Butter has a long shelf life compared to other dairy products thanks to its high fat content. But like other dairy products, butter comes with an expiration date too. However, being past the printed date doesn’t always mean that the butter is bad.
Can you use expired butter? You can use butter past the printed date provided that you have stored it properly. You can use unopened butter within 2-3 months past the date on the packaging and 1-2 months if you have already opened it.
Continue reading to learn how to store butter properly, how long it lasts, what the signs of bad butter are, and what happens when you eat expired butter.
Does Butter Go Bad?
Butter is one of the most commonly used dairy products. We all know foods that contain dairy are highly perishable. Butter, however, has quite a long shelf life.
The reason behind the longer shelf life of butter compared to other dairy products is that it contains less lactose.
The high amount of lactose is what causes most dairy products, such as milk and creams, to go bad quickly. This is exactly why lactose-free milk has a longer shelf life compared to regular milk.
Butter is mostly fat. And fat doesn’t go bad easily. It undergoes oxidation, which eventually causes the butter to go rancid. In fact, oxidation is more common to run into with butter than bacterial growth, which makes most food go bad.
Despite the low risk of bacterial contamination and its long shelf life, butter will go bad rather quickly if you fail to store it properly.
No matter the dates printed on the butter packaging, it is the storage conditions that ultimately decide its shelf life.
So if you’re always diligent about wrapping your butter in foil and it’s only been a few weeks since the expiration date passed, you should be good to grab that butter knife and get to snacking.
Does Spray Butter Expire?
Spray butter, like other cooking sprays, comes with an expiration date as well. It is recommended to use spray butter within 12 months for the best quality.
Cooking sprays may stay good longer if you store them properly, i.e. in a dark and cool place.
As the spray starts to deteriorate, you will start noticing flavor, smell, and consistency changes. You should also discard the spray butter if the spray can is leaking, rusty, or has dents.
The bulging of the can is another sign telling you to discard the spray butter immediately.
How to Store Butter
The best way to store butter is in the fridge. Butter usually comes in foil packaging that protects it from light and air. Butter wrapped tightly in its original foil packaging is also well-protected against odors.
If the original packaging is damaged, make sure to use extra foil to wrap the butter. You can keep a small brick of butter in a butter dish for convenient use.
An important point is that you should store butter on the fridge shelves rather than on the door.
Most people keep butter on the fridge door, as it is small and fits there just perfectly. However, it is recommended to store butter at the far end of the fridge for temperature stability.
You surely open the fridge multiple times a day. And when you don’t know what to eat, you may even keep the door open for a little while.
This causes temperature fluctuations, which make products stored on the fridge door deteriorate quicker.
Can You Store Butter in the Freezer?
Storing butter in the freezer is a good idea, as butter not only freezes well but is also easy to thaw and use.
To freeze butter, wrap it tightly in a layer of aluminum foil. For extra protection against freezer burn and absorbing odors, put the foil-wrapped butter in a heavy-duty zipper bag. You can also use cling wrap to wrap it.
Whenever you need to use the frozen butter, transfer it from the freezer into the fridge. The butter will thaw within 7 hours.
If you need to soften the butter quickly, you can either submerge the plastic-wrapped butter in water or microwave it for a few seconds to get it soft instantly.
A great way to deal with frozen butter, especially for cooking purposes, is to grate it using a cheese grater.
Does Butter Go Bad if You Don’t Refrigerate It?
One of the most annoying things for every cook is when they go to bake but the butter is hard.
In such cases, you either need to take it out of the fridge in advance to let it soften or spend time softening it using alternative methods such as a lukewarm water bath.
To avoid dealing with overly hard butter, many people choose to leave it at room temperature. And butter does keep well at room temperature too.
This is not surprising, as commercially manufactured butter is 80% fat and only 15% water.
When storing butter at room temperature, here are a few simple rules to follow:
- Keep a small amount of butter at room temperature and store the rest in the fridge.
- Keep the butter in an airtight container. The less contact it has with air the better it will keep. It is good to keep the butter in a dark container or a kitchen cabinet.
- Store butter away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
- Don’t store butter at room temperature if it is too hot where you live. It is not recommended to store butter on the counter if the temperature is above 77°F.
Salted butter holds even better at room temperature as the salt lowers the water content in butter and further prevents bacterial growth.
How Long Does Butter Last?
According to USDA, the shelf life of butter stored in the fridge is 1-3 months whether it has been opened or not.
However, the best-by date printed on the packaging of different foods is the manufacture’s estimation of how long the product will maintain its best flavor and texture qualities.
Butter stored in the freezer prior to the printed date will keep well for around 4 months. If the temperature in the freezer is stable, the butter will keep well for longer.
However, as it sits in the freezer, its quality will start to deteriorate. Butter will gradually lose its freshness and flavor.
As for butter left out on the counter, it should be consumed within 1-2 days, as warmer temperatures make the butter go rancid rather quickly. The more salt there is, the longer the butter will stay fresh at room temperature.
How Long Is Butter Good Past the Expiration Date?
If you store butter in the fridge properly, it will remain good for consumption 2-3 months past the expiration date if unopened. An opened package of butter stored in the fridge can be consumed within 1-2 months past the printed date.
When using butter that is past its expiration date, look closer for any signs of spoilage.
Signs That Butter Has Gone Bad
You can tell if butter is bad by smelling it. The smell of rancid butter is rather off-putting and can be easily determined. Bad butter undergoes texture changes too. It may be too hard or too soft.
You can also tell if butter is bad by examining its color. Discoloration and darkening are common signs of expired butter.
Slice the butter to see the color changes. If the sides look darker than the inside, the butter is rather old and not suitable for consumption.
When you are not sure whether the butter is good or not just by looking at it and touching it, give it a taste test.
If there are no visible signs of spoilage, eating a small amount of butter is the only way to determine if it is still good or not. Bad butter has a sour taste that gives it away.
In rare cases, butter not only goes rancid but also gets moldy. You should discard the butter immediately if you see black spots on it that are an indication of mold.
What Happens if You Eat Expired Butter?
If you ate butter without checking the expiration date, don’t panic. If the butter didn’t have any visible signs of spoilage and tasted okay for you to eat, it was probably still good.
Eating butter that has gone rancid won’t cause any health issues either unless it’s been contaminated by bad bacteria, although some studies state that rancid butter can lower your vitamin B and E levels.
Can Expired Butter Make You Sick?
Eating butter that has been stored properly but is past its expiration date is very unlikely to make you sick, as butter remains good for consumption for a few months past the printed date.
Even butter that has gone rancid is not likely to make you sick. If you are someone with a sensitive stomach, you may experience discomfort and uneasiness which will soon go away.