Eat it or not: Expired fish stock edition
December 16, 2013 9:51 AM   Subscribe

I have two unopened jars of commercially prepared fish stock. Expiration date April 2013. I planned to make seafood bisque as part of a special dinner tonight and will seriously disappoint someone if I don't (and don't have time to buy more stock.) But food poisoning ain't festive. Eat, or forget the bisque, baby?

Anticipating the question: It smells like, well, fish stock.
posted by ladybird to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's probably a best by date. Right? Look at it again. (If it's context free, it's probably a best by date.) Unless it says "WILL LITERALLY EXPLODE ON THIS DATE" I'm sure you're fine. Unopened, commercially prepared, best by within the last're fine.

If you're very concerned, you can boil the stock for about 10 minutes or so first.
posted by phunniemee at 9:54 AM on December 16, 2013

Best answer: Since it was commercially prepared, I think you'll be okay. If you're very concerned, maybe boil it first (although, this will not deter botulism, but that shouldn't be a concern anyway?)

I'm guessing that expiry dates like that are more for quality control than anything else.

I gladly defer to a food safety expert, though.
posted by absquatulate at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2013

Best answer: Still tasty.
posted by phunniemee at 9:56 AM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: If it's unopened, commercially-produced cans, you're fine. Seconding the "boil for about 10 minutes first" advice (my home-canning book says that that kills practically any lurking bacteria).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on December 16, 2013

Unopened jars of fish stock should be safe, but you had better taste the fish stock to make sure you won't regret its age. Use it only if it tastes good.
posted by Ery at 9:58 AM on December 16, 2013

Phunniemee: OMG. Thank you for that link!
posted by absquatulate at 10:00 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

April 2013 is more than six months ago. I would not use it.

At least taste it first and be totally honest with yourself whether it seems off at all.

I don't think it'll kill anyone, but that is really old.
posted by Sara C. at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2013

Ha, see, I don't consider 6 months past expiration to be "really old" for canned goods... they weren't the kind of you have to keep refrigerated, right? They were shelf-stable? There's going to be a lot of variation in your answers here. I'm "on the taste it, it's probably fine" bandwagon.
posted by mskyle at 11:41 AM on December 16, 2013

Best answer: It'll have been thoroughly sterilized during packaging, and there's no way for new microbes to intrude on it unless it is opened, so it should be safe (especially if you are cooking it). However, there may have been some chemical breakdown happening in there that could make it taste nasty. So beware of the possible nasty taste, but if it tastes fine I would go ahead and use it.
posted by Scientist at 12:10 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Although actually, you seem to be talking about jars rather than cans? The seals on jars aren't as good as on metal cans or foil-lined cardboard boxes (they're still quite good, just not quite as good) and can break down over time. There should be a button on the jar lid though that you can press on to see if the vacuum inside has broken, right? If the button doesn't go "pop" when you press it then the seal is fine. However if we're talking glass containers, it's quite likely to taste bad if it hasn't been stored in darkness. Light will degrade things like stocks, and glass offers little or no protection.
posted by Scientist at 12:15 PM on December 16, 2013

Best answer: If you boil anything long enough and thoroughly enough you're going to kill whatever is living in it. Of course there is the other factor which is that decayed fish stock is most likely not going to taste particularly good (yes, there are exceptions). The flavor could be completely "off" in any number of ways.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:56 PM on December 16, 2013

Boiling stuff would kill whatever is living in it but a bunch of food poisoning is done by the toxins produced by the bacteria before you boil it. The boiling kills the bacteria but does not denature the toxins. That said, there is essentially no risk of (for example) botulism from commercially canned products in the United States. The risk is that it won't taste as good and you can test that by the obvious method.

But as Scientist says OP mentions "jars" not "cans" and I have no idea whether commercially jarred products are as perfectly safe as commercially canned products so I hesitate to make a recommendation on that basis.
posted by Justinian at 1:38 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dunno what recipe you're following, but if you're making a seafood bisque, I'm assuming you've got some seafood on hand? If you're worried about the jarred stock, I'd just take the shrimps or lobsters or whatever you're using, separate the meat and boil the shells/bones/heads etc for half an hour or so and use that for your stock. Maybe supplement with a bit of vegetable stock or even a vegetable bullion cube if you've got one.

A quick fresh stock won't have quite the same depth of flavor as the jarred stuff, but it'll hit the same notes and if you've got the meat and the veggies and the cream and maybe a couple tomatoes in there I think it'll be dead tasty.
posted by Diablevert at 1:46 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I made the bisque with the old stock... it was delicious and you guys saved the day. And we're not sick (yet).
posted by ladybird at 2:04 PM on December 16, 2013

Botulinum toxin is inactivated by heat. I don't know about other potential toxins, but in your shoes I, too, would have probably made the bisque.
posted by exogenous at 2:15 PM on December 16, 2013

Yes, botulism is inactivated but some others aren't necessarily at the temperatures and times likely to occur. But it doesn't matter much since canned goods in the USA are virtually guaranteed to not cause food poisoning unless you do something like use a punctured can or open the can and then let it sit out for a while.
posted by Justinian at 2:58 PM on December 16, 2013

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