How Long Can You Store Butter On The Counter?

Trying to spread cold butter on a piece of toast is a universally-frustrating experience — but because butter is a dairy product, there is often confusion about whether or not it's safe to keep it soft and spreadable at room temperature.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are a few things to consider when storing butter. For the most part, it is safe to leave pasteurized butter at room temperature. Per Heathline, because of its high fat content (at least 80%) and low water content, pasteurized butter does not provide an environment favorable for bacterial growth. And as Bon Appétit reports, almost all butter produced in the U.S. is pasteurized, versus the unpasteurized, which should be kept in the refrigerator.

Ultimately, the USDA says to consume butter left at room temperature within one or two days. But according to Bon Appétit, this is an extra-cautious approach: The publication reported that butter will usually be good after a week on the counter.

Storing butter at room temperature

According to Insider, it's important to note the difference between butter that has started developing dangerous pathogens and butter that has simply turned rancid. Even if it's not harboring bacteria, butter can spoil if left at room-temperature for several days, reported the USDA – it just won't seriously harm you. That being said, this butter will result in a less-than-ideal eating experience and should be avoided.

Per The Kitchn, you should try to keep room-temperature butter away from air and light in order to stop it from going bad. A butter dish is a traditional choice, but as Insider explains, an airtight container is even better. Not only does an airtight container protect the butter, it also prevents the butter from absorbing the smells and flavors of your kitchen. One popular storage option is a French butter dish, also known as a ceramic butter crock or French butter keeper. These containers basically submerge the butter in water, keeping it fresh and protected. Stored this way, butter can stay on the counter or at room temperature for approximately one month.