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Does Beef Broth Go Bad? FAQ + Freshness Tips

When you stock store-bought beef broth in your pantry, have you ever thought, does beef broth go bad? Find out here!

Many dishes, such as stews and soups, are created by adding flavorful beef broth that’s been boiled for hours.  

Whether you buy beef broth in commercial boxed packages or make it yourself, this magical liquid elevates your dishes and creates an entirely new flavor that goes well with any ingredient you put into your pan, wok, or pot. 

The reason beef broth is super flavorful is that it’s been simmered with cuts of beef, aromatics, herbs, and vegetables for at least 45 minutes to a few hours.

Not only is beef broth used as a base for soups and stews, but it’s also a remarkable base for sauces and braises. 

Although homemade beef broth is always preferred as you know what ingredients to put to make your broth flavorful, store-bought beef broth is still more convenient, especially for home cooks who are always on the go to whip up something for the entire family.

Some people use both broth and stock interchangeably.

However, there is a difference between the two. 

Broth means simmering the bones, while stock means simmering with meat still on the bones. 

Compared to beef stock, beef broth has a lighter body and a more evident meaty flavor. 

Compared to its other counterparts, such as vegetable or chicken broth, beef broth brings a more robust and richer flavor. 

The liquid is typically darker brown, and there’s a nice and hearty beefy flavor to the liquid that suits every dish.

And if you want to achieve another layer of flavor, you may add additional spices and herbs, depending on your preference. 

But if you’re always stocking store-bought beef broth in commercial packages, you may wonder, “does beef broth go bad?”

The number of days or years determining if the beef broth is still safe to use depends on many factors.

But yes, beef broth does go bad, BUT it’s not necessarily “bad” as in its inedible.

If you bought commercially-packaged beef broth, you could follow the “best by,” “best used by,” or “best before” date indicated on the package.

This date tells you when to use the broth, so you get optimum quality and freshness.

The manufacturer of Swanson’s beef broth products printed a “best used by” date on each container, indicating the expected shelf life of the product. 

If you haven’t seen “best used by” date codes before, here’s an example: 26 DEC 2022, which indicates that the product would have the best quality before December 26th, 2022. 

Swanson strongly recommends that the unopened product be used prior to the “best used by” date to ensure the best flavor, texture, and overall quality.

However, this is only an estimate from the manufacturer. 

Since some store-bought beef broth contains preservatives, these products can last for years if they’re unopened and stored properly.

However, it doesn’t mean it will still retain the same freshness after you purchase it from the store. 

On the other hand, if you’ve opened the store-bought beef broth, it should be stored for up to 7 to 10 days in the fridge. 

Finally, the homemade beef broth will go bad quickly as it lacks preservatives and will last within 2 days of keeping it in the fridge.

Does boxed beef broth go bad?

Whether it’s stored properly in a dry and cool place or not, an unopened boxed beef broth eventually goes bad since it’s a perishable food.  

However, you can definitely keep it fresh much longer if you choose the right storage method for your broth. 

Boxed beef broth, like Pacific Foods, is pretty similar to Swanson’s as both brands printed the “best if used by” date on their packaging. 

Take note: Some codes aren’t similar. As per Pacific Foods, the date has a format of Day/Month/Year; for example, 26SEP22, implying that the “best if used by” date is September 26, 2022.  

Once the boxed beef broth is opened, it will only stay safe to consume within 7 to 10 days in the fridge. 

Is boxed beef broth safe to use after the expiration date?

Some beef broth brands don’t include expiration dates on their packaging, but they print “best by” or “best if used by” dates, indicating how long the product is at its peak freshness.

And yes, it’s possible to use the broth after this date; however, don’t expect that the flavor and texture are at their finest since beef broth does lose its quality over time. 

It’s highly encouraged to use any boxed beef broth before the “best if used by” date to ensure the best flavor and quality of the product.

How to tell if beef broth has gone bad

Spoiled beef broth can be detrimental to your health as it may cause food poisoning due to harmful bacteria. 

A store-bought beef broth will always have a “best-by” or “best if used by” date. 

These dates indicate when you should consume the beef broth to get its maximum quality with no unexpected issues. 

