Barbecue sauce is such a delicious addition to any burger, chicken wings, or grilled vegetable dish. Of course, you won’t always need the whole bottle for a recipe, and may not have an idea in mind for the rest for a while. That half empty bottle of barbecue sauce from the family picnic last summer may have you scratching your head, and wondering, “can barbecue sauce go bad?”
Can Barbecue Sauce Go Bad?
Like most condiments, barbecue sauce can go bad after a while. If the sauce remains unopened, and the bottle is kept in a cool, dry place, the shelf life can be up to a year. However, once the barbecue sauce has been opened, the shelf life is reduced to about one month in your pantry. Refrigerating opened barbecue sauce will increase its shelf life to six months. After this time, the sauce will likely still be okay to consume, but the taste, texture and quality will have changed.
Homemade barbecue sauce will have a shorter shelf life than sauce bought from the store. Typically, you’ll want to consume homemade barbecue sauce within a month, and should store it in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.
Image used under Creative Commons from John Liu
Signs of Spoilage
Though barbecue sauce contains high amounts of sugar, and vinegar, which both act as a natural preservative, it can still spoil over time. Typically, you will be able to see a decline in quality with color changes in the barbecue sauce. The sauce will darken over time. While it may still be safe to eat the sauce in this state, the taste and texture may have degraded. Depending on the ingredients and the type of sauce, you may also notice some separation. So long as the sauce otherwise looks and smells fine, this is normal and does not indicate spoilage. The bottle may be shaken to mix the ingredients again.
Barbecue sauce can also spoil if any contaminants are inside the bottle. Moisture or food particles can increase the likelihood of mold growth, especially in warmer environments. If you see any signs of mold, the sauce should be discarded. You can eliminate the chance of this by ensuring that no moisture actually enters the bottle, so be careful when cleaning the extra sauce off of the top!
Should the barbecue sauce develop an off odor, or should the container start to expand, as if there is a buildup of air pressure, then the sauce has gone bad and should not be consumed.
Storing Barbecue Sauce Long Term
You can certainly freeze store bought barbecue sauce, if you know that you won’t finish the rest of the bottle within six months, or if you’re concerned about refrigerator space. Be sure to pour the sauce into a freezer safe container with a tightly sealing lid, and leave enough room for expansion. If the container is filled to the top, the barbecue sauce might expand too much, and the bottle could explode. Sauce can be frozen for up to a year, and can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator, or on the counter in a warm water bath. You could also freeze sauce in an ice cube tray and transfer the cubes to an airtight container, so that you can thaw individual portions of sauce. Once thawed, the sauce should not be refrozen, to preserve texture.
You can also freeze homemade sauce with the instructions above, though canning might be a better option if you’ve made a large batch of sauce. Vinegar-based sauces can be canned with a water bath. If proper procedures are followed, the barbecue sauce should stay good for a year in a cool, dark place.