Proper Food Storage: Throw-it, Keep-it Guide
Cook and eat safely with this shelf-life guide to common pantry and refrigerator items.
Ideally, your pantry should be dark and dry, and with a maximum temperature of 21ºC, according to Peggy Van Laanen, extension nutrition specialist at Texas A&M University.
Keep appliances, especially those that generate heat, away from your food cabinets. Although most of the items you'll store here have a long shelf life, you should always follow the first-in, first-out rule, and avoid overstocking. When restocking, always bring forward the older items and place the newly-bought items behind these.
How long can you keep oils and sauces?
- 1 Olive oil
- Kept cool in a dark place, unopened bottles will last from 12 to 18 months thanks to the oil's high mono-unsaturated fat content.
- 2 Vegetable oil
- Keep the bottle tightly closed and you'll get to use it for up to three months. New, sealed bottles will keep in the pantry for half a year.
- 3 Soy sauce
- Normally, a bottle will be good to use for a year. You can push it to three years, but it may evaporate by then, making its color darker and its flavor more intense.
- 4 Worcestershire sauce
- This seasoning is aged to begin with, and it only gets better with time. Opened or not, a bottle will last about 12 years-if you don't finish it first.
- 5 Tomato sauce
- Frozen, it will last for up to three months. Opened and in the refrigerator, you have just five days to cook with it.
How long can you keep seasonings?
- 1 Sinigang mixes and broth cubes
- Store leftover opened mixes in airtight containers. That will give them a one-year shelf life. Keep newly bought cubes in their original carton packaging and pop them into airtight containers to keep moisture out.
- 2 Balsamic vinegar
- Thanks to their acidic nature, vinegars are self-preserving. Unopened bottles last up to two years, while opened ones are good for a year.
- 3 Ketchup and BBQ Sauce
- Unopened, they'll survive for 12 months. Refrigerate after opening to keep them good for several months.
- 4 Mustard
- Once opened, a container of prepared mustard is safe to consume for six to eight months. Unopened bottles can last up to two years. Refrigeration extends shelf life.
- 5 Whole spices
- In the pantry, they'll last a year, but trust your nose. If the aroma has faded, throw them out. For longer storage time, freeze them.
- 6 Ground spices
- Airtight containers will keep these going for about six months. Red spices, like paprika, last longer when kept in the refrigerator. Honey Covered tightly, you have a year to use up the sweet stuff. Should crystallization occur, remove the lid and warm the jar in a pan of hot water.
How long do you keep baking supplies?
- 1 Flour
- Heat and moisture affect longevity, so in our hot and humid weather, keep flour in the freezer and it will last indefinitely. In an airtight container in a cool pantry, you'll have up to eight months to use it.
- 2 Baking powder and baking soda
- You have a year and a half to finish an open container of baking powder. Baking soda keeps for two years.
- 3 Chocolate chips
- Unsweetened and semisweet variants will last for a year and a half in a cool pantry. Opened packages should be kept in sealed containers.
- 4 Cocoa powder
- The pure powder lasts indefinitely in the pantry. Cocoa drink mixes, on the other hand, last up to eight months only if tightly resealed.
- 5 Vanilla extract
- Make sure to reseal the bottle after each use as volatile oils can escape and affect flavor. A well-sealed bottle can last up to 12 months.
- 6 White sugar
- Away from any heat source, granulated sugar can last indefinitely, as long as it's stored in an airtight container.
- 7 Brown sugar
- You have up to four months to finish up white sugar's less refined cousin. Make sure your container is tightly closed because brown sugar hardens when it dries out. You can still use it, but pound it first.
- 8 Powdered or confectioners' sugar
- Kept dry in an airtight container, it will stay good for 18 months.
- 9 Cornstarch
- Keep this thickener in a tightly sealed container and it will keep for 18 months.
Photo from pixabay.com. Article was published in the January-February 2008 issue of Yummy magazine.