Broth, also known as stock, is a flavorful liquid made by simmering bones, meat, seafood, or vegetables in water. Having homemade broth on hand is invaluable for making soups, stews, risottos, and other dishes. However, properly storing leftover broth is crucial to maintaining its quality and freshness. Here are some tips on how to best store homemade or store-bought liquid broth.
Can you freeze broth?
Yes, freezing is an excellent way to store broth long-term. In fact, many cooks make broth specifically to freeze in batches to have on hand whenever needed. To freeze broth:
- Let the broth cool completely, then transfer it to reusable freezer-safe containers or bags designed for freezing liquids. Allow about 1/2 inch of headspace at the top as liquids expand when frozen.
- Seal the containers tightly. Squeeze out excess air from bags to prevent freezer burn.
- Label the containers with the type and date of the broth.
- Lay containers flat in the freezer to freeze quickly. This prevents large ice crystals from forming and compromising texture.
- Frozen broth will keep for 3-6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before use.
How long does broth last in the fridge?
Properly stored, broth can last up to 4-5 days in the refrigerator. To maximize freshness:
- Cool the broth quickly after cooking by placing the pot in an ice bath. Refrigerate within 1-2 hours.
- Transfer to airtight containers, leaving about 1 inch of headspace.
- Store broth containers in the back of the fridge where the temperature is coldest.
- If broth develops an off-odor, flavor, or appearance, discard it.
What’s the best way to store broth long-term besides freezing?
Canning broth in mason jars is a traditional method for long-term storage at room temperature. To can broth:
- Use a pressure canner and follow instructions for safe home canning methods.
- Choose broth recipes approved for canning, such as chicken, beef, or vegetable broth.
- Use clean mason jars and new lids/bands. Leave 1-inch headspace.
- Process pint or quart jars in a pressure canner at 10-15 PSI for 25-45 minutes depending on altitude.
- After processing, allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours.
- Check jar seals, then store in a cool, dark place up to 1 year.
Can you store broth in the pantry?
Yes, it’s possible to store broth long-term in the pantry if prepared and packaged properly. Options include:
- Tetra Pak aseptic cartons – Store-bought or homemade broth can be packed into aseptic cartons using a vacuum sealer machine. Unopened, it will keep up to 9 months at room temperature.
- Retort pouches – Also known as shelf-stable pouches. Broth is packaged in multi-layered plastic and aluminum pouches and heat processed for sterility.
- Canning – As described above, homemade broth can be safely processed in a pressure canner in mason jars for pantry storage.
How should you store opened cartons or cans of broth?
Once opened, commercial broth in cartons or cans should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. An opened carton or can of broth will typically last 4-5 days in the fridge. Be sure to look for expiration or use-by dates on packaging.
To extend the shelf life of opened commercial broth, you can freeze it in resealable plastic freezer bags. Leave about 1/2 inch headspace, flatten bags to remove excess air, then freeze. Use within 2-3 months for best quality.
Can broth be stored at room temperature?
It is not recommended to store broth at room temperature once opened, as bacteria can multiply rapidly. The only exception is commercial, shelf-stable broth packaged in aseptic cartons or retort pouches that have not been opened. These can be stored unrefrigerated until the package is opened.
Homemade broth should always be refrigerated and used within 4 days. For long-term room temperature storage, homemade broth must be properly canned using a pressure canner or stored in Tetra Pak aseptic containers. Simply cooking and transferring broth to jars or containers does not make it shelf-stable.
Does broth need to be kept in the refrigerator?
Yes, broth requires refrigeration after cooking for food safety reasons and to maintain freshness. The moist, nutrient-rich environment of broth allows bacterial growth. Refrigeration slows this growth to keep broth safe and extend shelf life.
The only exceptions are shelf-stable, commercially prepared broths packaged in aseptic cartons, cans, or retort pouches that have not yet been opened. Once opened, these must also be refrigerated.
Can you store broth in glass jars?
Yes, glass jars are suitable containers for storing broth as long as proper refrigeration and freezing guidelines are followed:
- For fridge storage – Cool broth quickly after cooking and transfer to clean glass jars with tight fitting lids. Refrigerate and use within 4 days.
- For freezing – Allow broth to cool completely, ladle into wide mouth glass jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal tightly and freeze.
- For canning – Use proper canning methods and new two-piece jar lids. Process in a pressure canner based on jar size for long-term room temperature storage.
