When the days start warming up it means one thing – barbecue season. It’s time to fire up the grill and don the apron. Whether you’re a grilled meat master or a veggie skewer extraordinaire, summer and barbecue go together like, well, marinated meat and BBQ sauce. This timeless combo gets the mouth watering every time.
When barbecue season comes around BBQ sauce comes into its own. If you haven’t seen your BBQ sauce bottle since last summer, however, you might be wondering how long does BBQ sauce last? Can it go bad?
BBQ sauce is the ultimate experience in smokey, tangy tastiness. As a complement to char-grilled meat BBQ sauce is essential and the last thing you want to find with an upturned bottle of BBQ sauce is the sure signs that you’ve let it go bad. Save your summer and learn how long BBQ sauce can last.
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How Long Does BBQ Sauce Last?
BBQ sauce comes in many shapes and sizes – you’ll find rich, sweet and sticky sauces, spicy sauces with chilli as well as classic smoky BBQ sauce. At the base of most BBQ sauce recipes are a few staple ingredients, however. Vinegar is used to provide that characteristic tang, sugar sweetens the deal and onion, mustard and garlic are often used as flavorings.
Vinegar and sugar – two of the prominent ingredients in any BBQ sauce – both have preservative properties. This means your BBQ sauce is going to last a pretty long time! Let’s find out just how long
Store Bought BBQ Sauce
When you purchase BBQ sauce from a store in a jar or a bottle, it should come pasteurized. That means that the bottle and product have been sterilized and you can be sure there’s no bacteria remaining inside.
This creates a stable and inert environment for any product, BBQ sauce included. Before you open your BBQ sauce, it will be safe to keep at room temperature and it should last for at least six months beyond the best-by date, and possibly up to a year.
When you open your BBQ sauce you break the seal on the pasteurized container. This shortens the shelf-life of your sauce somewhat, but because of the preservative ingredients at the heart of BBQ sauce it should still last pretty well in the fridge, slowing down the chemical reactions that take place when the bottle is unsealed.
For four to six months your opened BBQ sauce should keep its tangy taste. Beyond six months your BBQ sauce may still be safe to eat, but the flavour will start to deteriorate.
Homemade BBQ Sauce
Homemade BBQ sauce is easy to make and if you like to be creative on the barbecue then this is a crafty addition to any meat platter. With homemade BBQ sauce you can experiment with flavours. Try adding coconut to your BBQ sauce for a tropical kick or turning up the heat with a scotch bonnet chilli.
Because your homemade BBQ sauce won’t be pasteurized, it doesn’t have a lifespan as long as store-bought. Your home recipes will be good for around ten days in the fridge before it’ll be time to brew up another batch.
BBQ sauce is a long-lasting product, but if you’re busting out old BBQ sauce for the barbie or brewing your own at home, you’ll need to know how to tell if BBQ sauce has gone bad.
How To Tell If BBQ Sauce Has Gone Bad
Because the recipe of BBQ sauces can vary so greatly the time any BBQ sauce will last in your fridge or pantry can be equally variable. It’s important to be able to assess if your BBQ sauce is still good, every time.
The best place to start when you’re checking if your BBQ sauce is still good is the smell. The instant you pop open your BBQ sauce your nostrils should be flooded by sharp, tangy or smokey scents. If the emanating aroma is unfamiliar to you, it’s a strong indicator that your BBQ sauce has gone bad.
You can eyeball your BBQ sauce for any signs that bacteria is flourishing inside the bottle. Mold can grow on the surface of the sauce, where the ingredients come into contact with the air. If there’s any sign of mold in your bottle then it’s time for the trash.
A Taste Test
If your sauce looks okay and you don’t smell anything unusual coming from the bottle it should be safe to taste a smidge of sauce. At the same time you can examine the texture of the sauce – shop bought BBQ sauce should be thick and smooth. If it seems to be lumpy or thinner that usual, it could have gone bad.
As BBQ sauce ages its flavors will diminish. It’s likely that your BBQ sauce will lose its tasty tang long before it becomes unsafe to consume. Barbecue connoisseurs will know it’s time to upgrade your sauce when this day comes.
BBQ sauce can have a long lifespan. However, maximizing the lifespan of your BBQ sauce requires that it’s stored correctly. Let’s look at how you can store your BBQ sauce to keep it fresh.
How To Store BBQ Sauce
If you only bust out the BBQ sauce once a year you’ll want your sauce to last as long as possible. BBQ sauce can potentially keep from one summer to the next, so let’s learn how to store your sauce for a long life.
Store Bought BBQ Sauce
Pasteurized bottles are a stable environment for your sauce and because there’s no bacteria in the bottle you don’t need to worry about it going bad. Before you open your BBQ sauce, it’ll be perfectly safe in the cupboard or on the counter. Ideally you’ll be able to find a dry area and keep it away from heat sources, so storing your sauce by the oven isn’t the best idea. You won’t extend the shelf-life of your unopened BBQ sauce by keeping it in the fridge but it won’t hurt either.
Once you break the seal on your BBQ sauce it will, slowly but inexorably, begin to go bad. The best way to delay this is by keeping your BBQ sauce in the fridge, but thanks to the preservatives like sugar and vinegar, it’ll last on the counter for a couple of weeks. If you keep your BBQ sauce for longer than this, then the refrigerator is the best place for it.
One top tip for keeping your BBQ sauce uncontaminated is to ensure that you only put clean utensils in the bottle. If you’re barbecuing it’s easy to use the same spoon to dish out all your condiments, but this can allow bacteria into the bottle.
Homemade BBQ Sauce
Always refrigerate your homemade BBQ sauce to maximize its lifespan. As you’ll store your homemade sauces in an imperfectly sterilized environment, refrigeration is essential to slow down the expansion of any bacteria.
Can You Freeze It?
If you’ve made a bulk batch of BBQ sauce it might be more than you can eat before it starts to go bad. In that case, you’ll be wondering if you can freeze it. Freezing your BBQ sauce is likely to compromise the texture as ingredients won’t recombine in the same way as it thaws, but once unfrozen it’ll still be good to eat. Your homemade BBQ sauce will last for around a year in the freezer, so if you’re in pinch you can give it a try.
If you don’t fancy the freezer and you have a surplus of sauce, there are plenty of ways you can get creative to use your extra BBQ sauce. Homemade BBQ sauce makes a great gift, so if you’ve got barbecue fans in the family you can share the love.
Barbecue sauce can also combine with other recipes in surprising ways. BBQ sauce can replace the tomato base of a homemade pizza to create a smoky sensation. In a slow cooked stew BBQ sauce can intensify the tangy, meaty flavours! There are plenty of ways to use your surplus sauce!