We’ve all been there: It’s 4:30 in the morning, you’re still awake, and you want to shove a giant stick of butter straight into your mouth. Mondays, am I right?
So you head over to the refrigerator, unwrap a big stick of yellow gold, and chomp away—only to taste the sick, weird flavor of your fridge. It’s one of the most horrible things that can happen, especially if you were really, really looking forward to a butter binge. And sure, fine, maybe you noticed “refrigerator butter” while buttering a bagel or a piece of toast (you rookie), but regardless, if you have taste buds, you’ve noticed this weirdness. Here’s the good news: It’s not in your head.
“Refrigerator taste” is real, and it shows up in butter.
Most people don’t think much about refrigerator upkeep, but it’s actually pretty important. If you’re like us, you’ve got moldering cream cheese, spinach, and year-old leftovers in there—and if you’re a little tidier, you still probably don’t wipe down the entire interior of your fridge every week or two. While the refrigerator does a pretty good job at stopping food from going bad, it’s not perfect, and bacteria can grow anywhere. That leads to odors, which are mainly defined by the type of bacteria that tend to grow in your icebox’s chilly chasm.
So, why don’t you notice those weird flavors in all of your food? Simple: Butter is mostly fat, and fat is great at soaking up odors. That’s part of the reason we use it in recipes; sauté some herbs in butter, and you’ll lock in all of their herb-y goodness. Real butter is awesome because it’s an odor sponge (that’s not a sentence you thought you’d read today, is it?)
But that effect works against you when you put butter in cold storage. The fat doesn’t stop being fat when it firms up; it keeps on dragging odors in from the four corners of your fridge, and once the odor is there, it’s not going away. You can mitigate this effect in a few ways.
Here’s how to stop butter from taking on the flavors of your refrigerator.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a mind-blowing revelation, but it’s cold, hard science for your cold, hard butter. Keep air away from it. That’s it. Store the butter in some sort of sealed container, and it’ll be ready for your next midnight snack.
“But wait,” you cry, butter streaming from your lips, “I have a three-year-old box of baking soda in my fridge! Shouldn’t that solve this?”
No. A huge volume of foods pass through your fridge, and a tiny container of baking soda won’t do much. Baking soda can neutralize acids and bases, so technically, it’s useful for getting rid of some odors, but you’d need to absolutely coat your fridge in the stuff to completely absorb every bit of foulness. You’re better off using that baking soda to, you know, actually clean your fridge.
You need a well-sealed Tupperware, or at the very least a plastic bag or two. Anything that isn’t fully sealed will still let the odors creep in. Sorry for the bad news, but look on the bright side: Your next stick of butter will taste just as fresh as it was when the cow squeezed it out.
Editor’s Note: Writer may not actually understand how butter is made, but the rest of this seems factually solid.