How to store butter?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How to store butter?” and will discuss can butter spoils if not stored properly?

How to store butter?

To store butter wrap in aluminum foil and refrigerate away from other food items to keep it fresh. Store butter in the refrigerator or freezer and keep it covered or place it on the counter. Most people prefer to keep their butter in the refrigerator; however, all forms of butter may be frozen without sacrificing quality.

 Keeping salted butter and ghee at room temperature keeps it supple and ready to use at all times. With appropriate precautions, you may keep your butter just about anywhere. Most butter producers create their product with the assumption that it would not be refrigerated, so as long as you follow these guidelines, you can store your butter just about anywhere.

However, independent of where the butter is stored, it will have a limited shelf life, due to microbial spoilage or oxidation of lipids. Cold storage can extend the shelf life of butter, as well as the access to oxygen and light. The addition of salt prevents microbial growth, however, it increases the oxidation rate of some lipids and it does not eliminate the possibility of yeast contamination (1). 

If You Don’t Refrigerate Your Butter, Does It Go Bad?

Butter is a widely used spread and ingredient in baking. However, if you keep it in the fridge, it hardens, so you’ll need to melt or soften it before using it. So, rather than keeping butter in the refrigerator, some people keep it out on the counter. 

However, yeasts grow in butter and can produce off-flavors (such as fermented or yeasty). They can metabolize diacetyl in buttermilk and sour cream, thereby leading to a yogurt-like flavor. Lipolytic yeasts (such as Rhodotorula) may grow on the surface at chill temperatures and may tolerate high salt concentrations. Other yeasts associated with spoilage of butter include Candida lipolytica, Torulopsis, and Cryptococcus (2).

·         Butter contains a lot of fat.

Dairy products, like butter, are created from the milk of animals, such as cows, and are hence dairy products. To create buttermilk, milk or cream is churned until it separates into buttermilk and butterfat.

There are two completely different methods for manufacturing butter. These are the churning method and the emulsification method. In the churning method, crystallization of the fat takes place in cream, followed by a phase inversion in which the oil-in-water emulsion of the cream is turned into a water-in-oil emulsion by strong mechanical treatment. The fat content is then concentrated by draining off the buttermilk. The butter is finally plasticized by mechanical working. In the emulsification method, the aforesaid first three sub processes are carried out in reverse order. First, the fat emulsion is concentrated to a fat content corresponding to the composition of the final product, then a phase inversion is carried out followed by crystallization, and finally a coherent fat mass is formed and plasticized (3).

Butter is one of the few dairy products that have a significant percentage of fat. With just over 3% fat in milk and almost 40% fat in heavy cream, butter has more than 80 percent fat. Most of the remaining 20% is made up of water (2).

It has a lower carbohydrate and protein content than other dairy products. Butter spreads easily because of its high-fat content. But when stored in the refrigerator, this spreads more difficulty. Consequently, some individuals choose to keep their butter at room temperature so that it may be used for cooking and spreading.

Butter Lasts a Longer Time than Other Dairy Products

When it comes to dairy products, butter has a higher fat content and lower water level, making it less likely to encourage bacterial development. Salting the butter makes it much more difficult for germs to thrive since it reduces the water content even more. On the other hand, the presence of salt can increase the oxidation rate of lipids, especially in butter stored at higher temperatures (1). 

Bacteria Cannot Grow on Salted Foods. Only one species of the bacterium can live in salted butter, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While most germs can thrive in unsalted butter. However, psychrotrophic bacteria can grow and produce lipases in refrigerated salted butter if the moisture and salt are not evenly distributed. Butter is a water-in-fat emulsion. If salt and moisture are not evenly distributed in the product during processing, lipolytic psychrotroph will grow in pockets of water and produce lipases in butter (2).

Keeping normal, salted butter at room temperature reduces the danger of bacterial infection. It’s fairly uncommon for butter to be manufactured with the knowledge that it would not be refrigerated. Unsalted and whipped varieties, on the other hand, are somewhat different.

