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how long does stock keep in the frig?

I made some homemade chicken stock 2 weeks ago and have not used it all up. It's been refrigerated and kept in a ceramic container in the frig. How long will this stay good, or is it already spoiled? It still smells good, but I'm still a little uncertain about the shelf life of stock. I would have frozen it, but my freezer is completely full right now. Do I chance eating this, or am I just being paranoid about food safety?

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  1. If it smells OK taste a little. If it tastes allright, I would put it in a pot bring it back up to a short boil cool and stick it in the fridge again. I think I read that tip from Bittman.

    1. 3 - 4 days, perhaps, depending on the frig. temperature; but not 2 weeks. Toss it out.

      1. If it smells good, you're probably fine. But better to err on the side of safety; a 10-minute simmer will guarantee the demise of any bugs that may have taken up residence.

        1. Two weeks is too long to keep a stock in the refrigerator unless it has been reduced to a gelatin like glaze. Contrary to an earlier post, boiling will only kill the bacteria but not the pathogens that it has released, making it unsafe to consume.

          9 Replies
          1. re: PBSF

            Even after a rolling boil for 20 minutes? 30 minutes? I'm facing a similar problem. Four, maybe five days, one container with a healthy fat cap, one not so much. So tell me about the evil pathogens.

            1. re: nemo

              Bacteria don't release pathogens, they are pathogens. Once you've killed 'em, they're harmless.

              That said, some bacteria do produce heat-stable **toxins**. Staphylococcus is your major concern on this front. But before that can be a problem there has to be both a source of infection and an effective growth medium. Unless people have been sticking their hands or sneezing or spitting into your container, the presence of staph bacteria in stock is vanishingly unlikely. And if the stock has been under constant refrigeration since it was made, any bacteria present are multiplying at a very slow rate.

              I routinely keep stock in the fridge for a week or more. The main problem if you let it go too long is the flavor - it turns sour and unpleasant. So if the stock smells good, simmer it for ten minutes and taste it. If it tastes good, there's no reason to throw it out.

              1. re: alanbarnes

                Very informative about the toxins. Thanks.

                1. re: miggy

                  This is incorrect. While bacteria can be pathogens, they also release pathogens. The classic example being botulism: a rare and potentially fatal paralytic illness caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botulism


                  Destroying the bacteria by regular boiling is possible, but it takes pressure cooker heat to destroy the toxins.

                  1. re: danielbt

                    Perhaps a matter of semantics, but alanbarnes was correct - pathogens (such as bacteria) don't release pathogens. They may release toxins, but a toxin is different than a pathogen.

            2. re: PBSF

              Could you explain why the gelatinous stock lasts longer?

              1. re: Phliss

                The more it is reduced - and PBSF was talking about a glace, not just a gelatinous stock - the more concentrated the salt is, and salt is a preservative.

                1. re: greygarious

                  That's assuming there's a fair amount of salt in it in the first place. As I said below, lots of variables involved.

              2. re: PBSF

                Just an fyi, bacteria and pathogen... they are the same thing. Technically, a pathogen can be either a bacteria or a virus. I too am trying to figure out what to do about the stock in my fridge. Smells fine, been there weeks... I think I am going to boil it for a while then cook with it. I will let you guys know if I get sick or die. Well... maybe not if I die.

              3. Does it have an intact layer of fat on top?

                1 Reply
                1. re: paulj

                  Does the fat help? I assume so from your question.

                2. I am far from a fanatic about using some foods left in the fridge. But not stock or broth. There is no better cultivating medium for bacteria and other microbes that you definitely don't want. As mentioned above, boiling can kill them but doesn't eliminate the toxins left behind. A good rich stock should be frozen -- it sours and gets dangerous after just three days or so in the icebox, even if oxygen is restricted by a nice fat layer on top. A week is too long, two weeks is just dangerous. If you decide to take your chances anyway please leave a note so the paramedics or your beneficiaries know what happened.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nosh

                    Thanks everyone.
                    Nosh, your post did me in. I'm tossing it since I have no immediate plans to die in the near future. And it was so delicious....sigh.

                    1. re: mschow

                      Funny. We had a pot of homemade soup that I made last week out of stock that was in the fridge for almost 2 weeks. Smelled fine, tasted perfectly fine, and we didn't get sick.

