I love the deep, rich flavor that a good chicken stock gives to soups and stews, and I frequently use it instead of water for cooking grains like rice and quinoa, as well as beans and lentils. Stock is also the foundation of well-made sauces, gravies, risottos, and so much more.
I'd like to tell you that I have a bag of chicken bones and veggie scraps in my freezer so I'm always ready to make homemade chicken stock, but that's not the case. Like many cooks, I rely on store-bought stock most of the time.
Unless I'm having friends over, I'm typically cooking just for one, so I often end up with half-used boxes of chicken stock in my fridge. That leads to an important question: Just how long does stock last once it's open?
How Long Does an Open Box of Chicken Stock Last?
How long an open box of chicken stock lasts in the fridge depends on the brand—the same goes for store-bought chicken broth. The box of stock or broth has a "best by" date, which tells you how long the stock will be good before you open it. It also has the number of days it will last in the fridge after it's open. I checked five boxes of stock at my local grocery store and their "use within" time frame ranged from five to 14 days.
"Opened stock generally stays safe in the refrigerator for five days," says Janice Revell, cofounder of StillTasty.com, a website that helps readers avoid food waste. "If the label states that the opened product is safer beyond that date, then consumers should follow the label guidance, but five days in the refrigerator is the safe guideline."
If the stock in your fridge has gone a day or two past the suggested “use within” time frame but it still smells and tastes fine, it's probably safe to use. However, there are no guarantees since not all foodborne pathogens affect the aroma or taste of foods.
"Since stock is not very expensive, I don’t like for it to go too far after the expiration date, so I might ditch it if anything was in question," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, Registered Dietician Nutritionist and author of Read It Before You Eat It.
"But if it passes the 'sense' test and it’s not too long after expiration, I would certainly use it." Speaking of the sense test—if your stock smells or tastes off you should throw it away, even if the five-day safety window hasn't passed.
Before putting an open container of chicken stock in the fridge, use a marker to write the date you opened it on the carton.
4 Tips for Saving Money and Making Chicken Stock Last
1. Buy smaller packages:
If you only use a little stock at a time, consider buying smaller containers, says Taub-Dix. Even though small containers tend to be a bit more expensive by volume, if you're not throwing stock away, you might save money in the long run.
2. Store the stock properly:
Once you've opened a box of stock and used what you need, reseal it tightly and put it immediately in the coolest part of your fridge—that would generally be near the back of a shelf, rather than on the door. Also keep in mind that like most foods that need to be refrigerated, an open container of stock shouldn't be left at room temperature for more than two hours. So every time you use the stock, reseal it and put it right back in the fridge right away.
3. Consider a concentrate:
I'm a big fan of stock pastes and concentrates such as Better Than Bouillon, which can last more than a year in the fridge so I don't have to worry about them going bad before I use them up.
4. Freeze the stock:
"Stock, whether homemade or store-bought, freezes very well and is great to have on hand," says Revell. Transfer the stock to a freezer-safe jar or container with a tight lid or to a heavy-duty freezer bag, being sure to leave enough room for the liquid to expand, then pop it in the freezer.
Take a tip from Taub-Dix and pour the stock into ice cube trays, then transfer the cubes to an airtight bag or container. This way you can grab just the amount you need for a dish.
Frozen stock will taste best for about six months, but it will remain safe indefinitely as long as it has been continuously frozen, according to Revell. With properly stored stock in your fridge or freezer, you are always one step away from a savory soup or perfect pan sauce.