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Does Cream Of Tartar Go Bad And What Are The Red Flags?

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“Tartar” is a relatively common term in the culinary world, as tartar sauce is one of the most popular condiments for many occasions. 

However, another ingredient that bears the name “tartar” is cream of tartar. However, it actually doesn’t have anything in common with tartar nor is it a cream. 

Surprisingly, it is a fine white powder, a byproduct of winemaking, scientifically known as potassium bitartrate. 

It has many uses in cooking, including stabilizing and increasing the volume of beaten eggs, acting as a leavening agent, preventing the crystallization of sugar, and providing acidity. 

But what about its shelf life? Does cream of tartar go bad? Since it is similar to baking powder and baking soda, cream of tartar won’t go bad so easily. 

However, there are certain factors that can lead to its spoilage, so it is important to get more information. 

Does Cream Of Tartar Really Go Bad?

Cream Of Tartar

If stored in the right conditions, cream of tartar will stay safe for consumption almost indefinitely. Alongside flour, miso, tahini, and some other shelf-stable products, it doesn’t spoil that easily. 

So if you haven’t opened the packaging with the cream of tartar and store it properly, it will stay good for years. Also, it has to stay away from water because water is its major enemy when it comes to spoilage. 

Namely, since cream of tartar is a powdery ingredient, as long as it is in a dry environment, nothing will happen to it. 

However, when moisture comes in, i.e. a high amount of moisture, there is a high chance that mold will form, and after that, cream of tartar is for nothing but for the trash. 

I also have to emphasize that cream of tartar will stay safe under the right conditions, but it will gradually lose potency over longer periods of time, so it is best to use it as soon as possible. 

How To Tell If It Has Gone Bad?

Knowing that cream of tartar can go bad in certain situations, as well as lose quality over time, automatically triggers the need of knowing how to recognize that. Luckily, there are efficient ways to do that properly. 

First, you should do a visual test. If you see anything unusual, you should examine it more closely. 

Over time, especially if just a bit of moisture comes in, small and soft lumps can form on the surface. However, you don’t have to worry about that because you can fix the problem easily and it will still be entirely safe. 

Simply use a fork to break and stir the powder. Aside from that, you can also run it through a sieve or a spice grinder, or just use a mortar and pestle. 

On the other hand, if those lumps are big and hard, it may be worrying because that is a clear sign of spoilage. In that case, you should toss it. 

Also, if you see mold patches or any other organic growth on the surface, get rid of it immediately. The same goes for discoloration, dark marks, as well as a slightly yellowish tinge. 

Finally, you should also check its smell. A good tartar has a slightly acidic aroma, while a bad one loses that aroma and becomes somewhat neutral. If that’s the case. it is best not to consume it. 

Proper Test To Check Its Potency

Safety always comes first, so I decided to cover that first. However, remember when I said that cream of tartar loses its potency over time? 

If yours has been sitting in the pantry for too long and you are not sure whether it is fresh anymore, there is a test you can do to be sure. 

In a glass mug, mix ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, pour half a cup of hot water over the mixture, and give it a stir. 

If you see that it generates foam, it is perfectly good and can still be used. 

How Long Does It Last?

Cream of tartar in bowl

I already said that cream of tartar can last for a few years if in the right storage conditions. But how long exactly is that? Well actually, it is hard to tell. 

Some sources say that cream of tartar can last for about 2-3 years, while others say that you can use it for about 4 years from the day of production or even longer after. 

If there is a printed date on the label, follow that date for the best quality. However, you can still consume it 3-6 months past that date, as it won’t lose its quality during that period of time. 

What About Expired Cream Of Tartar?

Actually, there is no such thing as expired cream of tartar. The printed date on the label, for which you might think that it is an expiration date, is actually a “best by date”. 

It is regulated by law that every product must have an expiration date on the label, so that is the only reason why you will see it. However, it is nothing other than the date of its best quality. 

I already mentioned, you can continue consuming cream of tartar up to 6 months past that date. But what happens later? 

Well this product will stay safe for consumption even after that, but the level of potency will rapidly start to decline. So that is something you should take into account. 

How To Store Cream Of Tartar Properly

Out of all food products and ingredients, cream of tartar has one of the longest shelf lives. However, that is only the case if you store it correctly. 

• Find a cool dry place where there is no direct sunlight or heat sources and store it in there. 

• If you opened the original packaging with cream of tartar in it, transfer it to an airtight container and seal it properly, as it will best protect it from excess moisture and any strong odors. 

• If your cream of tartar is in paper packaging, transfer it to a well-sealed jar, as paper packaging will not protect it from moisture and strong odors. 

• Always check the surroundings of your cream of tartar for any creepy crawlies. 

• Avoid storing it in the refrigerator because this is the place where the moisture can come in easily. 

• Freezing is possible, but, as with freezing flour for example, really not necessary. However, if you decide to freeze your cream of tartar, always store it in a well-sealed freezer-safe bag.  

Do You Really Need To Toss Old Cream Of Tartar?

Cream Of Tartar spilled

No, you don’t. There are numerous ways to use old cream of tartar and some of them are very practical, so it is not out of hand to learn them. 

• Cleaning copper and brass: You can use it to clean and polish copper and brass items. Make a paste by mixing cream of tartar with a small amount of water, and then apply the paste to the tarnished surface. 

Let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing it gently with a cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry.

• Removing stains: Cream of tartar can be effective in removing certain stains, particularly on fabrics. 

Mix a small amount of cream of tartar with water to make a paste, and apply it to the stained area. Allow it to sit for a while before washing it as usual.

• DIY cleaning solutions: Cream of tartar can be a component of DIY cleaning solutions. When combined with other ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, or baking soda, it can help tackle stains, grime, and build-up on various surfaces in your home.

• Getting rid of ants: If you have problems with ants, just put some cream of tartar in those areas, and there will be fewer ants. 

Final Verdict

So, does cream of tartar go bad? Cream of tartar, just like any other product, can certainly go bad if you expose it to bad storage conditions. 

However, if you store it in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources, and seal it properly in an airtight container, it will stay good for even a few years.

Does Cream Of Tartar Go Bad And What Are The Red Flags