How Long Does Ice Cream Last: All You Need to Know

Ice cream is so delicious that it's usually gone in a minute or two. It’s hard to resist and will likely be finished in no time. Statistics prove we are consuming way more ice cream than we think. Because of this, hardly anyone has to wonder about how long it lasts before it goes bad.
how long does ice cream last Mint ice cream with chocolate chips

Ice cream is so delicious that it’s usually gone in a minute or two. It’s hard to resist and will likely be finished in no time. Statistics prove we are consuming way more ice cream than we think.  Because of this, hardly anyone has to wonder about how long it lasts before it goes bad. 

If you’ve just purchased ice cream in bulk, had free containers handed out to you, or if you’re just curious, this article will examine how long ice cream lasts before it goes bad. 

How Long Does Ice Cream Last in the Freezer? 

Ice cream lasts long in the freezer, but as a rule of thumb, it maintains premium quality for 2-3 months. Just ensure the container is shut tightly and the freezer temperature is at 0°F. 

You can still eat your ice cream for up to a year after, but you may notice a slight change in the taste. What’s important is that you keep the temperature of the fridge balanced.

If the ice cream has been opened, it’s better to consume it within 2-3 weeks. While you may still be able to eat it for a few weeks after, the quality will have reduced. And worse, it may make you sick if you have a sensitive stomach.

How Does it Go Bad in the Freezer? 

It’s a hard and fast rule that storing anything in the freezer will increase its shelf life. With refrigeration, bacteria do not have moisture and warmth to breed, so it’s a great way to keep food items from going bad. This is true for ice cream too. However, there’s only so much a freezer can do, so bacteria can grow in the freezer at a slower rate. 

Unless it’s lactose tolerant or vegan friendly, ice cream contains several dairy ingredients like pasteurized cream, butter fat, condensed milk, or eggs. These ingredients contain protein, and protein foods are a breeding ground for bacteria. So, bacteria will still find a way to promulgate on your ice cream, even if it’s in the freezer. 

How Long Does Ice Cream Last at Room Temperature? 

Malting Vanilla Ice Cream Scoops

Ice cream loses the ice quality when kept at room temperature, and since it’s a product usually made from milk and eggs, it tends to disintegrate quickly. 

Don’t refrigerate ice cream that has sat out and melted. Keeping it in the fridge to eat later when bacteria has already poached on it is very harmful. 

Also, bacteria grow fast at a temperature of 40°-140°F, and milk and cream are both protein products that help bacteria grow easily. Ice cream kept at room temperature doesn’t last a long time. It’s best to dispose of ice cream that has sat out for up to five hours after opening.

Ice cream usually has a ‘best before date’ rather than a ‘use-by date’ on the container. This generally means that you can still consume it for some time after that date has passed. If your ice cream has been properly stored, it’s safe to eat your store-bought ice cream a month or two after the ‘best before date’ has passed. 

How to Know if Ice Cream Has Gone Bad? 

Ice cream that’s gone bad will form ice crystals on top. Ice crystals may sometimes taste, look, or smell fine, but they are a sure sign of bacteria.

The look may also be unappealing or unusual, but you may not detect it easily if it’s still very frozen. Bad ice cream will taste weird or just outright bad. 

If the container or outside of your ice cream feels sticky, it may be best to toss it straight in the garbage.

Sometimes, ice shards may be on the surface of the ice cream or the underside of its container. If the ice shards are minimal, you can still scrape them off to take the ice cream under. Excessive ice shards settling over your ice cream may indicate the level of bacteria growth that has occurred.

How Long Does Ice Cream Cake Last? 

Ice cream cake has a shorter life span because of the additional ingredients. It stays good for just a week before you need to throw it out. 

You may still be able to eat leftover ice cream cake for some days after the 7-day freezer rule, but the quality will have reduced. A commercial ice cream cake generally has a longer shelf life than a homemade ice cream cake. If your ice cream cake is vegan and doesn’t contain products like milk, eggs, cream cheese, butter, or whipped cream, you may be able to retain the quality for longer than a week. Just ensure you take it out of the cake box and put it in an airtight plastic container.

