Pickles are small cucumbers pickled in brine, vinegar, or another solution and left to ferment. Pickled cucumbers are extremely popular in the USA and have a sour, salty, and tangy flavor, and a crunchy texture.
Pickles are commonly used in various dishes. If you like to enjoy pickles as a side dish or as a condiment on a sandwich or a hamburger, you’re probably wondering what’s the best way to store them.
So, do pickles have to be refrigerated? Yes, always refrigerate pickles after opening them to prevent bacterial overgrowth and spoilage. Pasteurized pickles usually aren’t refrigerated at grocery stores, but unpasteurized pickles are. If the pickles were kept refrigerated in the store, you should also keep them refrigerated at home.
In this article, we’ll tell you more about pickles and how to store them properly. Keep reading to learn how to refrigerate pickles, how long unrefrigerated pickles last, and how to tell if the pickles went bad.
How to Refrigerate Pickles?
Both canned and jarred pickles can be kept unopened at room temperature. The same rule applies to homemade dill pickles.
However, once you open a jar of pickles it’s best to store them in the refrigerator. Keep the opened jar of pickles on the condiment shelf in your refrigerator or on any other shelf as long as your refrigerator is kept at 40°F or below.
Unopened jarred pickles can also be kept in the refrigerator, although that’s not necessary. Refrigerated pickles can stay in the jar they came in. Pickle containers that strain away the brine can be used, but they aren’t necessary to refrigerate pickles properly.
Refrigerate pickles as soon as you open the jar to make them last longer. You can also decrease the risk of spoilage by using a fork instead of your fingers every time you want to take the pickles out of the jar. This way there’s no risk of harmful bacteria populating the inside of the jar.
Can Pickles be Left Unrefrigerated?
An unopened jar of pickles can be stored on a pantry shelf, in the basement, or in any dry and dark place at room temperature for up to two years past the expiration date. Preserved foods like pickles often last a lot longer than indicated by the best if used by/before-date is stored properly.
Technically, pickles can be left unrefrigerated as long as they are kept in an unopened jar and stored properly. Leaving an opened jar at room temperature will cause the pickles to spoil.
Once you break the seal on the jar, it’s best to seal the lid tightly and store the pickles in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.
What Happens if You don’t Refrigerate Pickles after Opening Them?
Keeping an open jar of pickles at room temperature will cause pickles to spoil and reduce their shelf life significantly.
Leaving an opened jar of pickles outside the fridge will speed up the fermentation process of the brine. Faster fermentation means that the pickles will turn sour faster.
According to USDA recommendations, pickles shouldn’t be eaten if they are left outside the refrigerator for more than two hours. If the temperature is extremely hot, or over 90°F the rule is to throw away any food that’s left outside the fridge for more than an hour.
These high temperatures are a breeding ground for harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E-coli, and Staphylococcus that can make you sick very quickly.
Although the salt concentration and the acidity of the brine can slow down bacterial growth it’s best to err on the side of caution. Throw away any pickles that have been left outside the refrigerator for more than two hours after the jar has been opened.
How Long will Unrefrigerated Pickles Last?
An unopened jar of pickles can last for two years when stored at room temperature away from direct sunlight. When stored in this way, unrefrigerated pickles are safe to eat even if the best-by date has already passed.
How to Tell if Your Pickles went Bad?
Although they have an extremely long shelf life, pickles, just like any other food can go bad. Eating spoiled pickles can have an adverse effect on your health, so it’s important to know how to tell if your pickles have gone bad.
These are the most common signs of spoilage:
The change of color is the most obvious sign that something might be wrong with your pickles. If the pickles’ color has changed from the vibrant green hue, it’s likely that your pickles have gone bad.
Keeping pickles in a glass jar can help you observe if they are changing color or going bad.
In addition to color changes, mold is another sign of pickles going bad. Mold is caused by bacterial overgrowth which is common in fermented pickles.
If you notice any mold on the pickles or floating in the brine, throw the entire jar in the trash.
Spoiled pickles have an unpleasant sour smell. If the pickles smell strange in any way, it’s best to throw them away.
4. Bulging Lid
A bulging lid is another telltale sign that your pickles have gone bad. The bulge is an indicator that pressure has built up in the jar. This is caused by excessive fermentation, meaning that pickles are unsafe to eat.
When stored properly, an unopened jar of pickles has a surprisingly long shelf life. However, once the seal is broken, the pickles are best kept refrigerated.
Keeping the pickles in a refrigerator will slow the fermentation process and ensure they remain fresh, crunchy, and enjoyable to eat. To keep your pickles fresh longer, store them in the fridge at 40°F or below in an airtight container.
Leaving an open jar of pickles outside a fridge will speed up the fermentation process and increase the risk of spoilage. If the pickles look or smell strange, err on the safe side and throw them away.