One of the things we all look forward to during summer is a barbeque with friends and family. So when you open a bottle of BBQ sauce that you’ve been storing since last summer, the first thing you want to know is whether it’s still good to use. You want your beef ribs to be the tastiest and most flavorful, but can that sauce help you pull that off? You’re about to find out.
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Does BBQ Sauce Go Bad?
Yes, it does. If you store it for too long or if it gets exposed to microbes along the way, BBQ sauce can go bad. While it may not spoil to a point of making you sick, the sauce will likely deteriorate in quality, and will not function as desired.
Store-bought BBQ sauce will usually contain preservatives like sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice, making it resistant to spoilage. It will also come with a best-by date to give you an estimate of how long the product will retain its quality.
If a bottle is stored beyond this date, you may still be able to use it, but its potency and flavor will likely not be the same. Depending on the ingredients and how long the sauce has been in storage, it may even begin to ferment and get moldy and may no longer be safe to ingest.
How Long Does BBQ Sauce Last?
While the shelf life of BBQ sauce will vary from brand to brand based on the ingredients used, most manufacturers will give a best-by date of a year or two. Stored properly, a bottle can last for between four to six months beyond the printed date.
Note that this shelf life applies only to unopened BBQ sauce. As soon as you break the seal, the condiment starts to lose its quality and its shelf life reduces significantly. Opened BBQ sauce should be refrigerated to prolong its lifespan. In the refrigerator, the sauce will keep fresh for about three to four months.
If you plan to use the sauce within a couple days, you can store it in the pantry. At room temperature, BBQ sauce will keep for between one week to a month.
If you have made the sauce yourself at home, make sure to keep it in the fridge at all times and consume it within ten days.
Here is a quick summary of BBQ sauce shelf life.
|BBQ Sauce Type||Lifespan|
|Unopened BBQ sauce||N/A||Best-by date + 4 to 6 months|
|Opened BBQ sauce||3 to 4 months||1 to 4 weeks|
|Homemade BBQ sauce||10 days||Not recommended|
5 Tips to Tell if BBQ Sauce Has Gone Bad
As stated, BBQ sauce doesn’t last forever. If you aren’t sure whether that bottle you have had in storage for a while is still good, the following are some signs to look out for.
1. Color Change
The color of BBQ sauce ranges from ruddy orange to red to dark brown. If your sauce has assumed a different color, it has probably been in storage for too long and chances are that it doesn’t taste as good either. You will likely not enjoy that sauce, so you may as well just toss it out.
However, it’s important to note that BBQ sauce that contains chili peppers may darken over time due to oxidation, but that doesn’t make it unsafe to eat. For the most part, the condiment will just have a slightly different taste, but you can still use it in your recipes.
The only time you should be concerned about your sauce turning dark is if the product doesn’t list chili peppers as one of its ingredients or doesn’t point out browning as a normal side effect of storing the sauce for too long. In that case, you should consider getting rid of the bottle.
Mold or any bacterial growth on your BBQ sauce would be another surefire sign that the product is done for. Inspect the cap, the neck, and the surface of the bottle. If you notice any fuzzy action, do not use that sauce.
3. Different Smell
Good BBQ sauce will usually have a tangy, smoky smell. An opened bottle of sauce that has been left in storage for too long may begin to ferment or grow mold. If your sauce gives off a moldy, fermented, or pungent vinegary smell, you should know it is no good.
4. Change in Texture
In storage, it is normal for the liquid in BBQ sauce to collect on top and the dense ingredients to settle in the bottom, especially for homemade sauces.
In most cases, stirring the sauce helps blend the ingredients nicely back together. But if you stir and the layer in the bottom doesn’t seem to budge, it would probably be good to just discard the sauce. It is likely not spoiled but it’s always good to err on the side of caution.
5. Weird Taste
If everything seems okay up to this point, give your sauce a taste. The flavor will solely depend on the ingredients used but should at least be tangy and a bit sweet. If the sauce has become more sour and bitter, it is probably not good to use.
3 Tips to Store BBQ Sauce
The secret to extending the shelf life of BBQ sauce is storing it correctly. We have listed below a few pointers to doing this so you can enjoy fresh and high-quality sauce at barbeque time.
1. Keep the Sauce Tightly Sealed
After you have opened a bottle, check to see that the lid is properly closed, and always do this every time you use the sauce. Keeping your BBQ sauce tightly sealed helps lock out moisture that may cause mold to grow. It also prevents the product from soaking up smells from other foodstuffs in the refrigerator, which enables it to stay fresh and flavorful.
2. Store Away from Heat Sources
If you are storing your BBQ sauce at room temperature, pick a spot that is away from the stove or direct sunlight. High temperatures promote the growth of bacteria and microorganisms that can make the product spoil prematurely. That said, the best place to store your BBQ sauce would be the pantry, but a kitchen cabinet where you keep other condiments could be just fine.
3. Don’t Dip Foods In BBQ Sauce
…and if you do, get rid of the leftover sauce. If you need to dip your chips or crackers in BBQ sauce, pour the sauce into a dedicated bowl. Pour only the amount you need to avoid leftovers, as you don’t want to put these back into the container and risk ruining the rest of the sauce.
Similarly, if you have stored your sauce in a large bowl, avoid handling it with spoons that have been dipped in other foods. Use a clean spoon at all times so you don’t transfer food particles into the bowl.
The Risk of Consuming Expired BBQ Sauce
Basically, eating expired BBQ sauce will not cause you any harm. The date printed on the label is just an indicator of when the quality of the product is estimated to start degrading. It doesn’t necessarily say the sauce is unsafe to eat. As mentioned earlier, you can always use your sauce beyond this date and you won’t get sick.
Things may be a little different, however, if the sauce has mold growing inside. While ingesting such sauce in small quantities will not put you in danger, eating it in large amounts can cause food poisoning.
According to Cleveland Clinic, if you develop symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath, diarrhea, or elevated temperatures after eating food with mold, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Can You Freeze BBQ Sauce?
Yes, if you have a huge homemade batch that you want to keep fresh for a long period, freezing would be a great option.
Store-bought BBQ sauce will usually not require freezing, as it contains preservatives that help it retain its quality both in the fridge and at room temperature. But as soon as the bottle is opened, you should always store it in the refrigerator. You could freeze it if you want but really, it is not necessary.
Freezing BBQ sauce is easy. All you need is a couple freezer containers. Allow the sauce to cool at room temperature first, then pour it into the containers and place it in the freezer. It is important that you freeze your sauce in small portions; that way you will thaw only the amount you intend to use.
Here is a short video that shows you how to make and freeze BBQ sauce:
BBQ sauce can retain its quality for a relatively long period if stored properly. Note that some sauces may have a shorter or longer lifespan than what we have recommended here. Check to see what your manufacturer says in regards to storing the bottle to ensure your sauce remains good and flavorful the longest.