Don’t Let Your Butter Go rancid

Because butter is so heavy in fat, it is susceptible to rancidity, despite its minimal danger of bacterial development. You can tell if fat has gone rancid because it will smell bad and may become brown.

Oxidation is the process through which fats grow rancid or decay, altering their chemical structure and releasing potentially hazardous substances into the environment. As a consequence, any product created with rancid fats has an unpleasant taste.

Lipolytic changes occur in milk fat as a result of the hydrolysis of triacylglycerols by lipases (indigenous milk enzymes and enzymes of microbial origin). Lipolysis triggers the accumulation of free fatty acids, which can cause off-flavors described as rancid, butyric, bitter, unclean, soapy or astringent. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, which contain multiple double bonds with particularly reactive hydrogen atoms, are prone to oxidation. A high content of unsaturated fatty acids in milk fat increases the risk of oxidation and, in dairy products with a high content of unsaturated fatty acid, oxidation causes metallic, oily or stale flavors and a paler color, especially after long storage (1).

Exposure to heat, light, and oxygen may all speed up the synthesis of this chemical compound. Even yet, it has been shown that oxidation may have a deleterious effect on butter for up to a year, depending on how it is made and kept.

In the Refrigerator, butter lasts longer

To prevent the development of germs, keep unsalted, whipped, or raw, unpasteurized butter in the refrigerator. The danger of bacterial development in salted butter is so minimal that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. However, at room temperature, the oxidation rate of lipids and the production of oxidized fat is increased considerably.

Even if kept at room temperature, butter has a shelf life of 2 days, according to the USDA.many months. However, if you keep it in the refrigerator, it will last longer, 2 months and in the freezer, 9 months. When butter is refrigerated, the oxidation process is slowed down, preventing it from being rancid.

The reason for this is that the longer butter is left out, the less likely it is to maintain its freshness. It’s also a good idea to store it in the refrigerator if the temperature in your home rises over 70–77°F (21–25°C).

It’s OK to leave some butter out on the counter, but if you won’t be using it all up soon, store the remainder in the fridge. In the freezer, you can keep big volumes of butter fresh for up to a year. In a study, the effect of storing butter in the refrigerator was compared to the effect of its storage in the freezer for 12 months. The results indicated that refrigerated storage caused greater flavor deterioration compared with frozen storage, especially in the case of salt butter (4). 

Butter Storage Tips for the Countertop

Regular, salted butter does not need to be refrigerated, even though certain forms of it are best stored in the refrigerator. If you want to keep your butter fresh at room temperature, here are some tips:

·         Keep just a minimal quantity on the counter at a time. Refrigerate or freeze anything you don’t need right away.

·         Take the necessary precautions to keep it out of the light.

·         Keep it in an airtight container.

·         The stove, oven, and other sources of heat should be kept at a distance.

·         Temperatures of 70–77°F (21–25°C) are ideal for storing butter out of the refrigerator.

·         Many of these requirements may be met by a butter dish, but an opaque plastic storage container is also a good option.

Other FAQs about Butter that you may be interested in.

How to counteract too much butter in cookies?

Does butter need to be refrigerated?

How to store butter?


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “How to store butter?” and discussed can butter spoil if not stored properly?


  1. Méndez-Cid, Francisco J., et al. Changes in the chemical and physical characteristics of cow’s milk butter during storage: Effects of temperature and addition of salt. J Food Comp Anal, 2017, 63, 121-132.
  2. Spoilage of Milk and Milk Products. 2016. In Food Microbiology: Principles into Practice (eds O. Erkmen and T.F. Bozoglu). 
  3. Deosarkar, S.S. et al. 2016 Butter: Manufacture. In: Caballero, B., Finglas, P.,and Toldrá, F. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Food and Health, 1, 529-534. Oxford Acad Press.
  4. Lozano, Patricio R., et al. Effect of cold storage and packaging material on the major aroma components of sweet cream butter. J. Agric Food Chem, 2007, 55, 7840-7846.