Does Ice Cream Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

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We’ve all had that midnight sweet tooth, trudging into the kitchen in your pajamas to open the freezer and find that tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream buried in the back. Is it still safe to eat? Does ice cream go bad?

Yes, ice cream does expire and eating it can make you sick.

Ice cream lasts about two months unopened and three weeks once opened. Ice cream cake only lasts about a week. Read on to learn more.

How Long Does Ice Cream Last?

How long is ice cream good for in the freezer? Ice cream shelf life for a tub that hasn’t been opened can last up to two months for optimal taste when it is safely stored in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Technically, you can still eat it safely for up to three to four months, but after that it is no longer safe. When it is opened, you have about two to three weeks to eat it.

How long does ice cream cake last? Unfortunately, ice cream cake has a shorter life-span than traditional ice cream. It must be consumed within a week.

If your ice cream cake has not been made with eggs, cream cheese, whipped cream, or butter, you may be able to keep it a little longer than a week.

How to Tell If Ice Cream Is Bad

Many people are under the assumption that freezing food prevents it from growing bacteria when this is not actually true.

expired ice cream

Freezing foods slows down the growth of bacteria but does not prevent it entirely, so all frozen foods do still expire.

Expired ice cream that has been kept in the freezer will typically start to grow tiny ice crystals over the top layer.

When you see these ice crystals, it is a good indication that your ice cream has gone bad and it is time to throw it away.

Many people will simply scrape off the layer of ice crystals and consume the remainder of the carton. This practice is not advised but may be safe only if the crystals have just recently formed and haven’t taken over the entire carton.

Can ice cream make you sick? Yes.

Expired ice cream, or ice cream that has been thawed and then re-frozen can increase your risk of food-borne illness due to the potential growth of bacteria. Symptoms of food-borne illness includes: stomach cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

How To Store Ice Cream

  • It is best to store your ice cream in the back of the freezer where it is coldest.
  • Reduce the amount of oxygen your ice cream is exposed to.
  • Do not leave it out or let it thaw after serving it.

The best way to store your ice cream or ice cream cakes to keep them good for as long as possible is to place them way in the back of the freezer.

Despite having a set temperature, certain areas of freezers tend to see more temperature fluctuations due to opening and closing the door.

For this reason, it’s important never to store your ice cream in the door, or it will expire faster.

Another great tip to store ice cream is to reduce oxygen as much as possible.

For a traditional carton, you can place a sheet of cling wrap over the ice cream before replacing the top. Other people like to place the entire carton directly into a freezer bag.

Any storage solution you can come up with to reduce the ice cream’s oxygen exposure will help reduce the number of bacteria it will grow.

how long can ice cream sit out

How long can ice cream sit out on the counter? Honestly, it shouldn’t. There is no hard and fast rule as to exactly how long ice cream can be left out. However, any thawing or melting opens an opportunity for more bacteria to grow.

It is best to serve your ice cream and get it back in the freezer as soon as possible.

If ice cream is left out at a temperature above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours, it should be immediately thrown away as it may not be safe to eat.

Don’t feel bad about opening up your ice cream and digging in before it goes bad.

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.