Can you eat ice cream that’s been in the fridge?

Quick Answer

Most ice cream can be safely eaten after being stored in the freezer for 1-2 months past the printed date on the carton. As long as it has been kept frozen and not melted/refrozen, ice cream will retain its texture and flavor for this duration. However, it’s best to eat ice cream within a few weeks for optimal quality.

How Long Does Ice Cream Last in the Fridge?

Properly stored ice cream will maintain best quality for about 1 to 2 months, but will remain safe beyond that time. The freezer time shown is for best quality only – frozen ice cream that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.

Ice cream that has been defrosted in the fridge can last 1 to 2 days. Look for signs of spoilage like color changes, texture changes, and an off odor or flavor before consuming refrozen ice cream. If there are any signs of spoilage, it’s best to discard the ice cream.

Here are some general guidelines for how long ice cream will last refrigerated:

Ice cream type Freezer (0°F or below) Refrigerator (40°F)
Ice cream, unopened 2-4 months past the printed date 1-2 weeks past the printed date
Ice cream, opened 1-2 months 3-5 days
Low-fat or no sugar added ice cream 1-2 months 1 week
Sorbet, sherbet 2-3 months 1-2 weeks
Frozen yogurt 1-2 months 1-2 weeks
Ice cream cakes, ice cream sandwiches 2-3 months Should not be refrigerated

Signs Ice Cream Has Gone Bad

How can you tell if ice cream has gone bad and is unsafe to eat? Here are a few signs that indicate it’s time to discard ice cream:

– Ice crystals or grainy texture – This means the ice cream has been thawed out and refrozen, affecting texture.

– Dull, faded color – Ice cream should be creamy and bright. Fading can indicate age or freezing issues.

– Melted/refrozen ice cream – Ice cream that has melted and been refrozen will become hard and icy.

– Mold – Check ice cream thoroughly for signs of mold. Discard at first sight.

– Off odors – Ice cream should smell sweet and creamy. Sour odors indicate spoilage.

– Off flavors – Taste ice cream before serving. Rancid or bitter flavors mean it should be discarded.

– expired carton dates – Ice cream that is well past the printed expiration date should be discarded.

If you notice any of these warning signs, err on the side of caution and throw the ice cream away. Don’t take chances when it comes to your health.

Does Ice Cream Go Bad If Left Out?

Ice cream that is left at room temperature or warmer for extended periods of time can quickly go bad due to rapid melting and the high dairy content. Here’s what to know:

– At room temperature – ice cream left out for 2 hours or more can go bad as bacteria begins to multiply. Discard melted ice cream.

– In hot environments – Ice cream left in hot weather can begin melting in less than 30 minutes. The heat exponentially speeds up bacterial growth, making it unsafe.

– Partially thawed – Ice cream that has begun to soften has likely started being exposed to bacteria. It’s best to throw it out.

– Completely thawed – Ice cream that thaws completely should not be refrozen and consumed, due to high risk of foodborne illness.

– In the sun – Direct sunlight can thaw ice cream quickly. Sunny car interiors can reach over 130°F, thawing ice cream in under an hour.

The warmer the conditions, the quicker ice cream can go bad. Keep ice cream chilled at all times to prevent rapid deterioration. Don’t leave it sitting on the kitchen counter or at outdoor picnics.

How To Store Ice Cream Properly

To get the longest shelf life and quality out of ice cream, proper storage is a must:

– Purchase ice cream last at the grocery store. Transport immediately in a cooler bag.

– Check “sell-by” or “best by” dates on containers. Avoid ice cream that is close to expiring.

– Store unopened ice cream in the freezer as soon as possible, at 0°F or below.

– Freeze ice cream for at least 24 hours before consuming to allow it to fully solidify after transport.

– Leave space at the top of containers and cartons to allow for expansion from freezing.

– Once opened, press plastic wrap against the surface before closing the lid to prevent ice crystals.

– Do not refreeze ice cream after it has fully thawed. Only ice cream that is partially thawed can be safely refrozen.

– When freezing ice cream cakes, sandwiches, and novelties, wrap them securely to prevent freezer burn.