Here are a few factors to check if the beef broth has gone bad:

  • Mold. Any mold accumulation should be the first sign the beef broth has gone bad. Don’t use it.
  • Smell. If beef broth gives off a pungent or sour odor, it’s time to ditch it. 
  • Taste. If you can’t tell whether it has a sour smell or mold, check if the flavors are fresh, beefy, and meaty. Otherwise, discard it.

Remember to throw away the entire beef broth portion if you notice any of these signs. 

It’s better to be safe than sorry!

How long does beef broth last?

So many people wonder, how long does beef broth last in the fridge?

If you have some leftover beef broth, it’s perfectly safe to store it in the fridge. 

But if it’s still unopened, store it properly in a dry area with the right temperature at 40F to ensure effective storage. 

For Pacific Foods’ beef broth products, the recommended storage temperatures are between 32 F if it’s been opened. 

Up to 80F kept in the pantry or cupboard if it’s fully sealed and unopened from original purchase.

Beef broth lasts days or months depending on a few factors, such as:

  • Unopened store-bought beef broth may last up to 3 years when stored in a cool and dry place.
  • Opened store-bought beef broth may last 4 to 10 days in the fridge.
  • Homemade beef broth may last up to 2 days kept cold in the fridge.

Remember not to leave any broth out on the counter or next to the stove. Take what you need to cook with and put the beef broth container back in the cold fridge for best freshness. The longer you leave it out at room temp, the shorter it’s usefulness will be.

How to store beef broth

Storing your beef broth properly means you’ll have convenient access to it whenever you need to use it for your dishes. 

Plus, storing beef broth correctly means you no longer have to drive to the nearest store after finding out you’ve done a simple storage mishap.

  • When it comes to unopened cans of beef broth, store them in a cool and dry pantry.
  • Check that your cans, boxes, bags, or other storage containers of beef broth (sometimes it comes in glass jars too) are either vacuum-sealed, with unbroken seals or lids, and have no breaks or leaks before using. 
  • You may also store them in the kitchen cupboard, where it’s also cool and dry.

Here’s how store opened store-bought beef broth in the refrigerator:

Tools needed:

  • Opened store-bought beef broth
  • Refrigerator
  • Airtight container

Instructions:

  • Once open, transfer your remaining beef broth to an airtight glass container with lid. 
  • Put it inside your refrigerator and keep it cold for up to 10 days. 
  • Be sure to check for freshness before using it.

Quick Tip: You can also cover an open container with cellophane, beeswax cloth, or foil. Keep checking it for freshness every time you use a portion.

Alternative ways to store beef broth

Another option to store beef broth is to freeze it.

Beef Broth Reduction

You may also reduce beef broth via a large enamel cast iron pan until it’s gelatinous, syrupy, and thick. 

This method also makes the broth more concentrated when it comes to flavor.

This also reduces the storage space the beef broth will take in your fridge.

Homemade Broth Powder

One last option for storing beef broth is to turn it into homemade broth powder. 

After reducing the broth per cooking it down as mentioned above, you can dehydrate it to make broth powder. 

Here’s how to make broth powder:

Tools needed:

ParaFlexx sheets
• Dehydrator
• Beef broth
• Small mason jars

Instructions for dehydrating beef broth to make broth powder:

1. Dry the concentrated broth on paraFlexx sheets via your dehydrator if you have one.
2. Once the broth loses its moisture, it will become brittle.
3. Break them into shards and blend the shards into a blender until they become powder.
4. Store the beef broth powder in a covered jar and add to your dishes as needed!

Can you freeze beef broth?

If you have some really good homemade beef broth and to keep it around longer than a couple of days, the only solution is to freeze it if you want it to last longer. 

So YES, you can freeze the beef broth (see below), which will last up to 3 months in the freezer for optimal taste!

How to freeze beef broth

To extend the shelf life of your beef broth, you simply need to store it in your freezer, and here’s how to do it: 

Tools:

  • Kitchen funnel or ladle or measuring cup with spout
  • Freezer bags
  • Beef broth
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie sheet or baking tray
  • Kitchen towel
  • Freezer

Instructions:

  1. Make space in your freezer to hold the cookie sheet with bags.
  2. Using the kitchen funnel and ladle, fill the freezer bags with fresh, chilled or newly cooled beef broth.
  3. Leave at least 2 to 3 inches of space between the broth and the top of the bag to allow for expansion. Seal well. 
  4. Once filled and sealed, wipe down each bag with a clean kitchen towel. Note: The bags full of broth will naturally lay flat, which is why they need to be sealed well.
  5. Date and label the bags. 
  6. Place the bags flat on a parchment-lined tray. 
  7. Put the tray in the freezer until the bags of broth are mostly frozen. This should take about 6 hours. 
  8. Once frozen, remove the bags from the tray and stack them in the freezer for up to six months.

