Today we’ll cover the shelf life, spoilage, and storing beef broth.
So your boxed beef broth has been opened for a couple of days already, and you’re wondering how long beef broth lasts in the fridge.
Or maybe you found an unopened can of beef broth that’s a few months past the printed date. And you started thinking: does beef broth go bad, and if so, how do you tell?
If so, this article is for you. Let’s jump right in.
Table of Contents
- Does Beef Broth Go Bad?
- How Long Does Beef Broth Last in the Fridge?
- How to Tell if Beef Broth Is Bad?
- Does Beef Broth Need to Be Refrigerated?
- Can You Freeze Beef Broth?
- Beef Broth Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Does Beef Broth Go Bad?
Canned and boxed beef broth typically comes with a suggested shelf life of between six months and two years, but it usually keeps for at least another three months beyond the printed date. And if you store it in a cool and dark place away from heat sources and ensure the seal stays untouched, it’ll likely keep for much longer.
In other words, commercially packaged beef broth usually lasts well past the date on the label.
Of course, most brands recommend using their beef broth within those two years of canning, but that printed date is only a best-by date. It basically means the seller guarantees quality up until the printed date, but that doesn’t mean the product will suddenly go bad a couple of days or weeks later.
And in the case of beef broth (and canned and boxed foods in general), the product tends to keep for months beyond its date.
That might make you start wondering:
How Long Is Beef Broth Good After the “Expiration” Date?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to give you an exact period. It all depends on the production process, the ingredients used, storage practices you follow, and probably even a bit of luck.
That said, there’s a simple approach you can take that works in almost all cases. All you need to do is pick a period you’re comfortable with before you check the printed date.
For instance, it might be three months for boxed beef broth and six months for canned, as canned tends to come with a longer storage time.
Then you read the date on the label, add the period you came up with, and check if the product is within the resulting date.
If it is, and the broth doesn’t show any signs of spoilage (more on that later), you use it. Otherwise, you discard it.
This way, you decide how to go about this upfront instead of bargaining with yourself for 5 minutes until you reach a conclusion that you’ll probably not be happy about.
Next, let’s talk about what to do after opening the broth.
How Long Does Beef Broth Last in the Fridge?
After opening the can or box, beef broth typically lasts 4 to 5 days if you seal it tightly in an airtight container or lidded pot and refrigerate it. If that’s not long enough, you can freeze the leftovers for later.
This 4- to 5-day period is a pretty safe estimate you can go with no matter the brand you’re buying. That said, some brands recommend longer storage times.
I wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable having a half-open canned broth in the fridge for longer than those 4 to 5 days, however. That’s why I suggest you freeze any leftovers instead.
(We’ll talk about freezing in a moment.)
What about homemade beef broth?
Homemade Beef Broth
Homemade chicken broth keeps for 3 to 4 days of cooking if you refrigerate it sealed tightly in a lidded pot or airtight container. Let the broth cool to about room temperature before you place it in the fridge, but limit the cooldown period to two hours.
You might find some recipes online suggesting that homemade beef broth lasts for up to a week. Sure, your beef broth might keep quality for a whole week, but the 3 to 4 days period is much safer and limits the chances of finding a spoiled broth in the fridge to a minimum.
As I mentioned a couple of times, freezing the broth is a much better option than hoping it’ll last an extra day or two.
Now, let’s talk about the spoilage signs.
How to Tell if Beef Broth Is Bad?
Discard your beef broth if:
- It’s unopened and the can or box is compromised. If the can is bulging or swollen, the seal is not intact, or it’s leaking, the broth is unsafe. It might smell like the best broth of your life, but you can’t trust it if the container has been compromised.
- It smells bad. The good news is that spoiled beef broth, especially homemade, usually smells sour or “funny.” Take off the lid and give the broth a good whiff. If it doesn’t pass the sniff test, toss it.
- It sits in the fridge longer than suggested. If your homemade beef broth sits refrigerated for a week or so or your store-bought broth for a couple of days longer than the label says, toss it.
- It tastes bad. If the broth sits refrigerated for a couple of days already or you opened a can that’s “expired” for a few months, take a sip before using it. If there’s anything wrong with the flavor, discard it.
Those are the typical spoilage signs for beef broth. But if you notice anything else that doesn’t seem right, err on the side of caution and toss the broth. Better safe than sorry.
But before I wrap this section, let me remind you of two things:
- It’s normal for fat to accumulate on top. When you open the container or pot after a few hours of refrigeration, there might be a thin white layer of fat on top. That’s especially common for homemade broth. Depending on your preferences, you might scrape it off or use it. I always use it.
- Broth can get a bit cloudy in the fridge. Plus, if it’s homemade broth, you might notice some sediment on the bottom if you haven’t filtered it out properly before storage. Store-bought broth is usually filtered, but check the label when in doubt.
Next up, let’s talk about storage.
Does Beef Broth Need to Be Refrigerated?
Once you open your can or box of beef broth, you need to refrigerate the leftovers. Let the broth cool to about room temperature and place it in a sealed container or lidded pot within two hours of cooking or opening.
(That’s the 2-hour rule in practice.)
Of course, it’s your choice if you follow that rule to a tee. I don’t see an issue if the broth sits on the counter for an extra 15 minutes to an hour. But if I ever left beef broth at room temperature, I’d toss it first thing in the morning.
That whole limiting room temperature storage of perishable foods has to do with how fast bacteria multiply at different temperatures.
At cold temperatures, say in the fridge, they multiply very slowly. Then, when the temperature is between 40°F – 140°F (about 5°C – 60°C), they grow much faster and, given enough time, can get to levels that will cause food poisoning.
That’s why leaving perishable foods at room temperature is okay only for a very brief period of about two hours.
Finally, let’s talk about freezing beef broth.
Can You Freeze Beef Broth?
You can freeze beef broth, and that’s as easy as dividing it into portions, pouring it into freezer containers or ice cube trays, and placing it in the freezer. The broth should best retain quality for at least 2 to 3 months, but it’ll taste okay for much longer.
Before you freeze the broth, make a rough plan of how you will use it. This way, you’ll know how to portion it, so it’s easy to use in the future.
Freezer-safe airtight containers are what I prefer when freezing broths, but some people like freezing broth portions flat in freezer bags.
When pouring broth into a freezer bag, place the bag in a bowl first. This way, there’s little cleanup if the bag turns out leaky.
But no matter if you go with bags or containers, leave some headspace for the broth to expand.
Another freezing option is to freeze the liquid in an ice cube tray or a muffin tin. Either option works well if you use beef broth in small amounts, say to add some extra flavor to a pan sauce or salad dressing.
Beef Broth Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thanks for reading this primer on beef broth. Here are the key takeaways:
- Unopened beef broth typically lasts months past its date, but it can go bad. If the can or box is leaky, bulging, swelling, or the seal is compromised, you should toss it. Same thing if it’s past the printed date for longer than you’re comfortable with.
- After opening, beef broth usually lasts for 4 to 5 days in the fridge. Some brands allow you to store their half-open broth for a couple of days longer, but those 4 to 5 days are a conservative estimate worth following. You can always freeze beef broth if you need more time.
- Beef broth requires refrigeration after opening. Put it in the fridge in a lidded pot or airtight container within 2 hours of cooking or opening the can.