Going into summer barbecue season, a lot of us are wondering if our favorite condiment will spoil. This post will set your mind at ease over whether or not BBQ sauce goes bad.
With summer approaching, and barbecue season on the horizon, everyone’s starting to wonder if last year’s BBQ that’s been kept in the fridge all this time is still good. As with most questions, the answer is: it depends.
A high quality barbecue sauce made with minimal or no preservatives will begin to lose its quality in about four months. This is due to the high percentage of natural ingredients in BBQ sauce. Even though some ingredients in BBQ sauce are natural preservatives, such as sugar and vinegar, the natural ingredients will eventually start to go bad.
A store-bought sauce will last longer than a homemade sauce due to the extra preservatives added to a commercial sauce.
Passed Its Prime or Spoiled?
There are two different stages for BBQ sauce that you should be aware of. It will first go passed its prime, when it will still be safely edible, but not quite as flavorful and high quality as it was. Then it will begin to spoil or ferment. It will starts to smell and taste funny at this point, which is when it is no longer safe to eat.
While it’s okay to keep BBQ sauce that’s passed its prime, you might want to toss it out on the principle that the flavor won’t be the same after this point. You’ll be losing a lot of the complex tangy and spicy notes that are so important to barbecue sauce.
Always check the expiration date on a store-bought sauce and plan to keep it for no longer than a month or two past the best-by date for the best flavor.
It’s important to note that if you’ve left a BBQ sauce out on the counter or in the sun during a cookout for too long, it will begin to spoil or ferment in the bottle. This will produce a sort of bubbliness and pungent vinegary smell. This will happen even if the sauce is new, if left in unfavorable conditions for too long. When it gets this way, you should throw it out.
How Long Does BBQ Sauce Take to Go Bad?
Most store bought barbecue sauces are made with more artificial preservatives, which means it will keep longer. Check the sauce’s label for specifics, but generally it takes six to twelve months for those to go bad.
Homemade BBQ sauce or those with less preservatives will go bad a lot sooner. A homemade sauce should be used within 7-14 days. It will rapidly decline after this point.
The best way to check if your sauce has gone bad is to give it the smell test. Use your senses. You will innately know spoiled food from good food. If it smells off, the consistency is different than it was when you first bought it, or it’s growing mould, those are signs that it’s time to toss that bottle out.
Correctly Storing BBQ Sauce
To ensure your BBQ sauce keeps for as long as possible, make sure that you’re storing it correctly.
Bottled barbecue sauce from the store can be stored in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to open it. A pantry or kitchen shelf is the perfect place to store an unopened bottle. Keep it out of the sun for best storage. When stored properly, an unopened BBQ sauce can be kept for many years without going bad.
As soon as you open your bottled sauce, it needs a home in the fridge. Make sure the cap is tightly screwed on and seals properly. Bottled sauce can stay in the fridge for 4-12 months. Do a smell and sight check when you open the bottle to be sure that it’s safe to eat.
Homemade barbecue sauce, such as our Smoky Bourbon BBQ Sauce, needs to be stored in the refrigerator from the start. As soon as you make it – if you’re not immediately using it – it needs to hit the fridge. Store your sauce in an airtight container, and check the seal before setting it aside. Homemade BBQ sauces can generally last in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks before spoiling.
Tips to Make BBQ Sauce Last Longer
- If you’re making your own barbecue sauce and want to keep some for future use, it’s easy to bottle barbecue sauce. You can use the boiling water canning process on your Instant Pot if you have one, or bottle it on the stove top. Always follow safe canning procedures: clean your cans properly to get rid of bacteria, boil at the correct temperature, and check the seal of the cans once they’re out of the water. Once the sauce is canned, follow directions above for storing unopened bottled BBQ sauce.
- Whenever you scoop into a bottle or jar of barbecue, use clean utensils that haven’t been previously used. This will minimize the amount of bacteria making it’s way into your sauce.
- Never leave BBQ sauce out of the refrigerator for more than 1-2 hours. The longer it’s out, the faster it will spoil.
- Once you’ve poured the sauce out of the bottle, never put it back in. It’s tempting to put any unused sauce back into the bottle, but this can transfer bacteria back into the bottle that can spoil the whole lot.
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Jillian Morris is the resident baker for A Food Lover’s Kitchen. She started baking when she was very little and found she had a great passion for it. She is a high-schooler in a small town in Oregon, where she enjoys music, writing, and baking in her spare time.