Butter has historically been a staple in all cultures — both ancient and modern. Whether you use ghee, hand-whipped butter, or vegan butter storing it well is essential to maximizing food dollars, cutting food waste, and making fewer trips to the grocery store.
Knowing how to store butter at home is particularly useful, especially right now since we’re spending more time at home and storing more food than usual.
Here are a few tips on storing butter properly:
Storing Butter at Room Temperature
If you like butter that is soft and ready for you to slather on to your toast, you’re going to like what we have to say next.
Though there is much debate on storing butter outside the refrigerator, technically salted butter or ghee can safely be stored at room temperature for a few days. With that said, unsalted or whipped butter needs to be stored in a refrigerator.
This is because, according to food scientist Harold McGee, salted butter comprises about 80% fat and has a low water content, and high salt content so it is able to resist contamination by microbes.
So how do you store butter at room temperature?
Air-tight keeps the butter right
Make sure the butter is stored in a container that seals well. The more it is exposed to air the faster it is likely to deteriorate in flavor. Consider investing in a butter bell, an airtight butter dish, crock, or an upside-down butter keeper. (This is a small bowl in which you put the butter and invert it into a cup filled partially with water.)
Certain kinds of butter dishes are specially designed to prevent air exposure, the French bell crock uses water to create a vacuum seal.
Avoid Air And Bright Light When Storing Butter
Store your butter away from bright light. When butter is exposed to bright light and air it causes the fat molecules to break down and this can make the butter rancid. So the ideal location for storing butter is room temperature in a cool dark place.
Don’t Use The Same Knife Twice
Avoid cross-contaminating your butter by using a fresh butter knife for every use. Bacteria from your utensils will contaminate the butter and make it spoil faster, especially breadcrumbs from toast, so make sure to wash your utensils before dipping them in your butter.
Keep Butter Cool
Your butter should stay cool enough to hold its shape so keep it away from any heat sources like the stovetop, toaster, air fryer, air vent, window or, even coffee maker. The ideal place to store butter at room temperature is in a cupboard away from any cooking equipment.
Freeze it if Your Kitchen is Above 70°
If your kitchen is hotter than 70° you’re better off keeping your butter in the fridge. Sometimes, especially on warmer days, knowing all the above steps to store butter at home isn’t enough, you need to refrigerate it so it doesn’t become a melted mess.
That being said, if you buy larger quantities of butter and want to store it hassle-free, here are some other tips for storing butter.
Storing Butter in The Fridge
This is the most common way to store butter at home, keep reading to maximize the shelf life of your refrigerated butter.
Wrap Your Butter Well
Keeping butter tightly sealed in its original wrapping or foil will keep it fresher for longer. If your original wrapping is ripped, wrap the butter in aluminum foil to preserve freshness. In fact, you can divide your butter and double wrap half of it to use it after a few weeks.
Isolate it From Other Items in Your Fridge
Keep your butter away from other items in your fridge so it doesn’t absorb any of the odors. The biggest downfall of storing butter in the refrigerator for a long time is that it can absorb smells of other food and because our sense of taste relies on our sense of smell, this significantly affects the taste of the butter.
Keep it Away From The Door
A useful tip to storing butter properly is to keep it at the back of the fridge. On average, one person can open the fridge as many as 22 times a day. Unfortunately, opening the fridge multiple times causes temperature fluctuations, especially for the contents of the fridge door. This is why you should try to keep butter — and even eggs or milk — away from the door.
Now, if you indulge in some fancy butter or just want to store the bulk of your regular butter for longer you can simply freeze it.
Storing Butter in The Freezer
Unlike some other foods, you can store butter in the freezer without affecting its taste or texture. Some salted butter can be stored in the freezer for about nine months and unsalted butter for about three. Here are our tips to freeze butter.
Cut Butter Into Chunks or Cubes
Cut your butter into cubes or chunks so you can thaw pebble size portions of it easily and avoid dealing with a big butter rock. For additional protection, sanitize the surface you will cut the butter on and use gloves to handle butter so you don’t transfer any bacteria to it.
Portion Your Butter
Split your blocks of butter into monthly portions so you don’t expose the entire portion of frozen butter when you dig in for a cube. Remember, the more times you open the butter preserve the more you expose it to air and temperature change.
Protect Butter From Freezer Burn by Wrapping it
Protect your butter from freezer burn and from absorbing smells in the freezer by wrapping it in aluminum foil. Nothing is worse than thawing your special butter only to realize it tastes stale, make sure to wrap your butter in foil without any rips or holes to ensure freshness.
Use a Freezer Bag
Freezer bags make for great added protection. You can write your own label on the bag with the date of freezing and the name of the butter.
Thaw Only as Much as You Need
Butter can last for up to 30 days if kept refrigerated after being thawed, but the longer you store it after thawing the more you risk losing some flavor.
Tips to Thaw Butter
Butter can take from around six hours to overnight if you leave it to thaw in the refrigerator, depending on the temperature of your refrigerator and the amount of butter to be thawed.
Softened butter is called for in many baking recipes. The butter needs to be malleable enough to cream into the batter. If you aren’t into advanced planning, consider grating your frozen butter to get it to thaw faster.
Use the larger holes of a box grater and grate directly into an empty mixing bowl or onto a waxed paper for easy transfer, just a few minutes at room temperature should soften up the shreds.
Many experts — including The New York Times — recommend refraining from defrosting frozen butter in a microwave. The butter usually melts rather than defrosting evenly and melted butter does not work well in baking or in a recipe that calls for softened butter.
If you find yourself with melted butter you’d best use it for drizzling over veggies or sautéing protein.
When using frozen butter for biscuits or pie crust you can grate it over the flour and then toss the butter and flour together, coating the shredded butter with flour. The butter, being frozen will keep the dough cool and will melt perfectly in the oven creating steam to help lift and form a delightfully flakey layer for the pie crust.
Canning Your Butter For Long-Term Storage
You can take regular unsalted butter (not margarine), put it in a pot on low heat and melt slowly until it is reduced into a liquid. Once the butter is just liquid, increase the heat to medium and bring the butter to a boil so as to separate the oil from the water, when the milk fat separates and the water evaporates the butter preserves better because the water and milk that causes it to become rancid are no longer present.
Let it sit until it turns into a mild golden brown, without stirring. Continue letting it cook until the foam becomes a caramelly gold. Take it off the heat and strain it through a wire mesh strainer and coffee filter.
Allow it to come to room temperature then store it in sterilized jars. Pop the jars in the oven to seal well. If you want to learn about canning other foods, check out one of our most recent blog posts!
Storing Vegan Butter
If you pour fresh homemade vegan butter into a sanitized tightly sealing container it can last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, however, this is influenced by the kind of milk used.
Store-bought vegan butter does last longer as it tends to have preservatives.
Vegan butter also freezes well and stays good for about 3 months. You could directly pour the butter into a freezer-safe container or freeze pre set butter.
You can also pour the butter into silicone ice cube trays with your favorite condiment and wrap each individual cube in foil once it is frozen.
Now that you know all about better butter storage, we hope we made your leftover bit of butter better. For more tips about storing perishable food — like butter — properly, be sure to check out our other blog posts, including a recent post about how to store buttercream!