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Keep a stick of butter outside of the refrig. Else your a fricken idiot.

Oh, you're one of those guys. Afraid of your own shadow, where's a mask while driving, washes your hands 8 times a day. Had an overprotective mommy.


Jesus H. What kind of loser spreads rock-hard butter on their toast? Loosen up a life. It wouldn't hurt you to sniff some glue every once in a while, either.


The Battle Over Refrigerating Butter: ‘Enough Is Enough’

Trying to spread ice-hard butter can wreck toast, pancakes and waffles, but many people aren’t sure if it is safe to keep it out of the fridge


By Kristina PetersonFollow

April 27, 2023 10:05 am ET



Butter evangelist Joelle Mertzel is spreading the word.


The 49-year-old small-business owner, author and mother of three is on a mission to convince American households and federal officials that it is safe and preferable to keep butter at room temperature instead of refrigerated, particularly for those with a taste for buttered toast.



Melting hearts

Her quixotic crusade would liberate butter sticks from a lifetime in the cold, moving from refrigerated trucks to the chilled dairy case of grocery stores to built-in refrigerator cubbies.


“Enough is enough,” said Ms. Mertzel, who lives in the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles. “I want to eliminate confusion about putting butter on the counter.”


Ms. Mertzel said she came to her epiphany one morning about 14 years ago. She had forgotten to put away the butter the night before and at breakfast discovered how easy it was to spread. “My life changed in so many ways at that moment,” she said.


She has since written a children’s book, “Change Your Life for the Butter,” and developed a line of countertop holders with flip-top lids that keep clear of the softened butter inside. Traditional butter dishes, she said, “are a train wreck. The lid gets all gross.”


Food-safety scientists say butter usually doesn’t require constant cold. Butter made from pasteurized cream is safe to store at room temperature for a stretch because of its high fat content and low moisture, among other reasons. Salted butter tends to stay fresh longer.


Yet getting a definitive answer from the government’s butter bureaucracy has been a slippery endeavor. Ms. Mertzel this year petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to issue official guidance that butter could be safely kept out of the refrigerator at room temperature for three weeks.


The FDA, which oversees butter safety, has largely stood pat. The agency’s guidance for restaurants and the food industry advises keeping butter out of the fridge for no more than four to six hours. Yet a 2001 FDA study noted on page 38 that “Traditional butter and margarine have had a long history of safety without time/temperature control.”


The Agriculture Department—which sets butter grading standards, such as A or AA—recommends leaving butter out for at most a day or two. While butter will likely keep longer, a USDA spokeswoman said, the agency’s recommendations seek to ensure butter remains at optimal quality.


In 2015, Ms. Mertzel sent samples of four brands of butter to a lab for testing. The finding: No sign of spoilage after three weeks of storage at 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. She commissioned a similar analysis this year and found no spoilage after 30 days.


“This is a quality issue, not a safety issue,” said Gina Mode, a butter researcher at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research. Butter will eventually go rancid but that won’t make people sick, she said. Ms. Mode in an informal survey of her colleagues found that 24 of 31 keep butter out, a telling data point among experts.


Claire Dinhut, who goes by “Condiment Claire” on TikTok, prefers to eat salted butter cold for its thicker texture. She talked about the Danish word tandsmør, which translates to a layer of butter so thick that a bite leaves teeth marks. “I love the feeling of biting into butter and not just having it melt into the toast,” Ms. Dinhut said.


Ice-hard butter makes Steve Tuttle heated. “I just get too worked up when it’s super impossible to spread, and you try to put it on your toast or pancake,” said Mr. Tuttle, a corporate private investigator in Washington. He takes home packets of cold butter from restaurants and uses them when he goes out to breakfast.


His girlfriend, Pamela Hess, eventually warmed to the idea. “He feels very strongly that it should be on the counter and at room temperature,” said Ms. Hess, the executive director of a nonprofit that teaches veterans how to farm.


Christopher Kimball, who oversees the eponymous Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street cooking empire, champions room-temp butter. “There’s nothing worse than taking cold butter and trying to put it on a pancake or a waffle or toast,” Mr. Kimball said. He lays it on pretty thick in praise of salted butter: “Unsalted butter on toast should be a felony,” he said.


Sara Moulton, who fields culinary questions from listeners on Milk Street’s podcast with Mr. Kimball, sides largely with the cold camp. If left unrefrigerated for too long, she said, butter isn’t “going to kill you. It’s just not going to taste good, and why would you want to do that to yourself?”


French cook and author Jacques Pépin, who served as a personal chef for the late French President Charles de Gaulle, praised refrigerated butter. “The reaction in your mouth when it’s cold—the freshness of it,” he said. Mr. Pépin has found a way to spread butter without letting it soften. He uses a vegetable peeler to shave off slices.


Erin French, head chef and owner of the Lost Kitchen restaurant in Freedom, Maine, recalled butter packets left on the table at her parents’ diner when she was growing up. “Those probably sat there easily for a month,” she said. Soft butter is still her preference. “It’s just so much more joyful to slather butter instead of trying to scrape it,” she said.


Ms. Mertzel, president of housewares manufacturer Kitchen Concepts Unlimited, takes her cause to trade shows, where she sets up a chalkboard for passersby to sign if they keep their butter out of the refrigerator. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘Well, my aunt does it,’” Ms. Mertzel said. “I’m like, ‘Go put your aunt’s name on the board.’”


Write to Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com

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