Glass is an inert material that won’t affect broth’s flavor or quality. Just be sure jars are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized first and that broth is handled safely.
What are the best containers for storing broth?
The best containers for storing broth include:
- Plastic freezer bags – Sturdy bags specifically made for freezing are great for freezer storage. Lay flat for efficient freezing.
- Plastic containers with tight lids – Reusable rigid plastic containers work well in fridge or freezer.
- Glass jars – Ideal for fridge storage or canning. Choose wide mouth for easier access.
- Ice cube trays – For small portions of broth to use in cooking. Once frozen, pop out cubes and store in bags.
- Silicone molds – Fun shaped trays for freezing broth in bite-sized pieces.
- Mylar bags – Specialty bags that prevent oxygen exposure for long-term freezer storage.
Key is using clean, airtight containers suitable for the storage method chosen. Always label with broth type and date.
How do you thaw frozen broth?
Here are some safe methods for defrosting frozen broth:
- Refrigerator thawing – Slowly thaw broth overnight or for 24 hours in the fridge. This is the safest method.
- Cold water bath – Seal broth in a waterproof bag submerged in cold tap water, changing water every 30 minutes. Takes 1-2 hours.
- Microwave – Defrost broth in short bursts, stopping to stir and break up ice crystals. Use low power to prevent boiling.
- Stovetop – Gently heat frozen broth on the stove on low, stirring occasionally. Do not let it boil.
Avoid leaving broth to thaw on the counter at room temperature, as this can allow bacterial growth in the “danger zone” between 40-140°F.
Can you refreeze thawed broth?
Broth that has been previously frozen can be safely refrozen provided a few guidelines are followed:
- Only refreeze broth that has been completely thawed in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
- Use thawed broth within 1-2 days for best quality and taste.
- Do not refreeze broth more than once, as texture and flavor will degrade.
- Transfer to a clean container or freezer bag before refreezing.
- Label with type of broth and new freeze date.
As long as thawed broth was handled safely and not left at room temperature for extended periods, refreezing once is fine. But for peak freshness, it’s best to use thawed broth right away.
How long is chicken broth good for once opened?
An opened container of fresh chicken broth will last for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. Be sure to check manufacturer’s use-by date, which is typically 1 week from when it was opened.
To maximize freshness of opened chicken broth:
- Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate promptly after opening.
- Use a clean spoon each time to avoid introducing bacteria.
- Do not return unused broth to original container.
- Use broth within 4-5 days and discard if odor, color, or texture changes.
- Freeze for longer storage. Thaw overnight in fridge before use.
Properly stored and handled, opened fresh chicken broth retains its quality for up to 5 days refrigerated. But it’s best to use promptly or freeze for later.
What happens if you don’t refrigerate broth?
Broth that is left unrefrigerated can become unsafe to eat due to bacterial growth. Even when properly made, broth is a prime environment for microbial growth at room temperature. Over time on the counter, broth will:
- Develop bacterial growth, which can cause foodborne illness.
- Lose depth of flavor.
- Take on strange sour, bitter, or “off” tastes.
- Spoil more rapidly.
- Separate into solids and watery liquid.
For food safety, homemade and opened broth must be stored in the refrigerator and discarded if left out more than 2 hours. Unopened, shelf-stable broth can be stored at room temperature until opened.
Can you get sick from bad broth?
Yes, consuming spoiled broth that has been improperly stored can make you sick. Signs broth has spoiled and may contain harmful bacteria include:
- Off odors, unusual smells
- Mold growing on surface
- Change in appearance – excessive cloudiness, film/foam
- Strange flavors like bitterness, sourness
- Fizzing, bubbling when container opened
If broth exhibits any odd characteristics or your sense that something is off, play it safe and discard it. Don’t rely on boiling or cooking bad broth to make it safe again. Foodborne illness symptoms from spoiled broth can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cramps.
Broth can seem like an everlasting kitchen staple. But it does require proper storage – whether refrigerating, freezing, or canning – to keep it fresh and prevent bacterial growth. For optimal quality and food safety, store broth in clean airtight containers suitable for the chosen preservation method. Follow guidelines on fridge, freezer, and room temperature storage. And remember, when in doubt, throw it out! With proper handling, homemade and commercial broth can retain their delicious flavor and be healthy additions to recipes for months.