Odds are you've discovered a forgotten batch of chocolate chips in the back of your baking cabinet at one time or another and wondered, can I eat this chocolate or is it way too old? Does chocolate go bad? How long past the "best by" date can you enjoy chocolate without having to worry about anything? The good news is, you can pretty much tell just by looking at the chocolate whether or not it's good to go from a safety perspective, but you should know that the candy will taste its best within a few weeks of the date on the package. As a general rule, chocolate and chocolate bars that haven't been open are still good to go up to four months after its printed date.
Another thing to keep in mind before committing to snacking on (or baking with) an old stash of chocolate is that the darker the chocolate, the longer it will hang onto its great taste. White and milk chocolate, as you might imagine from their names, have a higher milk content, so they're naturally more fickle than darker chocolates like semi-sweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate. And if you're baking the chocolate, you have a little more wiggle room than if you plan on eating it by itself, since baking will change the texture of the chocolate.
So what else should you keep in mind before diving into the chocolate in question? Here are three other things to look out for.
1. The storage temperature
Chocolate is best stored at room temperature, but, real talk, summer is hot, and sometimes you're gonna need to climate control your candy to prevent the chocolate from melting outright. The best way to store chocolate other than the pantry is in the freezer in an air tight container. A bar of chocolate can live in the freezer up to eight months past the date printed on its package.
2. What does it look like?
If you're seeing cracks or dots on the surface of the chocolate, odds are it's dried out quite a bit since its days as fresh chocolate, and has gone stale. And if there's mold on the chocolate, throw it away immediately. If it looks like regular chocolate, it will almost definitely taste like chocolate.
3. What does it smell like?
Cocoa butter has the magical ability to absorb the flavors and odors of things around it if not stored in a sealed, airtight environment, especially when it's kept in the refrigerator, which can make your chocolate taste like leftover pizza, so give it a sniff before snacking.
Stale chocolate is the worst, but it's also fairly easy to spot, if you know what you're looking for. So, go forth, and live confidently knowing that your chocolate quality is up to par.
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