How to Make Ice Cream Last Longer

Here are some basic guidelines to help you preserve your ice cream in premium quality for a long time. 

Use Freezer Paper 

You can preserve unopened ice cream for longer by wrapping the tub or container in freezer paper. Alternatively, you can use plastic wrap. Ensure you keep it at a balanced 0°F (-18°Celsius) freezing temperature. If it’s opened, you should transfer it into an airtight and freezer-safe container.

Reduce Oxygen

Oxygen is crucial for bacterial growth, and generally, every preventive tip is aimed at reducing oxygen. This includes using an airtight container, closing the lid properly, not letting the ice cream thaw, and using plastic wrap.

Keep the Lid Closed Tightly

Dairy products like yogurt and ice cream spoil faster because they are protein-based. When they are already bacteria-infested, there is no breeding ground worse than a cold place. 

It’s better to prevent bacteria from getting into your ice cream tub in the first place, and the best way is to ensure you don’t dip into the container when taking out ice cream. 

Put your scoops in a separate bowl and immediately return the ice cream. Make sure the lid is tightly shut to prevent bacteria from breeding. Better yet, you can transfer it to an airtight container to preserve it even more.

Keep at the Back/Bottom of the Freezer 

The best way to keep any food item fully frozen is to keep it at the bottom with the tub resting on the floor of your cooler chest or against the wall of your freezer. Storing it at the door makes it susceptible to any temperature fluctuations. 

But the temperature at the back, or on the floor,  is usually stable and freezing, and this will also prevent the ice cream from melting whenever you open the freezer to take out other items. 

How to Finish Your Ice Cream Faster 

Again, having so much ice cream that you have to wonder how to store it is a rarity, but it can happen. While there are storage options, finishing the ice cream as soon as possible is ideal. Here are a few personal treats you can enjoy with ice cream so you don’t get bored of it.

Blend with Bananas

If you have a few leftover bananas, you can make an ice cream custard with them. All you need to do is toss the ice cream in a blender with the bananas until smooth. This helps you unlock a different flavor. 

Ice Cream Cake 

If you bought plain ice cream, you could try out the popular combination of ice cream and cake. Whether you have homemade cake or store-bought, you can dunk your cake in scoops of ice cream or top the cake with slightly melted ice cream and some cream icing. The result will rival any store-bought ice cream cake. 

Ice Cream Popsicles 

If you love popsicles, you’ll enjoy using leftover ice cream to make them. First, find some small cups and freeze ice cream in them. Then stick a popsicle stick in each and carefully pull it out. 

Next, dip each in melted chocolate with chocolate syrup and add an extra layer of sprinkles. Then freeze for an hour and enjoy your homemade popsicles. Check out more tips for homemade popsicles here.  

Fruity Ice Cream 

Fruity ice cream is a way to enjoy the optimal taste of ice cream and the nutrition of fruits in one go. Just blend your favorite fruit into a puree and mix it into your ice cream with a spoon. 

Alternatively, you can slice one or more fruits into ice cream layers and enjoy this yummy combination, just like bananas on oats. 

Final Thoughts

How long does ice cream last? It can last as long as three months when stored in optimal conditions, but when it’s opened, it’s best to consume it within six weeks. Just store it at 0 Fahrenheit and let it sit at the back of your freezer.

But despite our best-storing methods, ice cream should be consumed as soon as possible. Once ice cream melts and you refreeze it, it doesn’t taste the same, and you are sure to notice the quality difference. You’re likely to leave it out to thaw a bit each time you take a scoop, which just increases the chances of bacteria breeding in your ice cream. 

Hopefully, you won’t need these tips. You can enjoy ice cream in many ways to satisfy your sweet tooth before it needs to be stored. Just make sure you get your favorite flavor from your favorite brand, and don’t be tempted to buy more than you need!



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