Does butter need to be refrigerated? Actually it depends

Do you store butter in the fridge, freezer or at room temperature?

When I offered this to home cooks on social media, the most common response was actually none of the above. It was All the foregoing.

Yes, many people store butter only in the fridge. Because that’s what their mother did. Because they live in a hot climate. Because they don’t eat a lot of butter. Because their dog or cat would jump at the chance to eat a lot of butter.

But beyond the fridge devotees, more and more people, myself included, like to choose. Because it’s fun to be picky! Because it’s fun to be selective! It all depends on what you need the butter for: Stir-fried kale? Pound cake? English muffin? Pastry ?

According to the USDA, “Butter and margarine are safe at room temperature. However, if butter is left at room temperature for several days, the flavor may go rancid, so it’s best to leave out whatever you can. use up in a day or two.”

Similarly, Harold McGee writes in “On Food & Cooking,” “Because its scanty water is dispersed into tiny droplets, properly made butter resists gross contamination by microbes and keeps well for a few days at room temperature.

This means that a butter with a higher fat content, such as a European-style variety, is a better bet to leave on the counter. If you want to be a gifted go for a salty variety – more flavor, duh, but also because salt acts as a preservative. And keep the butter in a dish that keeps out as much light and air as possible.

From a food safety perspective, the least risky option is the freezer (where the butter keeps for several months), followed by the refrigerator (where the butter keeps for a few months). But what about toast? What about toast?

Some math: Butter becomes spreadable at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter melts at 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The butter in my fridge is 43 degrees Fahrenheit. And the butter on my counter is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This all adds up to my own answer to my own question:

Where to store butter? Everywhere and everywhere. Here is my system:


Emergency butter so you never have to worry about running out of butter. Good for others, usually useless for me, since I plow through butter from my fridge so quickly.


At least two pounds of American-style unsalted butter for cooking and baking. Plus backup butter for the counter.

refrigerator counter

A butter that spends most of its life in the fridge but travels to the counter 12-24 hours before I bake a cake or cookies.

To counter

Salty, European-style, four ounces or less, so it doesn’t need to sit for long. For noodles, rice and, above all, toast.

Am I right or am I right? What is your belief system when it comes to storing butter? Let me know in the comments below.