Picture this: you’ve decided you’re going to bake yourself or a loved one something delectable. A treat, if you will. You gather all the ingredients for the recipe.
Eggs, check. Milk, check. Butter, check. Flour, check. Baking soda, check. You have what you need to get started— it’s go time.
You combine your baking supplies, but unlike last time, the mixture doesn’t seem to rise properly. That’s a bit odd, so you check the box for an expiration date, but there’s none to be found.
Perplexed, you wonder, “Is my baking soda expired? DOES baking soda expire, even?!”
If that sounds like something that’s happened to you or perhaps something you’d like to avoid for your next baking project, this article is for you. Read on to find out if baking soda can go bad, how to tell if it has gone bad, and more!
So, Does Baking Soda Go Bad?
Let’s cut to the chase: No, baking soda has an endless shelf life.
Baking soda is a powdered form of crystalline white salt. It is an alkaline substance, also referred to as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda. When heated or mixed with acidic foods, baking soda reacts and releases carbon dioxide gas.
It’s crucial to remember that baking powder and soda have separate purposes and cannot be used interchangeably.
However, like most leavening agents, baking soda may lose its effectiveness over time, causing your baked goods to rise poorly or not at all. That said, even if the baking soda isn’t performing as well as it used to, it doesn’t necessarily mean the product becomes harmful to consume. Eating foods that contain baking soda past its best-before date won’t make you ill.
A best-before date can usually be found on some containers. This date indicates how long the product is expected to keep its leavening ability. However, even past this time, baking soda typically retains its effectiveness.
It is preferable to do a potency test (Don’t worry, I’ll talk more about it in a bit) if yours is already approaching that deadline and you are concerned about its leavening abilities. Of course, you can still use the product in your recipes if it works.
What Is the Shelf Life of Baking Soda?
Nowadays, many products do not list a best-before date on the label because baking soda has an endless shelf life. Typically, the shelf life of baking soda looks something like this:
- two to three years for an unopened packet
- six to eight months for an opened packet
Baking soda lasts much longer in part because it needs an acid to activate as a leavening agent, unlike baking powder. It won’t start working by just soaking up atmospheric moisture.
For this reason, as opposed to baking powder, which is packaged in a tightly sealed container, most manufacturers package the product in cardboard boxes that open way too easily. Baking powder will quickly start to deteriorate in quality if it collects moisture.
Baking soda will only go bad if it comes into contact with an acidic liquid. It might work, for instance, if you set it in the kitchen and it comes into contact with vinegar, water, lemon juice, or some other acid, or if it simply absorbs acidic traces off the counter. Where the product has been moist, you will likely notice bubbling.
Potency Test To Recognize Baking Soda Gone Bad
As I’ve already mentioned, baking soda doesn’t degrade to the point where the baked goods it produces become unfit for human consumption. But over time, it can lose its effectiveness; when that happens, the dough and batter won’t rise.
Only a potency test will reveal whether the substance still has the leavening ability. It merely requires two simple steps and a short amount of time. I like to make sure that my baking soda is fresh and potent by periodically testing it after opening.
Here’s how you do it
Take a cup, bowl, or any container of your choice, and add one teaspoon of baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda so it covers the bottom of your container.
Then, drop in a few drops of acid like vinegar or lemon juice. If you see the mixture start to bubble, the baking soda is still good to go.
However, if there’s no bubbling or the tiniest bit of visible fizzing, the baking soda has lost its touch. You can still use it, but buying a new box will give you better results.
Here’s how it works
Any acidic ingredients in your baking recipes react with the sodium bicarbonate, a.k.a baking soda, when you add it to the bowl containing the solution, creating carbon dioxide bubbles. The dough rises as a result of the bubbles. In theory, baking soda should fizz more the fresher and the more useful it will be in cooking.
No reaction will occur, and your ingredients won’t rise if your baking soda has deteriorated or lost its potency.
But before you chuck the box out, remember there are many other DIY kitchen hacks you can use baking soda for, including cleaning countertops in the kitchen and bathroom, deodorizing the refrigerator and more.
Storing Baking Soda: 3 Crucial Tips
Despite having a very long shelf life, baking soda will only stay potent for that entire time if it is stored properly. Here are some suggestions to assist you in preserving your baking soda’s potency and freshness throughout its lifespan.
1. Keep Your Baking Soda In A Cool, Dry Place
Always keep your baking soda dry and away from heat sources. The pantry would be the ideal location, but if yours is close to the stove, sink, or dishwasher, the food items you keep there might be exposed to heat or moisture when you use the stove or dishwasher.
In that situation, you might wish to pick a kitchen cabinet that satisfies the requirements for preserving the cool, dry state of your baking soda.
If you are not using baking soda to eliminate odors, avoid storing it in the refrigerator. In that scenario, make sure to change your baking soda at least once a month and avoid using it in baking because it will absorb all of the odors from the refrigerator.
2. Tightly Seal Your Baking Soda
Baking soda boxes that haven’t been opened will be fine with their original packing. But be sure to add baking soda to an airtight container or Ziploc bag as soon as you open it.
This little tip can help the product stay fresh and flavorful for a lot longer by preventing it from absorbing flavors from neighboring meals and keeping moisture away.
3. Use Dry Spoons That Are Clean To Scoop Baking Soda
When handling baking soda, avoid using damp utensils or spoons dipped in other components since this could cause the powder to get contaminated. Not only that, the product can be activated and its shelf life shortened by using utensils with vinegar or lemon juice residue.
Risks Associated With Consuming Expired Baking Soda
Baking soda doesn’t actually expire, so if you consume it after its expiration date, nothing will happen.
A date may be printed on your box, but that date has a completely different significance. It displays the anticipated time the product will stay potent and fresh. Baking soda will continue to have its leavening effect after this period if stored properly.
The box your baking soda came in should be replaced, not because it renders the baked products unsafe to consume, but because it fails to fulfill its intended purpose. Baking soda is only dangerous to use if it has absorbed elements that are thought to be bad for your health.
Can You Store Baking Soda By Freezing It?
Baking soda can be frozen. However, it is unnecessary given that it has a very long shelf life on its own, even without needing a freezer. Furthermore, the freezer might not be the greatest place to store baking soda if you want to use it for a long time because most brands clearly specify that the product should be stored in a dry place.
However, if you live in a hot environment without air conditioning, it might be best to store baking soda in the freezer. The first thing you should do in that circumstance is to locate an airtight container.
Keep the baking soda as firmly wrapped as you can, especially if foods in the freezer have strong scents because baking soda is notorious for absorbing flavors from nearby foods.
The baking soda should not be put straight into the freezer in its original packaging because the moisture in the freezer can make it go bad and stale much more quickly.
A securely closed container will prevent flavors from escaping while keeping the product dry to maintain its strength. Just put the powder in the container, secure the lid, and put the container in the freezer.
Because baking soda can technically last forever, you can have enormous boxes on hand without fearing that the product won’t be safe to use.
To maintain its efficacy, however, make sure you keep it in a cool, dry spot. Use a potency test to determine whether a package that has been sitting in storage for some time is still fresh, and if the old baking soda doesn’t bubble, consider stopping by the supermarket to pick yourself a new box.