Like any other morning, you’re getting the ingredients ready to make some delicious breakfast. After frying some crispy bacon and scrambled eggs, you’re pulling out a stick of butter from the back of your fridge to slather some on your toast.
You quickly realize that it’s a few days past its best-by-day, and now you’re wondering – Does Butter Go Bad?
Smooth and creamy, butter is a very often used ingredient in cooking and baking, and nearly all of us use it on an everyday basis. But there are also times when you don’t use it as much, or there was a sale resulting in the bulk of butter at the back of your fridge. Can you still use it after a couple of weeks? Should you freeze it?
Hopefully, we’re here to answer all of your questions regarding the shelf life of butter and storage conditions, so read along!
Does Butter Go Bad?
Butter can definitely go bad. But not as soon as you think!
As you already know, butter is a dairy product made from the milk of mammals. The preparation process includes churning milk until butterfat separates from the buttermilk.
It doesn’t contain many carbs or protein. Still, it is high in saturated fat and it even has some vitamins such as calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin A! Unlike margarine, it has dairy fats instead of trans fats, which are considered way healthier.
It is very high in fat content – over 80% of butter is fat, and the remaining 20% is mostly water. That means that this product doesn’t have enough moisture, and it is not a suitable environment for bacterial growth. Thus, it can last longer than other dairy products.
But How Long Does Butter Last?
Generally, butter can last from 1 to 4 months. That is if you keep it in the refrigerator. You can also keep it at room temperature. However, it will have a much shorter shelf life and remain fresh for only a couple of days before it deteriorates in quality.
The package dates will give you the optimal shelf-life and butter can stay good even 3-5 weeks after that date. Even so, we recommend using it within best-by-date, for the best quality.
Salted butter will retain good longer than an unsalted version. That’s because salt, like sugar, is known for its dehydration properties, making an inhospitable environment for bacteria. However, we’re talking a month or two longer, not much more.
It all depends on the type of butter, storage, and temperature conditions. Typically, unopened butter can last up to 3 months in the refrigerator, and opened one can last 3 weeks in the fridge and 2-3 days at room temperature.
On the other hand, salted butter can last up to 5 months in the refrigerator and 2 weeks at room temperature.
Unsalted butter will last from 5-9 months in the freezer, while the salted version can last up to 1 year in the freezer. But note that after thawing, the butter can sometimes degrade in quality.
Finally, flavored butter (the one mixed with spices and herbs) can last up to 5 days in the refrigerator and 5 months in the freezer.
How To Store Butter?
As you’ve already read above, butter, unlike other dairy products, can stay fresh for a more extended period. However, the oils in the butter will go rancid after some time, so it is crucial to store it properly. Proper storage can extend its shelf life and give you the best possible quality, even after the best-by-date.
The butter that you just pull out of the fridge won’t spread so easily. Fortunately, as we already mentioned, butter can stay good at room temperature for a while before it goes bad. Salted butter will even stay good for longer because salt has preservative properties. But even so, how to store it properly?
The answer lies in a butter dish or a so-called butter bell. This type of dish is made especially for keeping the temperature steady and the butter soft and spreadable.
But have in mind that it can stay at room temperature for only a couple of days before it goes bad. So, cut a portion that you will eat in the next 3-5 days, and put it on the counter or in the pantry.
We always recommend storing your butter in the refrigerator, as it will extend its shelf life and slow down the oxidation process. You can store it in its original wrapping sealed tightly or transfer it in the freezer bag, airtight container, or a butter dish.
Avoid keeping it in the fridge door as the temperature fluctuates every time you open your fridge. So, put it in the main body of your refrigerator.
When you open your butter, it is best to transfer it to another container. That’s because the partially-open original paper wrap will cause the exposed butter parts to harden and smell stale after a week.
In addition, you can wrap it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. As long as it is sealed tightly, it will prevent oxidation and bad odors from sticking to the butter.
Moreover, you can freeze the butter if you have a stack or don’t use it too often. It will extend its shelf life for an additional 5-9 months. Put it in an airtight container or a freezer bag (squeeze the excess air) and put it in the freezer.
Additionally, always keep the butter in a cool and dark place, away from moisture, heat sources, and direct light.
Signs Of Spoiled Butter
You will know for certain if your butter has gone bad. From the smell to texture and taste, there are a few certain signs that your butter has gone bad:
- Butter is prone to oxidation because it contains a lot of fat. The first sign of oxidation is a pale color inside of your butter. It can be partially oxidized, and if that happens, you can cut the affected area and eat the rest of it. However, if you notice a slightly dark-yellow color, discard the whole product. It is vital to keep it sealed tightly in its original packaging, an airtight container, or a butter dish.
- The changes in the texture will be the sure signs your butter has gone bad. If it has a mushy, stringy consistency; or it is too soft or too hard and difficult to spread, it has gone bad for sure.
- Spoiled butter will have signs of discolorations, like white or dark yellow layers. Your butter should have an even yellow color from the inside out. Slice it a bit, and if you notice that inside is any lighter or darker, discard it.
- Black and greenish spots are certain signs of mold formation. Mold indicates bacterial contamination, and butter like that is not safe for use!
- If the butter has a bad odor, a sour, stale, or some sort of cheesy smell, it has gone bad.
- If it doesn’t have visible signs on the surface, you can taste it. The small amount won’t harm you even if it has already gone bad. If it has a bad, sour taste, it is a sign of spoilage.
Does Butter Go Bad? – Final Word
Like any other dairy product, butter can, too, go bad. However, it has a pretty long shelf life, and it won’t go bad even if you store some of it at room temperature for a while.
Since it has low water content and high-fat content, it can’t support bacterial growth like other dairy products. Also, salted butter may even last longer than an unsalted version.
You can keep your butter at room temperature, but the refrigerator is the best storage place for long-term storage. That’s why it is for the best only to keep the amount that you will use in the next few days (in the butter dish) at room temperature, and the rest sealed tightly in the fridge.
Also, keep it away from heat, moisture, and light. Dark and cool places are the best kind of environments for your butter. Freezing is also an option, as it will extend its shelf life for a few months.
If you notice any discolorations, mold spots, changes in the texture, or a bad taste and smell, discard it immediately. Yes, it can last past its best-by-date, but if you’re not sure of its condition, it is better to throw it than to risk getting a foodborne illness.