With proper freezer care and chilled transport, your ice cream can stay fresh for optimal enjoyment. Follow the above guidelines for storing ice cream.

Can You Refreeze Thawed Ice Cream?

It depends – ice cream that has partially thawed can safely be refrozen, while completely melted ice cream cannot. Here are some key points on refreezing ice cream:

– Partially thawed – Ice cream that still has ice crystals and is cold can be refrozen. Use it soon after thawing for best quality.

– Almost completely thawed – If ice cream is very soft with minimal crystals, refreeze quickly. Use within 2 weeks for best flavor.

– Completely thawed – Do not refreeze melted ice cream. Discard ice cream that has turned liquid. Bacteria may have grown.

– Check for off odors, texture – Before refreezing, check if ice cream smells or looks odd. Discard if signs of spoilage.

– Thaw in refrigerator – For partial thaws, let ice cream thaw slowly and gently in the fridge. Never at room temp.

– Prevent repeated thaws – Repeated melting and refreezing draws moisture out and creates ice crystals.

The key factors are how warm the ice cream got and for how long it was thawed. Ice cream can typically tolerate one careful refreeze when only partially thawed if handled properly. Avoid multiple thaw cycles.

How To Soften Ice Cream

Getting ice cream to the perfect scooping consistency involves some finesse. Here are some tips:

– Microwave 10-15 seconds – Microwave ice cream briefly, stopping to check consistency. Avoid melting.

– Leave at room temperature 10-15 minutes – Leave the carton on the counter briefly until ice cream reaches warmer consistency.

– Run container under warm water – Hold ice cream carton under warm running water, flipping occasionally until desired consistency is reached.

– Leave in the refrigerator overnight – For a slower thaw, leave ice cream overnight in the fridge. Check frequently for consistency.

– Slice with a knife pre-scooping – Using a knife, slice up hard ice cream before trying to scoop it. This makes it more pliable.

– Let it sit after opening carton – Before scooping, allow ice cream to warm slightly after opening. A few minutes makes a difference in texture.

– Use a metal ice cream scoop – Use a metal scoop rather than a plastic one, as the metal will transfer warmth better and slice through hard ice cream more easily. Run the scoop under warm water as needed.

Take the time to properly soften ice cream, as overmelting it will negatively affect the texture and enjoyment of this frozen treat. Patience when tempering is key.

How Many Times Can Ice Cream Be Refrozen?

For best quality and food safety, ice cream should only be refrozen once after purchase. Here are some guidelines:

– Brand new, unopened – Unopened ice cream can be refrozen with no issue if it thaws during transport home. Refreeze immediately.

– Thawed once – Ice cream that has partially thawed once due to a freezer failure or door left open can be safely refrozen.

– Thawed twice – Do not refreeze ice cream that has thawed completely and then been previously refrozen. Toss out melted ice cream.

– Refreeze rapidly – When refreezing ice cream, return it to freezer temperatures of 0°F or below as quickly as possible.

– Check condition before refreezing – Examine ice cream for any signs of spoilage like off smells, icy texture, before putting back in freezer.

– Use within 2 weeks after thawing – For optimal flavor and texture, use ice cream within 2 weeks of first thaw.

– Avoid temperature fluctuations – Try to maintain a stable freezer temperature. Frequent temperature changes degrade ice cream each time it thaws.

One refreeze is the limit for safety and quality. Repeated partial thawing and refreezing creates undesirable texture changes. Maintain freezer temperatures diligently.


Ice cream can be safely eaten if it has been stored in the freezer continuously at 0°F for 1-2 months past the printed date, depending on variety. Check carefully for any signs of spoilage before eating expired ice cream. Leaving ice cream at room temperature or warmer can quickly lead to melting and bacterial overgrowth that make it unsafe. Store ice cream below freezing, allow thawed cartons to refreeze just once, and handle ice cream carefully to prevent deterioration in texture and flavor. With proper freezing and storage habits, ice cream can retain optimal taste, creaminess, and safety well past the printed date on the carton.

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