Butter goes in the fridge.
Period. That’s the end of this discussion.
(Prepare for another one of my unreasonably ardent defenses of something inconsequential, like my previous obvious assertion that deep dish pizza is the greatest pizza or that you can still use chicken that’s been in the fridge for five days.)
We’ve been in the process of revamping our newsroom space a little bit for the last few months. We cleared out some old, empty desks and have been creating a small lounge area.
Anyhow, as part of the revamp, our obits editor Carol Ernsberger kept saying she really wanted to get a toaster in there. Why, I don’t know. Apparently the lack of toast in our lives is a No. 1 issue.
Although I didn’t see the major need for a toaster, I said that’s fine as long as she keeps in mind that the ongoing budget for our renovations is $0 and that she doesn’t set off the smoke alarm.
For Christmas, another coworker from our creative department gave Carol a toaster she had won at a casino or something. So, like a child on Christmas morning, Carol set up her toaster and toasted some bread and spread some butter on it and was happy as can be.
A few days passed and when I came back to the office the next Monday, I realized that the plastic container was still out on the table with the stick of butter in it.
“Hey, you left your butter out all weekend,” I said.
Her general response was, “So?”
Apparently, as I’ve discovered in the last few weeks, a lot of people are of the opinion that you can leave butter out days, even weeks at a time.
In a weird coincidence, even our weekly syndicated columnist John Stossel wrote about it just this past Saturday:
“I hate hard butter from the refrigerator. Try to spread it and it tears the bread. In the past, I’ve put it in the microwave to soften it. Then some of it turns to liquid,” Stossel wrote. “But now I know we can leave butter out! The USDA says that ‘butter and margarine are safe at room temp.’”
And I’m here to tell you that’s wrong.
Butter goes in the fridge. Here are my (not always soundly researched or logically solid) impassioned arguments:
Despite Stossel’s statement, I couldn’t find anything from the USDA, the FDA or the FSIS that says it’s OK to leave butter out.
The most recent guidance I could find was an October 2017 poster titled “All About Butter,” which states: “STORE @ 40° F or LOWER.”
I also looked at the packaging for a box of Land O’ Lakes butter. On the back, under the nutritional facts — “KEEP REFRIGERATED.”
Also, perhaps one of the most telltale signs of why butter should go in the fridge — where is butter located in the grocery store? In a refrigerated section, not on a standard shelf!
“But, but butter is made of fat and salt and such and such so bacteria doesn’t affect it!” — Some butter-on-the-counter person pretending to have a food science degree.
Wrong. Butter may be “less prone” to bacterial growth, but not immune from it. And, at its heart, butter is still a dairy product. You wouldn’t leave your milk, cottage cheese, sour cream or cheese out on the counter for a week.
“But butter is processed, so it keeps on the counter!” — Another wrong butter person.
“Yes, cheese is highly processed too, but you wouldn’t leave your cheese slices or your shredded cheese or block of cheese on the counter.” — Me, someone who is right, making a counterargument.
(As a side note here, you may be getting ready to lob a “Yeah, well Velveeta cheese isn’t refrigerated!” That’s true, but Velveeta is a “pasteurized prepared cheese product.” Also, you’ll find on the back of the box “AFTER OPENING: REFRIGERATE.”)
“Oh yeah, well the pioneers back in the day made and used butter and they didn’t refrigerate it!” — Butter people, grasping for straws.
That’s true, but they also didn’t refrigerate anything, because they couldn’t. They also had a life expectancy of like 40 years. I can’t say that’s completely attributable to butter, but I also can’t not say that.
And finally, I bring you to the last lame argument for leaving the butter out for like three months:
“Butter in the fridge is hard and you can’t spread it!” — Butter whiners on their last legs.
One, if you’re putting your butter on hot food like a baked potato or toast or something, the heat from the food will help to soften the butter to a spreadable consistency.
Or, here’s another idea — take the butter out of the fridge a few minutes before you eat so it can warm a bit, then use it, then put it in the fridge when you’re done.
We’re civilized people. We invented refrigerators to help us keep food that might spoil. It’s not that hard to use. Just open the door and place stuff inside.
Put your butter in the fridge.