It can happen to us all, you’re having a clear out of your pantry or kitchen cupboards and come across a can of evaporated milk that you’d forgotten about.
Now you’re wondering if it’s still good. So how long does evaporated milk last? We take a look at this question as well as the different ways that you can store evaporated milk.
What Is Evaporated Milk?
Evaporated milk is made by heating fresh, homogenized milk to remove 60% of the water from it, hence the name. When the water has been removed the milk is chilled, stabilized, sterilized and canned.
The sterilization is done at 240–245 °F for 15 minutes.
As a result of the high heat process that evaporated milk goes through it takes on a slightly caramel flavor, this is known as the Maillard reaction. The evaporated milk is also slightly darker than fresh milk after this heating process.
The nutrients in the milk become concentrated after the majority of the water has evaporated, and it also contains more calories than fresh milk.
Additives include disodium phosphate which prevents coagulation and carrageenan as a stabilizer. Vitamin C and vitamin D are also added to evaporated milk.
In some countries evaporated milk is called unsweetened condensed milk. This is to differentiate it from condensed milk which has sugar added to it.
With the added sugar condensed milk requires less processing for preservation than evaporated milk as the sugar inhibits bacterial growth.
Storing Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk is most frequently available in cans, although there are manufacturers who use cartons. An unopened can of evaporated milk can be stored at room temperature in your pantry up until its expiration date.
Once you have opened a can of evaporated milk it needs to be put into the refrigerator where it will keep for a few days.
When you are storing unopened cans of evaporated milk you just need to make sure that the temperature they are stored in does not fluctuate too much. The milk is already protected from light as it is canned, but it may be affected by temperature changes.
How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last?
The shelf life of an unopened can of evaporated milk is typically between 6 and 12 months, although it can be longer. To be sure of the viability of your evaporated milk check the expiration date printed on the can or carton.
Most manufacturers will not recommend using evaporated milk after its expiration date has passed. However, most canned goods won’t go bad or lose a lot of nutrients even if they go past their expiration date.
This is a shelf stable product and although there is no reason why you can’t store it in the refrigerator it has no real beneficial effect on the evaporated milk.
An important thing to note is that a best-by date and an expiration date are not the same thing.
A best-by date indicates that the product will still be in optimal condition up to that point and will taste better than if you go beyond that date.
An expiration date is when a manufacturer deems that the product will no longer be considered good quality and won’t recommend consuming it.
When you have opened a can of evaporated milk it should be put into the refrigerator as soon as possible to store it. Leaving opened evaporated milk at room temperature for more than a couple of hours will compromise its quality.
The position in the fridge can have an effect on the length of time that an opened can of evaporated milk will last.
By putting it at the rear of the refrigerator it is less likely to be affected by the constant opening and closing of the fridge door. When stored in the back of the refrigerator an opened can of evaporated milk will last 3 to 5 days.
Storing the opened evaporated milk in the door leaves it vulnerable to fluctuating temperatures as the door if the door is opened frequently.
You should not put an opened container of evaporated milk, either can or carton, back in your pantry as it will not be cold enough to prevent the milk from going bad.
Can You Freeze Evaporated Milk?
You can freeze evaporated milk, but you will need to transfer it to a suitable container for the freezer. One of the easiest ways to freeze evaporated milk is to put it into one or more ice cube trays. When it has frozen you can transfer it to freezer bags.
The benefit of freezing evaporated milk like this is that you can defrost individual portions as and when you need them.
Remember that when you freeze any dairy product the freezing process will alter the flavor, color and texture. The same is true for evaporated milk so bear this in mind if you are adding it as a recipe ingredient.
When you thaw out the frozen milk it will separate. You can stir or blend it, but it won’t completely reconstitute. However, it shouldn’t matter too much in cooking or baking.
Using frozen evaporated milk in smoothies is a great way to enjoy it, and you are less likely to notice any change in taste or texture.
How To Tell If Evaporated Milk Has Gone Bad
There are a few signs that your evaporated milk has gone bad and is not suitable for consumption. It may lead to food poisoning so if you suspect that the milk is bad then you shouldn’t consume it or add it to recipes.
Mold in the can or other storage container is a sure sign that bacteria is present in the product and that it has gone bad. You should discard it straight away.
Evaporated milk should be smooth and have no discernible lumps in it. If you see lumps in the milk this is a sign that it has gone bad and should not be used.
The color of evaporated milk that is in good condition is a milky white color. Any other colors are an indication that the product has gone bad and needs to be thrown away.
Green, brown or black colors in the milk indicate mold so don’t take a chance, just discard it.
Another sign that evaporated milk has gone bad is the smell. If it is in good condition it should smell slightly sweet, but if it smells or tastes sour then it has gone bad. Don’t risk it and discard the evaporated milk.
Extending The Shelf Life Of Evaporated Milk
Treating evaporated milk like any other canned good will help you to store it properly and prolong its shelf life.
As long as you keep the milk in a cool, dry place it will last until its expiration date. Keep it away from warm and damp environments which may shorten its shelf life. In your pantry or kitchen cupboard away from heat sources is the best option.
Keeping unopened evaporated milk in the refrigerator does nothing to extend the shelf life of the product. It’s only after it’s been opened that evaporated milk should be stored in a refrigerator.
If you want to keep leftover evaporated milk, putting it into the fridge in the original tin is not the best idea. Instead transfer the remainder into an airtight container and put in the refrigerator.
Recipes Using Evaporated Milk
There are so many different ways to use evaporated milk and hundreds of recipes where you can use it as a tasty ingredient.
We have listed just four recipes to give you an idea of what you can do with evaporated milk once you have figured out how to store it safely.
This delicious stroganoff soup is made even creamier with the addition of evaporated milk. It takes just 15 minutes to prepare and is cooked in only 40 minutes. For a filling and tasty meal this recipe makes excellent use of your evaporated milk.
Another quick and easy dish to make for a weeknight supper, this recipe calls for a can of evaporated milk to create a creamy sauce. Preparation takes just 20 minutes and the dish is baked in only 25 minutes.
Everyone loves snickerdoodles and these holiday eggnog snickerdoodles will go down a treat. Using just half a cup of evaporated milk, French vanilla nondairy creamer and rum extract we doubt there will be any left at the end of the day.
For this amazing raspberry lemon cake you’ll be using half a cup of evaporated milk with sugar, eggs and vanilla extract among other ingredients. This is a fantastic recipe for a special occasion or celebration.
We hope that this guide to how long evaporated milk lasts has answered some of your questions and helped you understand the best way to store evaporated milk to make it last even longer.
Don’t forget to try some of our great recipes too!