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Is butter better (and safer) in the fridge?

Photo: Photoevent/iStockphoto

It’s a long-standing debate: Some folks insist butter belongs in the fridge. Others say keeping it on the counter is fine.

So what’s the right answer?

Turns out, it’s a bit of both. “Butter and margarine are safe at room temperature,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. “However, if butter is left out at room temperature for several days, the flavor can turn rancid, so it’s best to leave out whatever you can use within a day or two.”

As for margarine, the USDA says the product can “separate into oil or water and solids when not kept refrigerated, although it will be safe.”

If your kitchen is warmer than 70° F, you should store butter in the refrigerator. How long will it stay good? The USDA’s FoodKeeper app says that butter kept in the fridge can stay for one to two months. If you put it in the freezer, it’s good for six to nine months.

You can find the FoodKeeper app at foodsafety.gov. If you have questions about eggs, poultry or meat and want to talk with someone, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) 674-6854.

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