Does Butter Go Bad? How to Prevent Butter From Going Rancid


Butter is popular across the world as a spread or ingredient. Butter has high-fat content, which makes it thick and easily spreadable. It is used for baking, cooking, garnishing, or sauteing needs. Chicken, meat, fish, or veggies can taste better with butter. Warm butter or soft butter is delicious and healthy and can be paired with burgers, sandwiches, cookies, or desserts. However, butter has its own set of quirks when it comes to storage. The quality of butter can change dramatically with temperature. Ideally, butter should be stored below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to extend its shelf life. 

In this article, we discuss whether you should leave butter out of the fridge, does butter need to be refrigerated, does butter expire, can butter go bad, does butter go bad in the fridge, how long is butter good for, and essential commercial refrigeration equipment needed to store butter. 

Can You Leave Butter Out of The Fridge?

Butter can be left at room temperatures, but not for long. A hot and humid environment can negatively affect the shelf life of butter. Here are some tips to keep butter fresh at room temperatures: 

  1. Store only a small amount of butter on the counter. 
  2. Protect the unrefrigerated butter from direct light or heat. 
  3. Store butter in an opaque container or closed container. 
  4. Use an airtight container for storing at room temperatures.
  5. Store butter at room temperatures if the temperature is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

But if you are concerned about food safety, then refrigerate butter immediately after usage. 

Does Butter Need To Be Refrigerated?

does butter need to be refrigerated

Should you refrigerate butter? The answer is a resounding yes. Ideally, butter should be stored in refrigerated conditions. You can occasionally leave butter on the counter at low room temperatures. Preferably, store butter in reach-in coolers or walk-in coolers, depending upon your foodservice’s business needs. 

Salted Butter: Salted butter can be left unrefrigerated over more extended periods. The amount of salt in the butter can determine how long it will last in unrefrigerated conditions. Salted butter can significantly lower the formation of bacterial growth. Even though warm butter or soft butter tastes better, it should not be left on the counter for more than two days. 

Unsalted Butter: Unsalted butter and whipped butter should be refrigerated immediately after use. Unsalted butter can go rancid at room temperatures.

As a rule of thumb, you should refrigerate all types of butter if the temperature in the kitchen area goes above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, you can store butter in the freezer for a few months.

Does Butter Expire? 

Yes, like most food items, butter can expire. You can check the shelf life of butter by checking the use-by date on the package. But the expiration date or use by date is only valid if butter is stored in ideal or perfect conditions. Butter should ideally be kept refrigerated below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to increase the shelf life by a few months, you should store it in the freezer. 

Can Butter Go Bad?

Butter can go bad, and spoiled butter can turn too soft or too hard. It can become rancid because of oxidation, as it can alter the molecular structure of the fat and create new harmful compounds. You may also witness mold formation on the butter. Sometimes butter can go bad without any physical transformation. Additionally, you can do a quality check by tasting a small quantity of butter. Look for a sour smell or funny taste to determine the quality.

Does Butter Go Bad In The Fridge?

Butter has a shelf life of 3 to 9 months. An unopened butter container can last for months if the temperature inside the refrigerator is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Anything over 40 degrees Fahrenheit can increase the pace of bacterial and mold growth. If you leave the butter container partially open, then the exposed area of the butter hardens, and it can become stale in less than a week. This phenomenon happens because of oxygen or air touching the surface of the butter. 

How Long Is Butter Good For?

  • An unopened butter container can last for 1 to 3 months below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the refrigerator. 
  • Frozen butter can last up to 6 to 9 months, depending upon the type of butter and freezing conditions. Most companies guarantee a shelf life of 6 months in ideal refrigerated conditions. 
  • Salted butter can be left unattended at room temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 2 days. In comparison, unsalted butter needs to be refrigerated immediately after usage. 
  • Commercial processing of butter can increase the shelf life of butter. 
  • Partially opened containers of butter can last up to a week in the refrigerator.

Essential Commercial Refrigeration Equipment Needed To Store Butter

Refrigeration keeps the butter fresh for longer periods. Refrigerate butter below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, store butter in the deep end of the refrigerator to avoid temperature fluctuations caused by frequent door opening. 

  • Walk-in Units: Many large commercial food service establishments and restaurants have walk-in units installed for food storage. You can store large quantities of butter in walk-in freezers or walk-in refrigerators for an extended period of time. 
  • Reach-in Units: Reach-in units are used by restaurants, cafes, institutions, grocery stores, supermarkets for the storage of butter. You can opt for reach-in refrigerators or reach-in freezers, depending upon your business or storage needs. 
  • Countertop Units: Small food service establishments like kiosks or food trucks can choose from a wide array of compact countertop refrigeration units to store butter and other food items. Place butter in an air-sealed container to make sure the taste of butter remains intact, as the odor of chicken, meat, vegetable, or fish can change the taste of butter.  

Commercially, butter can be stored safely in refrigerated conditions. Refrigeration can extend the shelf life of butter. It also keeps the butter fresh for consumption. Also, butter should be stored in tightly-sealed containers to avoid odor from other refrigerated food items. This can also prevent the formation of harmful bacteria. 

Posted by Damon Shrauner on