BBQ sauce runs through the veins of every meat lover; we simply cannot imagine our lives without it. But whether you are using a widely available BBQ sauce from your local supermarket, the fancy one made by artisans, or the one you made yourself following your grandmother’s recipe, you need to pay attention to the expiration dates.
Just like any other food, barbecue sauce can go bad over time and, if eaten, make you sick. The shelf life of your favorite BBQ sauce varies depending on what ingredients it contains and the conditions it is stored in, so let’s see what we can do to extend it.
How can you tell if BBQ sauce has gone bad?
The best way to tell if the barbecue sauce has gone bad is by using your senses of smell and sight, plus the sixth sense – the common sense. Every BBQ lover knows what their favorite sauce is supposed to look like, and the texture and the smell it is supposed to have. If the sauce does not look and smell right to you trust your gut instinct; your gut will thank you later, trust me.
If the container has any signs of mold anywhere throw the entire thing away. When it comes to mold the part we can see is just the tip of the iceberg, most of the spores have already permeated the rest of the product; so don’t just scrape off the visible bits, throw it all away.
Also, if the BBQ sauce container has been opened once the water in the sauce will begin to evaporate slowly, and over time the sauce will become much thicker and darker. Those are two more signs that the entire thing needs to go. Don’t waste your time vigorously shaking and whipping the bottle over your plate. Even if it is technically safe to eat, the flavor won’t be as intense as it used to be, so spare your wrist.
How long does BBQ sauce last in and out of the refrigerator?
If you come across a good deal on BBQ sauce in your supermarket do not hesitate to grab extra bottles. If kept in a cool and dark pantry this divine nectar can last for about 18 months. But once opened the BBQ sauce better be kept in the fridge in a tightly sealed bottle. In these conditions, it can be safe to eat for a few weeks (or even several months).
The commercially available BBQ sauce bottles usually have “best by” (or “best before”) dates printed on them. This does not have to do with the product’s safety, it is the manufacturer’s best guess for how long the sauce will remain in top shape (in terms of flavor).
But keep in mind that the homemade sauce, delicious though it might be, cannot compete with the commercial sauce in the longevity department. The vast majority of commercial sauce producers know how to make their sauce last; if you made your sauce at home you probably have not added any preservatives or used sterilized equipment as they have, so the shelf life of the homemade BBQ sauce is considerably shorter, even in the refrigerator.
Once again, use your eyes and nose to make the judgment, and if you have any doubts toss it in the bin; ignore your father’s indignant expostulations in the background.
Do vinegar-based BBQ sauces last longer than tomato-based sauces?
Almost all BBQ sauces nowadays contain vinegar, it is what gives this condiment the touch of acidity that goes so well with your favorite cut of meat. And the good news is that if you like making your sauce with an extra splash of vinegar you will have more time to enjoy it.
Vinegar does not allow the bacteria to grow as rapidly, so you might not even need to refrigerate it after opening. Although that part does depend on the climate of the place you live in; if the summers in your town are really hot then better not take any chances.
How to extend the shelf life of your BBQ sauce.
The answer is simple – refrigerator. The cooler the place you store your sauce, the longer it will last. In the absence of the fridge, place it in the darkest and coolest place in your pantry.
Also, keep the sauce in its original container; the dish you transfer it to might have some sort of bacteria on it that will contaminate your sauce. Make sure that the lid of the container is tightly sealed otherwise the water will evaporate and the sauce will become too thick to use.
Can I use unopened BBQ sauce past its expiration date?
If you have a bottle of pasteurized commercial BBQ sauce in your pantry it should still be good even past the expiration date. In fact, the sauce will remain edible for up to 6 months after it has officially expired (but, of course, this time period varies depending on the conditions the bottle was kept in).
Expiration dates on the labels can be confusing. In general, if the label reads “use by” or “use before” it means that the product is not safe to use after that date. But the BBQ sauce manufacturers do not use that system. Your bottle of sauce is much more likely to have “best before”, “best by”, or some variation thereof printed on it. This means that it is still safe to use this product after the “best by” date has passed; the manufacturers trust you to use your common sense and judge for yourself if your BBQ sauce is still good.
Overall, when it comes to storing requirements, barbecue sauce is as low-maintenance as they come; but everything has a limit, so don’t push your luck. If you see or smell something fishy, just throw it out. The sauce is cheap and widely available, so it is definitely not worth risking your health.