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How Long Does Ice Cream Last in the Freezer?

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By Ollie Cartwright

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

We all know that food goes out. Vegetables will wilt. Fruit will become mushy. But what about ice cream? It’s far more difficult to work out when it’s gone bad and how long it can be left open in the freezer.

How Long Can You Keep Ice Cream in the Freezer?

Ice cream can last up to 2-4 months in the freezer for optimal quality, provided it’s properly covered to prevent ice crystals and freezer burn. However, it remains safe to consume beyond this period.

Does Ice Cream Go Bad?

Yes, ice cream can go bad, even though it’s kept in the freezer. People often assume that because it’s in the freezer, it’ll last indefinitely. Unfortunately, there are a few reasons for this:

  1. Time
    Over extended periods, the quality of ice cream can deteriorate. While it doesn’t exactly spoil like fresh foods, after about 2-4 months in the freezer, ice cream might begin to lose its texture and flavour.
  2. Temperature Fluctuation
    If your freezer’s temperature fluctuates frequently, it can cause the ice cream to thaw and then refreeze partially. This can lead to the growth of large ice crystals in the ice cream, making it hard, icy, and less enjoyable to eat.
  3. Air Exposure
    If ice cream is not sealed properly, it can be exposed to the air inside the freezer. This exposure can cause freezer burn, resulting from moisture loss. Freezer burn can make the ice cream taste off and develop an unpleasant grainy texture.
  4. Cross-contamination
    In a freezer, flavours and odours from other foods can be absorbed by the ice cream if it’s not properly covered. This is particularly noticeable with strong ingredients like onion or fish. No one was oniony, fishy vanilla ice cream!

In all these cases, it’s not so much that the ice cream has become unsafe to eat but rather that its quality has degraded to the point where it may not be enjoyable to have.

Store Ice Cream Tubs in a Freezer Bag

Even when your ice cream tub is sealed, small amounts of air can reach the surface and encourage freezer burn and ice crystal formation. Placing the whole tub inside a sealable freezer bag adds an extra layer of protection.

Can You Refreeze Melted Ice Cream?

Yes, but it may change texture, including the formation of large ice crystals, which can make the ice cream grainy or icy. It’s also important to remember that if the ice cream has been left at room temperature for too long, bacteria may have begun to multiply.

How Do You Tell If Ice Cream Has Gone Bad?

Determining if ice cream has gone bad involves examining several factors:

  1. Expiration Date
    The easiest way to determine if your ice cream is past its prime is by checking the expiration date on the packaging. This does not guarantee that the ice cream is spoiled, but the quality may have degraded after this date.
  2. Freezer Burn
    If your ice cream has been exposed to air, it can develop freezer burn. This is seen as dry, rough, icy patches on the surface of the ice cream and can make it taste off.
  3. Texture and Consistency
    Ice cream that has thawed and refrozen may have a grainy or icy texture. It’s still safe to eat, but the change in texture could make it less enjoyable.
  4. Odd Flavors
    If your ice cream tastes off, it may have absorbed odours from other items in your freezer. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s spoiled, but it might not taste good.
  5. Colour Changes
    If your ice cream develops unusual colours, it could be a sign of spoilage.
  6. Mould Growth
    Although it’s rare because of the freezing temperature, if you see mould growth on your ice cream, it should not be consumed.

Remember, it’s best to err on the side of caution when in doubt.

Is Freezer-Burned Ice Cream Safe to Eat?

Yes, freezer-burned ice cream is safe to eat, but its taste and texture may be compromised.

Freezer burn happens when ice cream (or any other frozen food) is exposed to air, causing moisture to evaporate and form ice crystals on its surface. This results in dry spots, making the ice cream taste stale or off.

However, from a food safety perspective, it doesn’t make ice cream unsafe to eat.

If you’re not bothered by the change in taste or texture, you can still eat it. However, replacing the ice cream might be more enjoyable if the freezer burn is extensive or the flavour is too altered.

What’s the Best Way to Store Ice Cream?

Properly storing ice cream in the freezer can prolong its life and maintain its quality. Here are some unique tips and tricks to keep your ice cream at its best for as long as possible:

  1. Keep It Cold, Obviously
    Ice cream should be stored at a consistent temperature of 0°F or -18°C or lower. Ensure your freezer is set to this temperature or lower to keep your ice cream properly frozen and prevent it from thawing and refreezing, which can create ice crystals.
  2. Store Upside Down
    Once you’ve opened a container of ice cream and taken a few scoops, store it upside down in the freezer. This creates a vacuum at the top of the container, reducing air exposure and discouraging freezer burn. Just make sure the lid is on tightly to prevent any leaks!
  3. Double Wrap
    If your ice cream comes in a cardboard tub, consider wrapping the entire container in plastic wrap or foil before putting it back in the freezer. This provides an extra barrier against the cold, dry air in the freezer, reducing the chance of freezer burn.
  4. Finish One at a Time
    I know how it is. You’ve bought 6 different flavours of ice cream, and you want to try them all at once. But, you’d be better off finishing one tub at a time so that the others remain closed and, therefore, more protected.
Many Tubs of Ice Cream
  1. Back of the Freezer
    The temperature in your freezer can fluctuate, especially near the door, which is opened and closed frequently. Store your ice cream at the back of the freezer where the temperature is most consistent.
  2. Airtight Containers
    If you’ve served your ice cream and have leftovers, consider transferring them to an airtight container before freezing. This can help maintain the ice cream’s texture and protect against freezer burn.
  3. Press and Seal
    After scooping out ice cream, press a piece of wax paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap onto the surface of the remaining ice cream before replacing the lid. This extra barrier can help to prevent air exposure and ice crystal formation.
  4. Keep It Sealed
    Only take your ice cream when ready to serve it, and return it as soon as possible. The less time it spends at room temperature, the less chance ice crystals have to form.

Remember, even with these tricks, it’s best to consume ice cream within two to four months of purchase to enjoy it at its best quality.

Why Does My Ice Cream Get Hard in the Freezer?

If your ice cream is too hard, your freezer temperature may be set too low. Alternatively, it could be a sign that the ice cream has started dehydrating and losing moisture, which turns to ice, making it hard.


We have verified the information on this page using the following resources:

Serious Eats


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