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Can Ice Cream Go Bad? Shelf Life Of Favorite Summer Dessert

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It is by no doubt our favorite summer dessert. It is sweet and refreshing and there are various flavorings for everybody’s taste. Ladies and gentlemen, it is ice cream.

It is one type of food that is only kept in the freezer. Because of that, many believe it can last indefinitely. But, can ice cream go bad? Just like any type of food, including frozen food, ice cream can certainly go bad.

No matter if it is soft-serve or hard-serve, no matter what type of ice cream it is, if it is not handled properly, it can spoil.

If you want to know more about the shelf life of ice cream, successful storage signs, as well as possible spoilage, it is best that you continue reading.

Can Ice Cream Go Bad In The Freezer?

Cornetto ice cream in the refrigerator

When it comes to spoilage, ice cream is not like some other types of food like meat, mayonnaise, tahini, salsa, and some others. Unlike those, ice cream is constantly kept in the freezer, so many tend to believe that it can not go bad. But, that is actually not true.

First things first, ice cream can contain some very sensitive foods including dairy products and eggs that can easily spoil. Secondly, it is not frozen for the entire time.

Both store-bought ice cream and homemade ones spend some time at room temperature and room temperature can cause spoilage of every type of food.

And, finally, the freezer does not prevent food from spoiling. It only slows bacterial growth, but it doesn’t stop it entirely.

Therefore, if you don’t handle your ice cream properly or if storage conditions are not good, you may also go through some unpleasant experiences with your favorite summer dessert.

As you can see, ice cream can go bad. It is important to know the exact shelf life of ice cream, food storage protocols, as well as some spoilage signs in order to enjoy your ice cream to the fullest.

Let’s take a look.

Why Does Ice Cream Go Bad?

If you don’t handle your ice cream the right way, it will probably go bad. If it doesn’t go bad, its quality in terms of optimal taste and texture will certainly deteriorate and that is not something you want to achieve.

I am sure that you are wondering what the real reason for that spoilage is.

Well, just like with freezing any other type of food such as freezing Greek yogurt or chicken, the growth of harmful bacteria is the main cause of spoiled ice cream. Many people don’t even know that bacteria can grow inside ice cream because it is frozen food.

But, as I already mentioned, it is not in the freezer all the time. And when it is outside, the risk of spoilage grows even if you store it properly in the freezer again.

This is especially the case if your ice cream melts entirely because melted ice cream can be the perfect home for those sticky bacteria.

And even if only the top of the ice cream melts and you refreeze it, the risk of harmful bacteria becomes high. In that case, it is best to eat it immediately to stay on the safe side.

Also, refreezing thawed ice cream results in a different texture.

How To Tell If Ice Cream Is Bad?

ice creams in a cornetto

I have to be honest, it is not easy to notice spoiled ice cream because those bacteria are able to hide very successfully in frozen food. However, there are some potential signs of spoiled ice cream that you should look for.

First, if you notice that the outside of the ice cream container is sticky, it would be good to get rid of it because it is potentially bad.

Aside from that, ice cream is very prone to freezer burn, especially if it is not stored correctly.

Freezer burn happens when dry, cold air enters the container and sucks out all the moisture from it. In that case, tiny ice crystals or ice shards appear.

Firstly, you have to know that freezer burn tends to deteriorate ice cream’s quality in terms of flavor and texture.

However, if ice cream hasn’t been handled properly, and especially if it has been melted and then refrozen, there is a big risk that bacteria is hiding inside those crystals.

So, if you notice those crystals on the surface of the ice cream, I would suggest that you don’t consume your ice cream to stay on the safe side. That is the best way to avoid potential food poisoning.

How Long Does It Last In The Freezer?

ice cream in a freezer

In order to avoid consuming bad ice cream or one that’s quality has deteriorated, it is important to know how long ice cream can stay good. 

According to the type of ice cream, as well as if it has been opened or not, you will be able to learn the exact shelf life of your favorite summer treat.

How Long Does Store-Bought Ice Cream Last?

All store-bought food tends to last a little longer because it contains preservatives that protect it from harmful bacteria. And ice cream is no exception.

So, if you are dealing with unopened ice cream, it should last for up to 3 months in the freezer if stored properly.

If you are worried about the ice cream expiration date, i.e. if you want to avoid eating expired ice cream, you shouldn’t be.

I am saying this because that expiration date is not usually a use-by date. It is actually the best-before date and most food storage and food safety experts agree that you can eat it for a couple of months past that date.

When it comes to opened ice cream, things are more clear.

If you store opened ice cream properly, and you will see how to do that below, it will last in the freezer for up to 1-2 months.

Do not leave it longer than that in the freezer because its quality will seriously deteriorate and it may go bad very easily, especially if it hasn’t been handled the right way.

How Long Does Homemade Ice Cream Last?

Every type of homemade food lasts less than the ones you buy from the store and the same goes for ice cream. The main reason for this is the fact that homemade ice cream does not contain any preservatives.

Another potential reason is the fact that most home cooks don’t freeze their ice cream the right way, i.e. they often don’t put it in the right containers.

So, I would say that properly stored homemade ice cream will last in the freezer for up to 1 month. Some say that it can last for up to 1-2 months, but I would play it safe and stick to 1-month storage.

How To Handle Ice Cream Successfully?

Strawberry ice cream in a white bowl

Finally, the most important thing is to store your ice cream the right way. So, if you are dealing with the typical ice cream that you buy from the grocery store every day or you just made some on your own, here are some useful storing tips.

• Set The Right Temperature: If you want to extend the shelf life of your ice cream in the freezer and preserve its best quality, it is important that the temperature of the freezer is 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

• Wrap It: If you are dealing with opened ice cream that you bought from the grocery store, it is not a bad idea to wrap it with plastic wrap while it is still in the ice cream container. And, of course, you must seal the container properly as well.

• Choose The Right Container: When freezing your ice cream, it is very important to store it in an airtight container to prevent air from entering. I would suggest you use Tupperware because it is a specially-designed container for storing ice cream.

This is especially important if you are freezing homemade ice cream, but you can also transfer store-bought ones because ice cream containers from the store are not airtight.

• Store It Deep In The Freezer: It is always good to store your ice cream somewhere in the back of the freezer because the temperature is more stable there. 

If you store it close to the doors, the temperature will be constantly changing and that will negatively affect your ice cream.

• Avoid Refreezing Melted Ice Cream: Once ice cream melts at room temperature, it becomes fertile ground for harmful bacteria. 

So, once you freeze ice cream that has already been contaminated with those bacteria, it will be there for sure once you pull it out of the freezer.

Final Verdict

Ice cream is a type of frozen food that can last quite a long if stored properly. However, your typical ice cream usually contains sugar, milk, fat, eggs, colorings, and flavorings.

Mainly because of the eggs and milk, ice cream is, just like some other dairy products like cream cheese and milkshakes, prone to spoilage if not stored properly.

And that’s the exact answer to the question “Can ice cream go bad?”. If you don’t handle and store it properly and you don’t know its exact shelf life, it will certainly go bad.

Because the best ice cream is a properly handled ice cream.