How to Store Canned Food

We already extolled the virtues of canned goods and why it can be just as healthy as fresh food. We also gave you a list of 10 canned pantry essentials. Now we’ll give you the lowdown on how to store canned food. Will you discover that you’re doing something wrong? Or is there a way for you to improve your canned food storage technique?

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how to store canned food - pantryHow to Store Canned Food

Can canned food be kept in the pantry?

Unopened – the pantry, or the pantry space you have in your kitchen, is absolutely the best place for you to store unopened cans. However, that is dependent on the condition of the can prior to storage. Make sure the can has no dents in it. Dents can cause microscopic holes in the can, letting air into the otherwise sealed environment, causing the contents to spoil.

If you find a can with a dent in it, it may still be good to use. Open the contents and check to see if it’s gone bad (see below). If it is still good, use immediately. However, dented cans are not recommended for long term storage.

If you’re unsure about what space in your kitchen would make for a suitable makeshift pantry, it needs to meet the following criteria:

  • Cool
  • Dry
  • Out of direct sunlight
  • Unlikely to go below freezing (0c/32f)

Once placed in this optimal canned goods storage environment, you should be able to use them up to, or even past, the printed date on the can.

Opened – once opened, the contents of any can should be emptied and stored in the fridge or freezer (see below)

how to store canned food - fridgeCan canned food be kept in the refrigerator?

Unopened – there is really no need to keep canned food in the fridge. These are best stored in a pantry (see above).

Opened – if you’re not using a can’s full contents at once, then you need to make sure you store the remaining food safely. One thing you shouldn’t do is put the tin with the leftovers still in it straight into the fridge. However, this advice is not because doing so can make you seriously ill.

Yes, botulism, a potentially fatal disease that many people still link with commercially canned food, is still a possibility. But it is only a likely threat from canning facilities that maintain poor hygiene standards, or home canned food. In the UK, EU, and the USA, food facilities are kept to very high safety and hygiene standards.

The best way to reduce the risk of exposure to botulism is to not only ensure that the canned goods you buy are undamaged (see above) but to also check to see if the contents have gone bad (see below).

The main reason for not storing open cans and their contents directly in the fridge is because some of the can’s coating may be corded by the food making it taste bad. This is particularly the case with food of high acidity, like tomatoes. Also, once opened, leaving the contents exposed to air can make it spoil quicker, putting you at risk from general food poisoning.

Therefore, empty the remaining contents along with any residual water, syrup, or brine, and place in an airtight container or jar. Then, place this at the back of the fridge to keep it extra cool and lasting longer.

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how to store canned food - freezerCan canned food be kept in the freezer?

Unopened – placing unopened canned food in the freezer is a bad idea. Any liquid in the cans will expand causing them to burst. The pantry really is the best place for them.

Opened – whilst this is possible, it is not generally advised to do so this.

How Long Does Canned Food Last?

Pantry Refrigerator Freezer
Unopened canned food expires in… up to 3 years after printed “expiry” date*
Opened canned food expires in… 2-4 days

*It is recommended you consume canned food no longer than 1 year after the expiry date. Although, canned goods are likely to still stay good for longer.

how to store canned food - gone badHow to Tell When Canned Food Has Gone Bad

Look – a very reliable way to know if canned food has gone bad is to look at the can. If the can is bulging, then it’s incredibly likely the contents have gone bad. The bulging is caused by gas that is produced as food rots and mold grows.

When opening, if liquid spits or foams out of the opening, it is very likely to have gone bad.

Lastly, if there is any visible mold on the food inside the can, throw it out.

Smell – canned food that has gone bad will also have developed an unpleasant odor which will release once the can is opened.

Taste –  if you suspect the contents to have gone off, we do not recommend tasting. Even tasting a small bit of canned food can put you at risk of contracting botulism. If there are no other signs of spoilage, if the food doesn’t taste as expected, then it’s likely to have gone bad.

Have you tried to store emptied out canned goods in the freezer before? Do you have any other tips about how to store canned food? How do you reduce the risk of botulism when canning your own food? Let us know in the comments.

Don’t forget to check out other articles in our “How to Store” section.


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