How Long Can Butter Be Left On The Counter?


Butter is a beloved staple in many kitchens, valued for its rich flavor and versatility in cooking and baking. Whether you spread it on toast or use it to bake golden cookies, butter is a go-to ingredient. However, a common question arises regarding its storage: How long can butter safely be left on the counter?

Understanding Butter Storage

Safe at Room Temperature

Butter is safe to be kept at room temperature for short periods. The high fat content in butter acts as a natural preservative, making it less prone to bacterial growth compared to other dairy products. According to USDA guidelines, butter can be stored safely at room temperature for up to two hours. This timeframe ensures that the butter remains at a safe temperature where bacteria are unlikely to multiply rapidly.

Factors to Consider

Several factors influence how long butter can stay fresh on the counter:


Room temperature is generally considered to be around 70°F (21°C). At higher temperatures, butter softens quickly and may begin to melt, which can affect its texture and increase the risk of spoilage. Conversely, in cooler environments, butter remains firmer and is less likely to spoil quickly.


The way butter is packaged also affects its shelf life outside the refrigerator. Butter kept in an airtight container or under a butter dish that shields it from light and air will stay fresher longer compared to butter left exposed.

Salted vs. Unsalted Butter

Salt acts as a natural preservative. Salted butter can generally be left out longer than unsalted butter because the salt helps inhibit bacterial growth. However, regardless of whether butter is salted or unsalted, it should not be left out for extended periods to ensure quality and safety.

How Long is Too Long?

Recommended Storage Practices

For optimal freshness and safety, it is best to store butter in the refrigerator. When left at room temperature, butter should be used within the recommended two-hour window to minimize the risk of contamination. If butter has been sitting out for longer than two hours in a warm environment, it is advisable to discard it to avoid any potential foodborne illnesses.

Signs of Spoilage

To determine if butter has spoiled, look for changes in color, texture, or smell. Butter that has gone bad may develop a rancid odor, become discolored, or appear moldy. If you notice any of these signs, it is best to discard the butter rather than risk consuming spoiled food.

Tips for Butter Storage


To extend the shelf life of butter, store it in the refrigerator. Butter can be kept in its original packaging or wrapped tightly in foil or plastic wrap to prevent absorption of other odors and flavors from the fridge.

Softening Butter

If you prefer softened butter for spreading or baking, you can leave a portion out at room temperature for a short period. However, only take out as much butter as you will use within a couple of hours to ensure food safety.

Freezing Butter

Butter can also be stored in the freezer for longer-term storage. Wrap butter tightly in foil or plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-safe container or bag. Frozen butter can be thawed in the refrigerator when needed and used in cooking and baking.


While butter can be safely kept at room temperature for a short period, it is best stored in the refrigerator for long-term freshness. Remember to use butter within two hours if left on the counter to ensure quality and safety. By understanding these storage practices and factors, you can enjoy fresh and delicious butter in your culinary creations.

Need a Grocery Store in Alexandria, IN?

Horner’s Midtown Market has been providing our community with all of its grocery needs since 2018. You can find all of your pantry’s needs here, whether you are looking for produce, deli meats and cheeses, grab-and-go meals, or something new entirely. Our meat department is the best in the area, and our rounds, chucks, and beef are all freshly ground every day. Stop by our store today! Contact us today to talk to any of our staff members if you’re looking for something in particular. We would be more than happy to assist you!

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