Remember going to grandma’s house and seeing her butter in a dish on the kitchen dinette? That soft spread of sunshine that you added to freshly-baked bread was always so good. How many of you have thought about this while trying to spread cold butter on a piece of toast only to leave you staring at a hole in the bread? With safety concerns, you chose to refrigerate it rather than become possibly sick?
To answer your question, it is safe but there are restrictions.
While butter is a dairy product, it’s mostly fat, meaning that it’s less susceptible to bacteria. Salted butter is even less prone to bacterial growth than unsalted butter because of its sodium content, so the shelf life of the two types of butter is slightly different. When it comes to leaving butter out of the fridge, the first important rule is that it should be kept in a butter crock or a similar airtight container. If butter is exposed to air, it spoils much more quickly. When properly sealed in the container after each use, salted butter sitting out in a crock will last about two weeks, according to Organic Authority. If room temperature in your kitchen reaches above 70°F, however, it’s best to refrigerate ASAP. But unsalted butter is best left in the fridge at all times.
And unless you’ve got your hands on some raw cream butter, chances are the product you’re eating has been pasteurized, meaning it was initially heated to a temperature at which pathogenic bacteria cannot survive. Additionally, salted and cultured butters stand an even greater chance of resisting harmful organisms—salt has natural anti-microbial properties, while the healthful Lactococcus lactis bacterium that is used to culture dairy products creates an acidic environment in which many organisms find it hard to flourish.
From a safety standpoint, butter left at room temperature is unlikely to do any harm. But there is one other concern that can’t be ignored: rancidity. If you’ve ever had a whiff of butter that’s been left out in the open for too long, you’ll know it well. It will give off a distinctive, cabbage-y odor. Exposure to light and air accelerates these processes.
A covered, opaque butter dish is a start (steer away from those clear plastic ones). But the best option is a French-style butter crock, which consists of an inverted cup that is submerged into a water-filled vessel, expelling all air. The less exposure your butter has to the elements, the longer it will last at any temperature.
Safety issues aside, taste also goes downhill eventually when butter is left on the counter. Due to the high-fat content, butter is prone to oxidation and rancidity, which is why it will become “unpalatable,” after that week or two mark.
Ref. MSN/lifestyle, popsugar.com, organicauthority.com, chowhound.com, today.com
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