butter butter butter
August 17, 2018 1:38 PM   Subscribe

How long do you keep covered, non-refrigerated, salted butter?

I have recently seen recommendations that salted butter should be kept at room temperature for just 1-2 days. I have been keeping salted butter in a covered dish on my counter for... significantly longer than that. If its rancid, it should be discolored and/or smell bad, and taste sour. I definitely don't notice this for butter that has been left out for up to two weeks, maybe even longer. Do I just not notice if it's slightly rancid? Is slightly rancid a thing? Do people who keep butter in plain covered butter dishes really change it out every 2-3 days? When do you notice it getting worse?
posted by skewed to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We keep our butter in a butter bell on the counter, and have never had a problem. It only lasts a week or two until we eat it, so YMMV. We've never had it turn rancid on us. Could be that the seal of water on the bottom helps keep it fresh though.
posted by onecircleaday at 1:41 PM on August 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I keep my butter out for about 1 to 3 weeks in a covered glass dish. I’ve never had it go rancid, but once I left it out for more than a month in the summer and it changed texture and colour in the top inch and tasted of Brie. I enjoyed the heck out of my buttery Brie and have never gotten sick.
posted by congen at 1:46 PM on August 17, 2018 [17 favorites]

I keep butter in a porcelain butter dish in the cupboard basically until it is eaten. This is usually a week or two in a room around 21 degrees celsius. I have never had an issue except that the top of the butter yellows slightly which doesn't bother me a bit. When the weather is significantly hotter I try to remember to put the butter back in the fridge but doesn't always happen and I still haven't had any problems.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 1:47 PM on August 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I keep my butter out for about 1 to 3 weeks in a covered glass dish. I’ve never had it go rancid

Same. Not a butter bell, just a covered butter dish. Never had an issue. Salted butter.
posted by the webmistress at 1:48 PM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Per this study : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26760945 , you're probably good for several months unless you're in a pretty hot area.
posted by metadave at 1:53 PM on August 17, 2018 [8 favorites]

We keep our butter in a covered butter dish one 1/4 stick at a time. It probably takes a week or so to finish the butter. Haven't noticed any problems with it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:11 PM on August 17, 2018

In winter we keep butter out on the counter in our poorly-heated kitchen for a week or two and it’s fine. As soon as temperatures hit the mid 20s (celcius) it goes off in two or three days. We store most of it in the fridge and keep a small amour in a butter dish.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:27 PM on August 17, 2018

I forgot a stick (sweet cream american-style) in a covered butter dish for at least a month in a cupboard once. it was totally fine and I used it after finding it.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:45 PM on August 17, 2018

As long as it’s salted butter, you’re good for a lot longer than it will take to use it up.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:46 PM on August 17, 2018

Have left butter in a regular dish on the counter for several weeks with no problem. Once did it in the summer in New England in an un-air conditioned apartment and it went... very rancid. It was very obvious.
posted by brainmouse at 3:00 PM on August 17, 2018

Butter left at a warm room temp for a couple days will change a bit- the exposed surfaces become a darker, oilier yellow. To me this doesn't taste as good, but it won't make you sick.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:07 PM on August 17, 2018

Ours hangs out in a butter dish on the counter for two or three weeks at a time and we’ve never had a problem. (Edited to add: air conditioned kitchen in New England.)
posted by lydhre at 3:27 PM on August 17, 2018

Until I use it up. I can't remember ever throwing out butter.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:31 PM on August 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

We keep ours (a large block of Kerrygold) in a porcelain dish with a glass lid, away from light in the cupboard. We use it within 3-4 weeks max but if it was there for a couple months it would be fine.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:31 PM on August 17, 2018

The failure modes here are rancidity and surface coloniation. It is obvious when butter goes rancid, it smells bad. And it is obvious if it’s been colonized, you’ll see splotches of stuff growing. You’re fine if it smells and looks fine.

So I have kept it for months in some places but only weeks in others. How long depends on heat and humidity.

And anyone who wants to spout general nonsense about things that can go bad without smelling bad or visibly spotting can fight me, because in this specific case a smell and look are sufficient, unless the butter has been sneakily poisoned.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:48 PM on August 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've had butter in a regular old covered butter dish on the counter all my life and never had an issue. In theory it can go rancid eventually but if it's kept in the dark (i.e. covered) it should last for weeks, at least. If it does go rancid, it's not like you're not gonna know about it. But I've literally never had that happen.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:10 PM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Like forever. Like way longer than you think. Months.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 5:25 PM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

All my life i've had butter on my counter. I've only had it go rancid once, after a good couple of months - and I suspect it was more due to a rogue crumb or two than the butter itself. It was definitely very noticeably off.
posted by cgg at 6:58 PM on August 17, 2018

Familiar with butter bells? YMMV, but as kitchen gadgets go, they're kind of up there.
posted by BWA at 7:35 PM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I too keep mine in a glass covered dish. Never had a problem.

But it's been brutally hot and humid lately so I put it in the fridge. If I didn't, I'd just have a puddle of butter.
posted by james33 at 7:22 AM on August 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Until it smells gross.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:00 AM on August 18, 2018

This discussion makes me think I might eat too much butter.
posted by thedward at 11:04 AM on August 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

I often keep butter out just in the package on a plate. A stick will last me a week or two. I've also got a butter bell. Using it is the only time I've ever had butter go moldy on the surface, so now I...uh...just set the stick on top of the butter bell, I kid you not.
posted by drlith at 12:48 PM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah in my experience a butter bell is just a way to get yourself some wet butter. No noticeable improvement over a regular butter dish, and they're a bit more fiddly.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:39 PM on August 18, 2018

I have a regular clear glass butter dish with a lid (because cats) and leave the unsalted butter on the counter and have done so my entire life, we're into multiple generations of such behavior, and none of us have died of bad butter (yet).
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:02 PM on August 19, 2018

It's very obvious when it goes off, which in my experience, can take more than a month. I always use unsalted.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:36 AM on August 20, 2018

I tried the butter just after reading a few of your helpful comments--it was delicious. just finished it up yesterday--still delicious. Thanks all!
posted by skewed at 9:07 AM on September 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

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