How To Store Unfinished Opened Canned Goods

Is it safe to just place it in the refrigerator?

Have you ever opened canned food, used a bit, and didn’t use it all up? Has a recipe ever asked for half the amount of canned food? Having unfinished, opened canned goods are a common occurrence. What is also common is, when you don’t have the time or are simply unwilling to wash an extra dish for such a scant amount of food, you usually just place the opened can in the refrigerator without a second thought.

Is it safe to put opened cans into your refrigerator?

Yes, it is safe but not without a few conditions. Just like with any food you put into your refrigerator, it’s best to cover the food to keep it safe from contaminants. Canned goods, once opened, are just as susceptible as other food to contamination or spoilage. You can use plastic wrap, foil, a reusable silicone cover, or a resealable bag to keep the air out.  

The nearly empty condensed milk or evaporated milk in a can is no big deal. In fact, fatty, high-sugar content food will do just fine when stored in its original container for a short period of time. However, the same cannot be said for acidic food such as juices, meat, tomato products, and the like. 

Photo by Majoy Siason

1 For acidic canned goods, change containers immediately.

For acidic food such as tomato sauces and fruit juices, the exposure to air can wear down the iron in the can and make the food taste unpleasant really quickly. There’s a reason why acidic food can taste metallic and this is the reason why. To avoid this, make sure to transfer these unfinished cans’ contents into a plastic or glass container with a lid.


2 The best practice is to transfer canned leftovers into reusable containers.

It may be safe and may sound practical, but it’s not the best advice. To maintain the quality, taste, appearance, and texture of these canned food, transfer it into a different, nonreactive container such as glass or plastic with a lid. Make sure that you practice hygienic practices even before you open the can until you need to store it, so that you minimize contaminating it.

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3 Always use hygienic practices in the kitchen.

The process of canning requires high heat that kills off pathogens. Thus, canned goods are actually quite sterile. That’s why beware dented cans when shopping since these dents can create microscopic openings where bacteria can enter. 

If, however, you use an undented can and your food still goes bad after opening the can, you probably contaminated it yourself. To avoid this, make sure that your hands, the can, and the can opener are all clean and dry before you even open the can. Also, make sure that the container you are transferring the food into is clean, too.


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With these storing tips in mind, you can now confidently use your canned goods, whether all of it or just some of it. During these times when traffic is a plague, keeping a stock of your favorite kinds of canned goods can be quite a lifesaver from making an otherwise unnecessary trip to the store just to buy groceries for dinner! 

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