Chicken broth is the basis for many recipes, but if it's gone bad, it can spoil your entire dish and possibly make you ill. If your broth has spoiled, you'll notice unpleasant changes in its odor, texture, appearance and taste. Improper storage and canning of chicken broth can also cause it to spoil, sometimes without any noticeable changes to it, so you'll need to do a little detective work to determine if your broth is still safe to eat.
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Step 1: Visually Inspect the Broth
Look at your chicken broth. It should be clear or yellowish in color with no signs of mold. A store-bought broth shouldn't be cloudy and shouldn't have any sediment in it, according to the EatByDate website. These visual cues are less applicable with homemade broth, which can often be cloudy, have sediment, or show a bit of coagulated chicken fat. That being said, if your homemade broth started clear and is now cloudy, that's a warning sign.
Step 2: Smell the Broth
Chicken broth should have a pleasant aroma. If your broth smells sour or otherwise unpleasant, it's likely spoiled and you need to discard it.
If your broth smells sour or rancid, don't taste it. Tasting spoiled food could make you sick.
Step 3: Look Over the Container
Check the container for your broth. If it is bulging or otherwise swollen, it is likely spoiled. Spoilage bacteria and yeast release gases that fill the broth's container, causing it to expand or open. Large or sharp dents in canned broth can also allow bacteria into the can, so the broth inside may be spoiled, warns the United States Department of Agriculture.
If your can of chicken broth is swollen or open, it may contain botulinum toxin, warns the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Detoxify the can before discarding it by submerging it in boiling water for 30 minutes.
Step 4: Review the Storage
How your broth was stored could impact whether or not it's still safe to eat. Once you open a can of broth or make fresh chicken broth, it must be refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below within 2 hours. If your broth has been left out in temperatures between 40 and 140 F for more than 2 hours, it is susceptible to spoilage and should be discarded, as recommended by the USDA.
Pour a large pot of freshly made hot broth into smaller containers and place them in the refrigerator. This way, the small containers will cool more rapidly to prevent bacterial growth within the broth.
Step 5: Check the Date
Once opened, chicken broth has a shelf life of about four to five days in the refrigerator, about the same as freshly-prepared broth, which lasts up to 6 days. It is important to note that these are guidelines only, and they assume you have rapidly cooled and refrigerated your broth. Improper handling can make your broth unsafe to eat within a day, even if it doesn't look or smell "off."
- Home-canned broth will last up to 1 year in the pantry.
- Commercially canned chicken broth can last from between 2 and 5 years when stored in a cool, dry pantry, states the StillTasty website.
- Frozen broth can last indefinitely when stored at 0 F or below.
The "best by" or "use by" date on canned broth only indicate when the broth will be at its peak quality, not necessarily when it will spoil.
Step 6: Taste the Broth
Taste the broth if it has been properly stored, smells and looks good and you don't notice any signs of swelling or dents on its container. If it tastes unpleasant, foul or rancid, it's spoiled and you should discard it.
- EatByDate: Chicken Broth - How Long Does it Last?
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Shelf-Stable Food Safety
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: Identifying and Handling Spoiled Canned Food
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Leftovers and Food Safety
- Still Tasty: Chicken Broth, Unopened
- Still Tasty: Chicken Broth, Opened