We’ve all been there. Scraping cold, rock-hard butter on to your bread can often leave you with a crumbly mess. In contrast, a pat of room temperature butter melting into warm toast is the stuff of dreams.
With this in mind, you’ve probably considered leaving your butter out, so it’s always readily spreadable and soft.
You might have already fallen into the habit of leaving your butter dish out overnight, discovering tastes absolutely fine the next morning. This is because butter is made with a “different manufacturing process” compared to milk and cream, which means it is less perishable than these other dairy products, according to the Food Standards Authority (FSA).
However, while leaving butter out for a few hours won’t kill you, the FSA warns against making it a regular practice.
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“In general terms, we advise storing butter in the fridge when it is not being used,” a representative told Yahoo UK.
Still tempted? There are a number of other factors to consider, it explains, including what type of butter you are using and how it is stored.
Salted vs. unsalted butter
“There are different types of butter and you should follow the advice on the packaging,” says the FSA.
For instance, in one study, scientists found salted butter can be left out for up to three months, because it has a low risk of bacterial contamination thanks to salt’s preservation powers.
Meanwhile, all other types of butter – including unsalted, whipped, raw and unpasteurised butter – should be kept in the fridge, advises the FSA.
Hold up – even if your butter is technically safe to eat, leaving it out may have cause it to spoil, compromising quality and taste.
This is due to butter’s high fat content, which causes it to oxidise and go rancid – which, as anyone who’s ever tried off butter will testify, makes it go from delicious to disgusting.
Heat, light and oxygen exposure speeds up the process of oxidisation, so keeping it in the fridge will slow the process and keep your butter fresh for longer.
What’s more, always pay attention to the butter’s expiry date – and stick to it, the FSA advises.
Butter will also stay fresh in your freezer for a year, according to one study – so store larger amounts here if you don’t think you will use them up quickly enough.
While leaving salted butter out for a couple of hours might be all well and good, there’s no accounting for what happens when other bacterias become introduced.
“Storing butter in the fridge prevents the growth of bacteria in the butter if it has been contaminated when using utensils,” warns the FSA.
If you think there’s little risk of your butter becoming contaminated, consider all the breadcrumbs which seem to magically make their way into the communal dish. Plus, can you honestly say you’ve never used the same knife for your jam and butter?
It’s also vital to make sure your butter is kept in the fridge – or at least, well-covered – during the cooking process, to avoid a pesky case of accidental salmonella.
“Make sure the butter is wrapped up or covered to avoid cross-contamination particularly with raw food, such as meat,” the FSA advises. “Use the packaging or wrapping it came with or alternatively a clean airtight container.”
Another common kitchen query is whether or not eggs should be stored in the fridge. Brits are the least likely people in Europe to refrigerate our eggs, according to one survey.