Whether we’re talking about milk or honey, most people know that foods expire — they don’t just become tastier or less sweet as the days go by.
The same goes for ice cream, and it’s a question that many people have wondered about.
If ice cream ever expires, what exactly happens when it does?
Could eating an old batch ruin your health?
Does ice cream expire?
The short answer is yes.
There is no such thing as an “expiration date” on ice cream because it doesn’t spoil due to bacteria growth in the ice cream itself.
There are two main reasons why ice cream is considered a perishable product:
- It’s made from milk (or other dairy) products, which contain proteins and fats that can be broken down by bacteria and mold over time.
- Because it contains sugar, it also attracts moisture, which makes it susceptible to spoilage from humidity.
How long does ice cream last?
At room temperature, ice cream will stay good for up to one month — that’s a fairly standard figure for most recipes.
But when ice cream is stored at freezer temperatures, its shelf life is extended.
The longer it sits there, the more flavors will fade, so plan accordingly!
What is the shelf life of ice cream?
Ice cream is best eaten within 30 days of purchase.
After that time, some flavor varieties may lose their potency faster than others.
Chocolate chip cookies, however, will remain tasty for much longer, with some recipes claiming that chocolate chips retain 90 percent of their original flavor even after five years.
How long does ice cream last in the freezer?
Most recipes suggest storing ice cream in the freezer for no longer than six months before eating it.
This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, however, since ice cream manufacturers often vary their recipes based on market demands.
Is ice cream safe to eat after the expiration date?
Yes! In fact, many companies use the “sell by” dates on packages as marketing tools, and they are not always accurate.
For example, one brand of vanilla ice cream was found to have been sitting on store shelves for 18 months after it was first put out.
As for other flavors, some brands are sold in larger containers that allow them to age for longer periods of time.
That means you might only need to get creative once a year rather than three times a year.
How can you tell if ice cream has gone bad?
If you see any signs of mold, discoloration, or odors, then it’s probably spoiled.
Other symptoms include:
- A taste that is very different from how you remember
- Pouring off a lot of liquid during consumption
- Watery texture
- Hardening of the ice cream
- Disappearing flavor
- Browning of the ice cream
- Soggy chunks
- Discolored fat
- Unpleasant smell
What happens if you eat expired ice cream?
Although ice cream tends to spoil at room temperature, it should still remain edible, even if it has lost most of its flavor.
If you buy a carton of ice cream and find that it’s too sour, salty, metallic, or otherwise unpleasant to eat, then toss it out.
You could also give it to a friend who enjoys ice cream, though.
In addition, it is possible that eating an old piece of ice cream could cause you to develop allergies to the ingredients.
However, this is rare, and it’s important to note that allergic reactions can occur immediately after consuming food.
Can ice cream make you sick?
While eating ice cream that has gone bad can definitely lead to health problems, these types of issues are pretty rare.
As we mentioned above, it’s rare for the ice cream itself to actually spoil.
Most cases of illness arise from improper storage and handling of the product.
For instance, you shouldn’t leave open pints of ice cream exposed to air for prolonged periods of time or let them freeze solid without covering them.
This allows bacteria to form and grow on the surface of the ice cream, leading to infection and contamination.
Another common reason for illness is poor hygiene practices, usually from someone preparing the ice cream.
This includes using unclean utensils, failing to wash hands properly, or allowing ice cream to melt into bowls and glasses instead of pouring it directly onto plates or serving dishes.
Finally, another way that people can fall ill from ice cream is through cross-contamination.
The ingredients used to make ice cream are typically high-risk foods themselves — milk, eggs, and cream all have the potential to carry harmful bacteria.
These bacteria can spread from one person to another through contact, so simply touching the bowl where ice cream is being prepared can result in illness.
It’s best to avoid sharing food preparation equipment like cutting boards and knives unless you have cleaned everything thoroughly beforehand.
How do you store ice cream to keep it fresh?
You’ll want to store your ice cream away from sunlight and direct heat sources, but it should be able to sit out in the open for hours at a time.
If you live in a hot climate, then it’s best to wrap the container tightly in plastic wrap or place it in the freezer right away to help preserve flavor.
Some companies also recommend keeping ice cream in coolers to slow the rate of degradation.
If you do use a cooler, keep an eye out for condensation and mold to ensure that the ice cream stays protected.
What are some tips for making homemade ice cream?
Making your own homemade ice cream is a great way to save money, as you won’t spend nearly as much on it as you would at the grocery store.
And although the process is slightly trickier than buying pre-made ice cream, it’s well worth it!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you begin to experiment with your own homemade batches:
To prevent your ice cream from freezing rock hard, add additional sugar to the mixture until it reaches the desired consistency.
Never mix cold milk and ice cream together.
Always bring both the milk and the ice cream into the mixer slowly, stirring constantly.
Don’t use your blender for ice cream production.
A hand mixer or whisk works better for mixing large batches.
Always use clean utensils for mixing.
Never use dirty spoons or forks when making ice cream.
Thomas Jefferson vanilla ice cream
- 1 sauce pan
- 2 quarts of heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 ½ cups of water
- 1 ½ cups white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- Combine the whipping cream and sugar in a large and heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds and add the bean into the saucepan.
- Over medium heat, heat the mixture until bubbles form around the pan. Keep stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Scoop a small amount of the hot mixture into a small bowl with the egg yolks. Put the yolk mixture into the saucepan and keep whisking constantly.
- Lower the heat and keep cooking until the mixture thickens. The temperature should be at 160c.
- Keep stirring constantly and when about to boil, transfer the mixture to a bowl.
- Mix the water, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder in a saucepan.
- Put the saucepan over medium heat and whisk the mixture until it thickens and begins to simmer.
- Remove from heat. Note that the thickness of the syrup depends on how long you let it simmer, you can therefore make it as thick or as thin as you like.
- Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Your chocolate syrup is ready. Serve it warm or refrigerate in a covered, airtight container to be served cold on the Thomas Jefferson vanilla ice cream.
- The chocolate syrup can last up to a week when refrigerated.
- Place the bowl in a bigger container containing ice water. Remove the vanilla bean and keep stirring until the desired thickness is attained.
- Put the mixture in the desired container.
- Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
For more information about home remedies, check out our articles on how to cure a sore throat, how to treat a cough, and how to relieve gas pain.