                  2. I just ate some stock that was in my fridge for 2 weeks; no harm at all. It still tasted good, too. Then again, there was a good layer of fat on top... and I brought it to a quick boil on the stovetop every few days for the first week-- before I forgot it (hence, it sat in the back of the fridge without being eaten)

                    1. I think it's best not to risk sickness, in general. Two weeks might not be too long if nothing seems suspect and you have boiled the stock. I'm no expert in the matter. Although I admit that in February I made a soup out of turkey stock leftover from the last year's Thanksgiving. I even fed it to friends. We're all still alive.

                      1. Bittman says 4 - 5 days, longer if you boil the stock every third day to stop spoilage.

                        Still, I do not like this and 3 days is the longest I have ever kept soups or stocks in the fridge. If I am planning to keep for longer, I prefer to freeze.

                        1. Every time there's a question like this I miss Sam Fujisaka!

                          I don't like all these answers that imply there are a certain number of days that are definitively good or bad. Case in point: last weekend I had two containers of milk in my fridge: about ten ounces of nonfat milk in a half-gallon container dated December 6 and a sealed carton of 2 percent milk dated January 6. By all rights the former should have been spoiled, while the latter should have still been good (if you count the seven days it's supposed to be good after the "pull date" and the fact that the container was unopened. But nope -- the old nonfat milk was fine, and when I opened the 2 percent it was completely spoiled. In other words there are a lot of variables: something that is improperly stored can go bad long before the "expiration date" and something that has managed to stay uncontaminated by bacteria can be good for a long time.

                          I once used some homemade stock that had been in the back of the fridge for months, but it had been put into the container hot and then left untouched in the coldest part of the fridge with the lid on tight from the vacuum caused by the cooling liquid. Essentially it had been sterile canned. But if I had been taking it out of the fridge, using some, and then putting it back, it undoubtedly would have gone bad much more quickly.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Yes. This. There are many factors involved in the longevity of a food item, including where it is in the fridge. Absolute time periods as though they are steadfast rules are meaningless. Like Ruth, I've put stock from pot into container and straight into the fridge, and used it a month later. I've also had stock where it sat in the pot as it cooled, I put it in a container that I opened after day one, and it went bad a few days later. Salt content, placement in fridge, and how it was handled all play a role in the longevity of a food item.

                          2. I've consumed 2 week old stock plenty of times. It's never tasted bad, smelled bad, or made me sick.

                            1. I don't like to keep stock or broth for more than a week in the fridge. It has a way of getting lost in there. As a rule, if I make my own or open a box or can and don't use it all at once, I freeze it in individual cup size plastic containers for future use.

                              1. Theyre always those who air on the side of caution, which is a valid viewpoint and will chuck everything our every without using their senses, but if you want a rational approach based on your own senses, having put stock in identical cylindrical clear rubber top sealed containers many times, I have examined many stocks inside these unopened containers, I can give you one indicator of bioactivity in the stock, if when you placed the stock in the fridge there was a good 5-10mm fat layer on top and the stock itself gelatinised and remained set and identical to how it was sealed in the container when it was placed in the container hot and the vacuum seal naturally occurred and the stock when you open it smells good, and you are going to boil it at some point in the cooking process and no consistency change has occurred during storage, the stock is probably fine ? at your own judgement, what I notice is that some stock ive stored in what I think are identical conditions, sometimes i will discover that one pot of stock has broken up and the fat is distributed lumpily in the stock and it has become runnier - this stock I quantify as having gone bad ie some acitivty has occurred in the stock, and throw away. Stock that is frozen will last a longer time

                                1. I just read this. I've been debating about homemade chicken stock in my fridge that has been there for 6 weeks maybe. With regret I just poured it out on my lawn. I think it might have been ok, but I was putting it in some chili I am making for a neighbor with a new baby and other children. So I didn't want to chance it. And besides: My son in law from Ecuador has a saying, "If it doesn't kill you, it will make you fat." So there you are.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: 533949

                                    I think you made the right decision. As is clear from above, I'm not fanatic about following food safety rules. But that's for me -- I would always err on the side of caution when other people, especially children, are involved.