Butter accidentally left out overnight. Will it kill me?

I realize the title is misleading. I am not actually paranoid that the butter will attain sentience and attack me in my sleep.

I bought some groceries last night and thought I’d put everything away into the fridge that needed away-putting. Unfortunately, early this afternoon I was unpacking the canned goods and belatedly discovered my tub of Land-o-Lakes whipped butter, sitting patiently though forgotten amid the non-perishables.

Cursing, I started to toss it out, but then I got to thinking… maybe not. I know some people do keep butter in cupboards, even without a butter bell/keeper.

So here I am, asking you guys: is the butter spoiled, or can its sweet disposition survive a night [del]on the tiles[/del] on my kitchen counter?

I’m not sure about whipped butter. But I always keep a stick of regular butter on my counter and have never had a problem.

Butter smells bad when it spoils. Does your butter smell bad? If not, it’s probably fine. You didn’t have it in a butter dish like most people who leave it out a room temp do, but I’m not sure it would make much of a difference a cardboard carton vs plastic/glass in just one night.

Our butter always sits out, sometimes in a covered dish, sometimes not. One night in the box is not a problem.

Remember, we invented butter (and so many other good things) as, in part, a way to store concentrated food for long periods of time.

Also, unless I’m getting the process wrong, the thing that would make you worry about other dairy products “going bad” is fermenting lactose (isn’t that what leads to the sour milk stench?). I’d imagine a lot of the lactose/lactic acid get taken away as buttermilk during the churning process, so there’s much more fat than lactose in finished butter (right?), hence much less to rot/go sour (going rancid due to degradation of fats is a different question, but rancidity seems to take much longer to set in).

I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that rancid butter is actually used in some Tibetan food, or at least as a flavoring in tea.

In my own personal experience though, butter may lose some flavor over a long time, but it takes a really long time for it to go rancid.

Thanks for the responses so far, guys. It’s the ‘whipped’ part that makes me particularly curious, because of the extra air/moisture that’s probably in there. Also, it’s unsalted, and IIRC salted butter lasts longer than unsalted.

elfkin477, I hadn’t opened the sealed tub until just now, but did so in order to answer your question re: the smell. It smells… sweet and buttery. I’d say it has a little more scent than I was expecting – I never really purposely smelled butter before, except when it’s melting in a pan or poured onto popcorn. I wouldn’t have thought solid butter has a smell, since the taste is so mild.

Land-O-Lakes is very good butter, I think. Not that it’s Plugra or Lurpak-quality (or whatever the fine restaurant-quality butters are), but I do love its simple yumminess.

Clearly you’re not watching enough Fox News.

“Whipped” butter is very often just butter injected with . . . nope, not air, but pure nitrogen, specifically to avoid oxidation.

But do distinguish between “things that can make food X taste off/nasty” and “things that can cause adverse health consequences.” And note that many things that do the former, don’t do the latter, and vice versa.

To make you sick, the butter would have to have in it or acquire from its environment some living and harmful-to-human organism(s) (bacteria, virus) that could proliferate at room temperature in a way that would have been greatly inhibited in a fridge. (I suppose a not-impossible alternate scenario is that chemical degradation would create byproducts that were not just foul-smelling, but so astringent/caustic/foul tasting that they would be a gross insult to your digestive system and trigger possibly-harmful vomiting, etc. – poor man’s ipecac).

Butter left out in a sealed container overnight? No worries.

Yes. Cite.

Oh sorry, didn’t notice that that durn “s” is missing from the end of the word in question. Nevermind.

There’s also the clever little cut and fold trick you can do with the Indian maiden on the box of Land-O-Lakes butter sticks.

I have never refrigerated butter - I need it soft and ready to use right on the counter where I’m cooking and preparing food. I’ve never in my life had room temperature butter go bad.

Damn. I can see the trailer for the movie now…

“I’m not butter, I’m Parkay, Bitch!” <stabbity>


It’s fine. Eat it.

Yeah, it’s fine. I don’t like rancid butter but my husband constantly leaves the butter out of the fridge and eats it without any ill effects. When the butter has been at room temperature for more than a day, I tend to avoid it. After a few days, it does go rancid and smells awful to me, anyway.

I’ve had worse tasting butter direct from the refrigerator, when it picks up that refrigerated-with-other-stuff-taste. I sniffed rancid butter only one time in my life, and that was decades ago.

Woohoo, thanks gang. Especially Huerta88 for bringing the science like a butter-centric Alton Brown. Had no idea about nitrogen in whipped butter!

I’m gonna have some tomorrow with my bagel. Good to know I probably won’t suffer any consequences (except calorically).

So…Huerta, I guess that buttered bagel from the corner gas station this morning is what is causing that e. coli-like pain in my stomach at this very moment…

I’ve always had a problem with buying edibles from a place that is not in the food business. There was/is a gas station in Anchorage that sells Mexican food. It just seems. . .wrong. And I doubt that there are many inspections by the health folks. You certainly could have gotten either rancid or contaminated butter on your bagel (butter sitting next to the chicken in the fridge, anybody?).