Barbecue sauce to a grilling session is like soap to a bath! With so much varieties out there we simply cannot resist trying out new ones all the time. But wait! What about that sauce that’s been in the fridge for two months? Or the one one that has a ‘best before date’ that’s passed already? Can i still use them? The real question here is ” Can BBQ sauce go bad”?
Yes it can, but before you throw out the old sauces, read on to understand how exactly they get spoiled, how to know if they are spoiled and how to extend their life.
What exactly is food spoilage ?
In simple words: Food spoilage is the result of chemical reactions happening with the food that makes it less desirable to eat or even uneatable. This process is natural and unavoidable for many types of foods.
Why BBQ sauce can go bad?
The ingredients in barbecue sauce are not the most perishable and therefore it does have a longer life than some other sauces. Having a longer life means that it will still go bad but it takes more time. There are many reasons why barbecue sauce will go bad. The mains ones though are Oxygen, Microorganism, Enzymes, Light, Moisture and Temperature.
When you leave food out in the open, microorganisms such as bacteria and molds are able to get on it and start to break it down to use it for their own good. While some of these bacteria need oxygen to grow, many don’t.
Certain enzymes that are naturally present in the sauce will speed up the chemical reaction between food and oxygen. We them oxidizing enzymes. Think of it as a corrosion process but with food. The same way water helps rust, enzymes help food spoilage.
Water is good for everyone and every living creature. Plants, fruits and veggies are full of water. But what you maybe didn’t know is that an excess of moisture can also help food go bad. Microorganisms cannot dissolve food or chemically react without water. Most pre-made foods such as BBQ sauce have water in them but a big quantity of it is not necessary to spoil food. Small amounts such as moisture can condense on the top of the BBQ sauce if left open, providing molds and bacteria with a suitable environment to grow.
Light can make your BBQ sauce go bad! When you expose food to light, a reaction named “Photo-degradation” takes place. Artificial light or sunlight penetrates the food and degrades it by attacking the vitamins, fats, pigments and other constituents. Since BBQ sauce is liquid, the effects of lights are much stronger since it will penetrate through the sauce.
The temperature you keep your food at can make a big difference. We all know that certain types of food should be kept in the cold and some at ambient temperature. To explain exactly how temperature affects food would be complicated and very technical so let’s put it simply.
When you let barbecue sauce sit in a hotter environment than it’s supposed to, more of those bad chemical reactions occur making the barbecue sauce spoil faster.
Freezing food that shouldn’t be frozen will likely deteriorate it’s texture and color, making it less enjoyable and maybe uneatable. In this case though, BBQ sauce can be frozen as long as you let it cool down to room temperature beforehand.
How to tell if your BBQ sauce went bad?
The usual way to tell if went bad would be to smell it, look at it or feel it’s texture. When barbecue sauce goes bad it usually gets darker than its original color and thicker too. What you might notice too is that the ingredients start to separate. This can happen when you leave the sauce untouched for a while but the ingredients can also separate because they are degrading. To tell what’s the reason for that separation, you should give the bottle a good shake and smell it or even taste it. If you don’t feel any taste difference and there is no weird smell you are good to go!
If you leave a sauce open for a couple of days in the fridge for example, you should look to see if any mold started appearing at the top. Mold will usually be blue or green in color and can even grow to be some sort of hairy substance. Mold can create mycotoxines that are bad for your health so be aware. Like we said earlier, a moist environment is propitious to mold formation.
Best before dates vs Expiry dates
When an item is labeled “best before”, what it actually means is that the manufacturer is guaranteeing freshness and quality of the product until that date. It can still be eaten after the date while it is still good.
If the item has an “Expiry date” label, you should only use it until that specified date. Consuming products after the expiration date has passed can unsafe for your health.
BBQ sauce usually has a “best before” label. The reason is that the ingredients in it have a long shelf life. Vinegar, which is a common BBQ sauce ingredient, will help extend its shelf life. It is not uncommon to see a barbecue sauce bottle with a best before label that indicates a date far in the futur.
BBQ sauce can generally be used up to 1 year after the date if it was unopened and kept in a cool dry place. If you open the sauce, keep it refrigerated to avoid it going bad. When it comes to homemade BBQ sauce, you should try to leave refrigerated and properly closed. If you make a big batch of sauce and you want to store it, put the sauce in mason jars when it’s still hot and close the lid right away. Canning your sauce is also an option but a tiny bit more complicated!
You have your answer! BBQ sauce can go bad over time so take the necessary precautions!