4 Mistakes to Avoid When Leaving Out Butter at Room Temperature

updated Nov 6, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Whether it’s OK to leave butter out at room temperature or not is a hotly debated issue, but the truth is it’s perfectly fine to keep butter out at room temperature for up to two weeks. The concern for room-temperature butter is that it will go rancid. But that won’t happen as quickly as you might think — especially if avoid these four mistakes.

Yes, butter is a dairy product, and dairy products degrade when left out at room temperature, but butter is at least 80 percent fat and has a much lower water content than other dairy, which makes for a product that’s much less susceptible to bacterial growth.

Quick Overview

How Long Can Butter Sit Out?

On most occasions, butter can sit out at room temperature for up to two weeks. The reason butter can sit out at room temperature for substantial amounts of time, while other forms of dairy like milk or cream can’t, is that butter has a much lower water content than other dairy, which makes it less likely to develop bacterial growth.

Mistakes to Avoid When Leaving Butter Out

1. Leaving the wrong type of butter out.

It’s fine to leave unsalted butter out on the counter for a few hours if you’re planning to bake with it, but if you’re going to leave any butter out at room temperature for an extended period of time, make it salted. That’s because the salt in salted butter adds extra protection against any sort of bacterial growth.

2. Storing it in the wrong container.

Exposure to light and air are the two main reasons butter goes rancid or spoils, which means it’s wise to be savvy about the container you’re storing the butter in at room temperature.

Leaving it out in simply the wax paper wrapper it came in or even just on a plate wrapped in plastic wrap should be avoided. Instead, choose a

butter dish

You can also opt for a butter crock, also called a butter bell or butter keeper. With these containers the butter is kept in a small pot that is immersed in water, creating an airtight seal. Both a dish and crock also help keep the butter soft and spreadable while at a steady temperature.

3. Leaving it in a very warm kitchen.

If you live in a warm climate or it’s the peak of summer, your kitchen just might simply be too warm to leave butter out on the counter. If the temperature in your kitchen hovers steadily above 70°F, you’re better off storing butter in the fridge.

4. Keeping too much out at once.

The USDA recommends leaving butter out at room temperature for only a day or two. But if it’s stored in all of the proper conditions listed above, it can stay fresh for up to two weeks. So don’t leave out more than you think you’ll be able to get through in that small period of time.

If you’re unsure if your butter is OK to eat, simply give it a smell. If it’s rancid it will most definitely smell off, and if you’re willing to give it a taste, it should taste unpleasantly sour. At that point it’s time to reach for fresh butter.