Does BBQ Sauce Go Bad?

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Summer usually means it’s barbeque season! Beach BBQs, poolside BBQs, or just a simple BBQ in the backyard. Whatever kind of barbeque you are in the mood for, it is time to fire up the grills and bring out the BBQ sauce. 

Barbecue sauce is a tomato-based sauce mixed with spices and herbs, used as a marinade, a topping, a condiment, or even just a dip. It is tangy, spicy, has a robust flavor, and is very popular in southern parts of America. BBQ is a specific style of cooking meats like beef, pork, lamb, and chicken over a grill. Nowadays BBQs include vegetables and non-meat alternatives and guess what the BBQ sauce works just as well.

But can BBQ sauce go bad? BBQ sauce can go bad, but it takes an excessively long time to do so. This is because BBQ sauce contains ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, and salt, to name a few, all of which act as preservatives to extend its shelf life. Apart from this, professionally-made BBQ sauce has been pasteurized, which delays it from going bad quickly. The other ingredients in the sauce, which include spices and tomatoes, also have relatively long shelf lives, hence ensuring your BBQ sauce can be enjoyed for months or even years to come. 

How Long Does BBQ Sauce Last?

First, keep in mind that the actual shelf life of BBQ sauce depends on a number of factors, most importantly the quality of the ingredients used, the storage conditions, and when it was manufactured. But even on average, BBQ sauce can last anywhere from 2 months to 2 years.

  • An unopened bottle of BBQ sauce can last comfortably in your pantry for years as long as it is kept in a cool, dark place. It will last a couple of months after its best-by date.
  • An unopened bottle of BBQ sauce will last a little longer in the fridge and will probably taste even fresher as the temperature in the fridge will keep the ingredients from breaking down.
  • An open bottle of BBQ sauce will last in the fridge for 3-6 months, maybe even longer. The BBQ sauce will not spoil once it reaches the 6-month mark, but the quality of the sauce will not be the same. 
  • The best-by date is a good indicator of how good your sauce is and for how long it will stay that way. The best-by date is the way to gauge when your sauce will maintain peak quality. After this, the sauce does not spoil, it just means the peak period of quality is over and it is on the decline, but nowhere close to spoiling or being thrown out. 
  • An open bottle of BBQ sauce needs to be closed tightly and placed in the fridge. If you accidentally leave it out, do not worry, your sauce will still be fine for about 8 – 12 hours. If you leave in a colder climate, your BBQ sauce will be fine even for 24 hours but to maintain taste and quality, refrigerate it at the earliest.
  • Homemade BBQ sauce, on the other hand, has a relatively short shelf life. It is good for about 4-5 days after making it as long as it is refrigerated and stored properly. 
  • One way to prolong the shelf life of BBQ sauce is to freeze it. While you can freeze even store-bought BBQ sauce, its already long life makes it unnecessary. But you can freeze, homemade BBQ sauce. It will be good for about 5-6 months.
Types of BBQ SaucePantryFridgeFreezer
Unopened bottle of BBQ SauceBest-by date + 2-3 months1-2 years
Opened bottle of BBQ Sauce8-12 hours3-6 months5-6 months
Homemade BBQ Sauce4-5 days5-6 months

The table is just an estimate, it is not an exact science. It is to give you an idea of how long you can expect your BBQ sauce to last and how to maintain peak quality. 

How To Store BBQ Sauce?

  • Storing BBQ sauce is pretty basic and doesn’t need any extra care or attention. 
  • Store your unopened bottle of BBQ sauce in a cool, dark place like a kitchen cabinet or pantry away from direct heat and sunlight. Unopened BBQ sauce will be safe for a long time without refrigeration.
  • Sometimes if left in the pantry for too long you might see it separate. Usually, there will be a lighter liquid on top, while the rest of the sauce is dense. This is normal, just shake the bottle before using.
  • This can happen even when kept in the fridge, so do not worry about it.
  • An opened bottle of BBQ sauce should be refrigerated immediately after use. Make sure the cap is sealed tightly because otherwise, not only will your fridge start smelling of BBQ sauce but also the top of the sauce will start drying out and getting hard. Again, this does not indicate decay. You just need to mix it up to use it.
  • You can store your opened bottle of BBQ sauce upside down in the fridge, this causes less air to go in and it is easier for your sauce to get out.
  • Now, homemade BBQ sauce needs to be refrigerated as soon as possible. This is because homemade sauce is not pasteurized and the homemade sauce does not use preservatives. 
  • Make sure you transfer your BBQ sauce into an airtight container before refrigerating.
  • It is recommended to only make small batches of BBQ sauce or just what you need as it has a short shelf life.
  • Some general storage and maintenance rules. Do not leave your BBQ sauce open.
  • Do not use your fingers or dirty spoons to get the sauce out. You will be introducing microbes and bacteria into the sauce.
  • Do not double dip as this will also cause bacteria to grow.
  • Also, if you are using the sauce as a dip, do not pour any leftovers back into the bottle, this will spoil the whole batch.
  • If you are looking to freeze your BBQ sauce, make sure you are using a clean, dry freezer-safe container that is airtight.

How To Freeze BBQ Sauce?

  • It is not required to freeze BBQ sauce unless it is homemade.
  • To freeze it, transfer the sauce into an airtight freezer-safe container.
  • The sauce will be good for about 5-6 months.
  • After that, the sauce will lose significant quality and taste, though it will not be spoiled.
  • Once you thaw your BBQ sauce, you should not refreeze it.
  • Your thawed BBQ sauce will be good for about 3-4 days.

How To Tell If Your BBQ Sauce Has Expired?

It takes a lot and a long time for BBQ sauce to get spoiled. If it has not been contaminated in any way the sauce will last for years. Here is how to tell if your sauce has spoiled:

  1. If the BBQ sauce has clumps in it, it has spoiled
  2. A sour smell is an indicator of spoilage, then it is time to throw it out
  3. If your sauce is overly thick or very slimy and oily, then it has spoiled
  4. Similarly, if the taste is off, too sour, or has no flavor or taste at all, then the BBQ sauce has turned.

If you’re ready for your next BBQ, then make sure you have your handy BBQ sauce ready. The right BBQ sauce that is fresh, flavorful, and is well within its shelf life makes all the difference. If you’re not sure of what you have in your fridge or pantry just buy a new bottle or whip some up. BBQ sauce is one thing you do not want to mess up.


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