans fats and that certain animal fats, like those found in butter, may actually be good for you, butter consumption has gone way up. In 2020, the United States consumed over 2 billion pounds of butter (via NPR and Statista). So, we think it's safe to say that our apprehensions about butter have faded into near obscurity.

However, there is still one question that seems to be asked continually: Can I leave my butter out at room temperature? As butter is a dairy-based product, it makes sense that our inclinations would be to refrigerate it as we would milk or cheese. However, butter doesn't necessarily fall into this refrigerator category. Of course, refrigerate your butter if you're not using it immediately, but if you're a frequent butter spreader there really is no need for you to keep it in the fridge. So long as the butter is salted, that is.

If it's salted, it's okay to leave it out

Yes, salted butter is the only type of butter you should leave out at room temperature. According to The Kitchn, unsalted butter is more prone to bacterial growth when left out on the counter for long periods of time. Salted butter, conversely, is less likely to develop harmful bacterial growth owing to its high salt content. Salt being one of the most time-honored food preservatives adds that extra special layer of protection.

You'll also want to check to see if your butter is pasteurized. Most commercially available butter has gone through the pasteurization process in order to destroy any potentially harmful bacteria that may have existed in the milk it is derived from. According to Insider, the churning of butter and the development of its fat are deterrents for harmful bacteria. Nevertheless, if you're planning on leaving your butter out on the counter, make sure that it is in an airtight container and consume it within a few days. Leaving butter on the counter for too long will cause it to go rancid.