How to thaw beef broth

Here are the three best ways to thaw beef broth:

  • In a sink full of cold water, which takes about 2 hours, depending on the size of the container
  • In the microwave using the defrost option, which can create hot spots, but works quickly
  • Left overnight in the refrigerator, which thaws broth thoroughly but takes the longest.

How to reheat beef broth on the stove

Tools needed:

  • Thawed beef broth 
  • Saucepan
  • Water
  • Wooden spoon
  • Stovetop

Instructions for reheating beef broth on a stovetop:

  1. Set the sealed container of broth into a sink of cold water for one hour*. 
  2. Put it in a saucepan with a tablespoon of water and then place it on the stovetop. 
  3. Set heat to medium high and start heating the broth. 
  4. Continue heating the broth for a few minutes or until thawed and warm.

*You can also thaw your frozen beef broth by putting the container in the refrigerator overnight. It’s best to put the freezer bags inside a plastic bowl in case a leak has developed.

Can you reheat leftover beef broth?

Yes, you can reheat leftover beef broth. 

Just make sure it’s been stored properly and kept cold until you are ready to eat it, and that it hasn’t been sitting around for more than a few days.

How to reheat beef broth on the stove

Tools needed:

  • Thawed beef broth 
  • Saucepan
  • Water
  • Wooden spoon
  • Stovetop

Instructions for reheating beef broth on a stovetop:

  1. Place thawed (but still cold) broth in a saucepan with a tablespoon of water and then place it on the stovetop. 
  2. Set heat to medium high and start heating the broth. 
  3. Stir, and continue heating the broth for up to 10 minutes until it reaches desired temperature. Don’t let it boil or it can make your broth cloudy.

How to reheat beef broth in the microwave

Use the microwave oven to reheat your leftover beef broth quickly. 

Here’s how to do it: 

Tools needed:

  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • Thawed beef broth
  • Water
  • Spoon

Instructions for reheating leftover beef broth:

  1. Pour the chilled or newly cooled broth into a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a lid. 
  2. Add a T of water to the bowl.
  3. Place it in the microwave on a high setting and heat it for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir the broth and microwave in 30-second increments until you achieve the desired temperature to ensure the broth is heated thoroughly. Avoid boiling the broth so that it doesn’t become cloudy.

What does bad beef broth smell like?

A bad beef broth has an unpleasant sour smell when you lift the lid or open the bag or package; also, this “off” odor smells even worse once heated. 

You’re smelling the byproducts of a large number of bacteria and mold that has reproduced in the broth. Yuck.

A good beef broth smell may remind you of a pot roast cooking at your mom’s or grandma’s house, which has a robust, fresh and meaty aroma.

The bottom line

Now that you know the answer to the question, “does beef broth go bad,” you’ll have the chance to make the most out of your boxed or homemade beef broth. 

Follow these tips to not waste a hearty, meaty beef broth for your future stews, soups, or sauces!

Here’s our list of 23 broth-based soup recipes.

How To Freeze Beef Broth

How To Freeze Beef Broth

To extend the shelf life of your beef broth, you simply need to store it in your freezer!

Ingredients

  • Kitchen funnel or ladle or measuring cup with spout
  • Freezer bags
  • Beef broth
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie sheet or baking tray
  • Kitchen towel
  • Freezer

Instructions

  1. Make space in your freezer to hold the cookie sheet with bags.
  2. Using the kitchen funnel and ladle, fill the freezer bags with fresh, chilled or newly cooled beef broth.
  3. Leave at least 2 to 3 inches of space between the broth and the top of the bag to allow for expansion. Seal well. 
  4. Once filled and sealed, wipe down each bag with a clean kitchen towel. Note: The bags full of broth will naturally lay flat, which is why they need to be sealed well.
  5. Date and label the bags. 
  6. Place the bags flat on a parchment-lined tray. 
  7. Put the tray in the freezer until the bags of broth are mostly frozen. This should take about 6 hours. 
  8. Once frozen, remove the bags from the tray and stack them in the freezer for up to six months.

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