There is never a bad time for eating ice cream. You can enjoy it as a dessert on a hot summer’s day as well as a sweet treat on winter nights.
With the many varieties of ice cream to choose from, some of us might be tempted to grab a few tubs and then store the rest for the next summer.
But ice cream can go bad after some time, so it’s important to keep an eye on the ice cream expiration dates.
In this article, we take a closer look at when ice cream goes bad and how you can make it last longer.
Can Ice Cream Go Bad?
Yes, ice cream products can go bad. While ice cream is typically kept in the freezer, it still has a shelf life.
For most of us, ice cream probably doesn’t stay in the freezer for long enough to go off, but it’s important to understand that the product being in the freezer doesn’t stop it from going bad.
Typically, most unopened tubs of ice cream can be kept in the freezer compartment for up to two months.
After the two months are up, you will notice that the taste of the ice cream changes (see also ‘16 Most Delicious Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Flavors‘).
If you opened your ice cream, then you also have between one and two months to eat the dessert without the dairy in the ice cream going off.
Many of the best-by dates on the ice cream packaging are usually a little conservative when it comes to the expiry date.
From experience, we found that we can leave ice cream in the freezer for up to three months past the expiry date without it losing taste.
However, you need to ensure that it’s unopened and that your freezer is continually on. It’s best not to refreeze ice cream that has defrosted once.
Does Homemade Ice Cream Go Bad?
If you have made your own ice cream at home, then it is likely that this ice cream also contains products that can go off.
Most homemade ice cream contains sugar, fat, milk solids, flavoring and coloring.
When you make ice cream in an ice cream maker (see also ‘28 Of The Best Ninja Creami Recipes‘), then these ingredients are blended and the homogenized liquid is then frozen at a low temperature.
Particularly fat and milk ingredients can go bad after some time when they are not stored properly.
Saying this, the advantage of homemade ice cream is that you know exactly what’s in it, and fresh ice cream is typically a lot faster consumed than bought ice cream products.
Why Does Ice Cream Go Bad In The Freezer?
Many people assume that just because food is in the freezer, it can’t go off because all the bacteria are killed at the lower temperatures.
This isn’t quite true as a freezer doesn’t reach hugely low temperatures that could put your food into a sort of cryostasis.
However, the cooler freezer temperatures are able to slow the growth of any food bacteria down. It just doesn’t fully stop it.
The reason why ice cream goes bad after some time is simply because it contains dairy. Ice cream can contain cream, condensed milk and even some butter fat to make it taste creamy.
All these ingredients, however, contribute to a shorter shelf life of ice cream products.
While the dairy is pasteurized to ensure that it lasts as long as possible, it still expires at some point.
Essentially, ice cream is simply frozen milk, and although it lasts longer than normal milk, it will go bad after some time.
Does Vegan Ice Cream Go Bad?
Yes, even vegan ice cream can go bad. While it doesn’t contain any dairy products as normal ice cream, plant-based ice cream has plenty of fats and alternative milk.
Also milk alternatives, such as almond milk (see also ‘Does Almond Milk Go Bad?‘), soy milk and coconut milk, can go off.
That’s why, many manufacturers suggest consuming vegan and non-vegan ice cream within days, rather than months.
How To Tell If Your Ice Cream Has Gone Bad
The best way to find out if your ice cream has gone off is by taking a closer look at the tub and the ice cream itself.
Ice Cream Shards
You will notice either ice shards or ice cream shards on top of the ice cream. This suggests that the ice cream may not taste as it usually would.
Plus, it won’t have the nice creamy texture anymore that you may be used to with your normal ice cream.
Can Ice Cream Get Moldy?
No, ice cream usually doesn’t get moldy. Mold and fungal spores don’t settle on frozen products because they can’t survive below freezing point.
Saying this, if you made ice cream at home and one of your ingredients was moldy, then the freezing process will not remove the mold (but it also won’t actively grow).
The worst you can expect from bad ice cream is that it has a musty smell and its texture is crystallized.
Can Bad Ice Cream Make You Sick?
Yes, ice cream that has gone off can make you ill. This applies especially to ice cream that has been thawed and the refrozen.
This can increase the risk of bacteria growth in the ice cream causing diarrhea, cramping, vomiting and other digestion problems.
How To Make Your Ice Cream Last Longer?
There are a range of different ways in which you can make your ice cream last longer.
Finish Your Ice Cream As Soon As Possible
One of the easiest ways to not have to worry about the expiry of your ice cream is by simply eating it as soon as possible.
It’s a good idea to buy only as much ice cream as you and your family can eat in the next two weeks.
Then you also don’t have to worry about making room for too much ice cream in the freezer.
Store Your Ice Cream Properly
You should always store your ice cream in a sealed container. Place it in the freezer with a temperature setting of 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
You don’t have to keep your ice cream in its normal packaging, although that’s the easiest.
Alternately, you can also place your ice cream in a sealed container or a plastic wrap. This will protect it from freezer burn or developing ice crystals.
Don’t Leave Your Ice Cream Outside The Freezer
It’s important that when you buy ice cream (see also ‘What Is Superman Ice Cream?‘), you should put it into the freezer as soon as you get home.
The longer you leave it outside the freezer, the more likely bacteria can grow and contaminate your ice cream, and the flavor.
This rule goes both ways. You shouldn’t leave ice cream out during hot or cold weather. In warm weather, the ice cream will melt.
In cold weather, ice cream is prone to freezing which can also make ice cream go bad.
Avoid The Mixing Of Flavors
If you have ever stored garlic in your freezer, you may have found that strong flavors mix in the freezing compartment, even when they are in sealed containers.
You can either store your ice cream in a separate freezer or just place some baking sofa into the freezer.
This will absorb the different smells, so your ice cream tastes won’t taste like onion or stew.
Prevent Air From Getting Into The Product
Air inside the ice cream can cause freezer burn which affects the texture and taste of your delicious dessert.
The best way to prevent air from getting inside your ice cream is by putting it into an airtight container with a lid.
There are also special ice cream containers that ensure your ice cream is stored properly.
How To Store Your Ice Cream?
In order to keep your ice cream tasting its best, you will need to store it in the right way. Here are a few different ice cream storage tips.
Check Your Freezer Temperature
Most modern freezers allow you to vary the temperature. For ice cream, you will need a maximum temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Check your freezer’s temperature regularly to make sure that it stays at this temperature and your food doesn’t accidentally defrost.
Store Ice Cream In The Back Of The Freezer
The best place for your ice cream is the back of the freezer. That’s where the temperature is continually consistent as it’s furthest away from the freezer door.
Store Ice Cream In A Sealed Container
It’s worthwhile removing your ice cream from its packaging and storing it in an airtight container to make it last as long as possible.
While we all wish that ice cream could last for years, the reality is that this sweet treat is only good for a couple of months.
You can make it last a little longer when you store it in a sealed container at the back of the freezer.
However, the best way to enjoy your ice cream is simply fresh, so you don’t have to worry about it going off.