Like any other food product, butter, too, can go bad. But since it contains such high amounts of fat, it has a surprisingly long shelf life and is resistant to bacterial growth. That being said, fat is prone to rancid, making it dangerous to eat. So let us begin with understanding what butter is.
What is Butter?
Butter is one of the most recognized dairy products in the world. It is an emulsified dairy product consisting of 80% fat and 20% water, usually made from cow’s milk. Milk or cream is churned to separate the fat globules. These fat globules are then formed into butter blocks, and salt, flavorings, and even color are often added.
But its color in its pure form is white, and often this color is dependent on the source animals’ eating habits and genetics.
Butter is semi-solid and soft at room temperature and is very spreadable. Refrigerating butter turns it solid and hard. Seasonings, flavor, and color are often added to butter to make a variety of different butter. But butter is mainly of two kinds. Let us discuss that.
Types of Butter
Butter is generally of two kinds:
- Un-Clarified butter: This is the regular butter you see at grocery stores and everywhere. It contains water and is unrendered. This regular or unclarified butter can be further divided into many kinds depending on flavoring, seasoning, etc.
- Salted butter: This is just regular butter mixed with small amounts of salt. The amount of salt varies from brand to brand but is usually very low in quantity.
- Unsalted butter: This is just plain regular butter.
- Flavored butter: This is a regular butter mixed with spices and seasonings, for example, mushrooms, truffle, thyme, rosemary, garlic, etc.
- Clarified butter: When regular or unclarified butter is rendered further, it becomes clarified butter or ghee.
What Varieties of Butter Are There?
Other than unsalted and salted butter and ghee, there are many butter variations. Some of the most common ones are:
- Sweet cream butter
- Cultured butter
- Organic butter
- Plant-based butter or Cocoa butter
- Browned butter
- Whipped butter
- Goat’s milk butter
- Sheep’s milk butter
Fun Fact : Salted butter is more resistant to bacterial growth.
How to Tell If the Butter Has Gone Bad?
Butter has a few enemies. They are bacteria, heat, light, and oxidation. They make butter go bad and so let me tell you what to look out for:
1. Bacterial Growth on Butter
This is the most unlikely of signs because butter is resistant to bacterial growth. It only happens when you leave it at room temperature. These bacteria and mold are usually black or green.
2. Color of the Butter
If the butter has started to go dark in color, you shouldn’t eat that butter as it has begun oxidation. Oxidation occurs when butter reacts with oxygen.
3. The Smell of the Butter
It has gone bad if you ever get a funny, sour smell from butter.
4. Taste of the Butter
If you simply taste the butter and it doesn’t taste normal, discard it immediately.
5. Consistency of the Butter
Butter has a peculiar consistency as it is spreadable and semi-solid at room temperature. So use your instincts to determine if its texture is not normal and discard it accordingly.
How to Store Butter?
Butter can be stored both inside and outside the fridge. Let me tell you how:
1. Storing butter inside the fridge
To extend butter’s shelf life and keep it fresh, you should store it in the fridge.
(a) Refrigerating opened butter
- Take an airtight container.
- Make sure to sanitize it.
- Put the butter in the sanitized container.
- Refrigerate it.
(b) Refrigerating unopened butter
- Simply place it inside the refrigerator.
2. Storing butter outside the fridge
If you want to store butter for a short duration, then you can store it at room temperature on your counter or kitchen. Just follow these steps:
- Portion a small amount of butter to be kept outside.
- Refrigerate the remaining.
- Now put the butter you portioned out into an airtight container.
- Make sure that the container is sterilized.
- Simply place the container in a dark, cold place away from sunlight and heat.
Tip : Opaque or dark-colored containers are the best.
How Long Does Butter Last?
According to the USDA, the butter will last inside the fridge for up to 3 months when stored properly.
Similarly, according to the USDA, butter can be stored at room temperature between 2-14 days depending on how you store them.
Tip : Use a butter bell to store butter at room temperature. It keeps the butter airtight, and it can last up to 30 days this way.
What Happens If You Eat Expired or Spoiled Butter?
According to the USDA, some varieties of mold found in rancid butter can cause respiratory problems. Besides this, you may face other health-related issues like upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting.
While spoiled butter won’t kill you or isn’t fatal, it is always best to not consume it and discard it immediately.
Answering Some FAQ
Can butter be left out?
Yes, preferably in airtight containers in a dark place away from light and heat.
Can you eat expired butter?
Yes, as long as it’s still good, but it is suggested that you don’t.
How long is butter good after the expiration date?
Up to 6 months.
Can you keep butter on the counter?
Does butter need to be refrigerated?
Yes, if you plan for it to stay good for a long time.
How long does butter last past its best-by date?
From 3-6 months.
Does butter go bad in the refrigerator?
It is highly unlikely unless you contaminate it.
How long does butter last in the fridge?
Opened: 2 weeks. Unopened: 1 month
How long does unsalted butter last in the fridge?
For months and is unlikely to go bad.
It is always best not to eat expired products or products past their best date, but if you are ever in a situation where you are out of options, please check if it’s still good before consumption. I hope this article has proven to be helpful to you.
Eva M. Smith is the owner of this website. She is a 4 year old mother of two kids and a professional chef. Eva loves to cook for her family, but being a working mom has a lot of challenges. From squeezing in time to do the groceries to make three meals for the day. Eva knows how challenging cooking can be without a kitchen game plan.
That’s why she perfected techniques of preserving staple ingredients and several foods so that you have something pre-cooked or pre-baked to use for an array of meals. And they do not come short in flavor! And she does not want to sacrifice flavor with convenience. That’s why she is the best person to ask.