The superiority of storing butter on the countertop vs. in the fridge is a hotly debated topic among some butter lovers. Pro-countertop folks insist that leaving their butter out makes it softer and easier to spread. Pro-fridge people say refrigeration is safer and keeps it fresher.
As it turns out, they’re both right.
According to the USDA, it’s okay to leave your butter out on the countertop… for one or two days at most.
This is less about safety than you might think. Compared to other dairy products, pasteurized butter is much less likely to grow bacteria if left out at room temperature. Especially if it’s salted butter.
However, exposure to light, air, and heat will cause uncovered butter to turn rancid and smelly after a day or two—even if you leave it in its wax paper wrappings from the grocery store. Covering it in plastic wrap won’t do much good either.
This is where butter dishes come in. These specialty, usually ceramic, dishes will cover and protect your butter from the elements in a way that paper or plastic can’t match. An airtight food storage container will work great too.
The Original Butter Bell Crock by L. Tremain
A cute little butter crock like this one is also an option.
If you store your butter on the kitchen countertop in a butter dish, butter crock, or an airtight food storage container, it can safely last for up to two weeks without going bad. So feel free to stash yours out on the kitchen countertop as long as you cover it properly.
Room temperature butter will be softer and thus easier to cut and spread than chilled or cold butter. On the other hand, butter left in the fridge does stay fresher for longer—twice as long or more, in fact. So there’s no real right or wrong answer to the great countertop vs. fridge butter debate. It’s all about personal preference.