Let's Talk About Ice Cream: Storing, Scooping, and How Long It Really Lasts

Wasted ice cream is a terrible thing.

We've all been there. A midnight craving comes calling and the only thing that will do is a bowl of delicious ice cream. It should be a happy occasion, but sadly, when we open the carton, we spy a thick layer of freezer burn. Sigh. Wait! Don't throw that ice cream away just yet! There's a good chance the ice cream is fine, even if it's past its expiration date or covered with freezer burn. To find out how long ice cream really lasts, we went to Sally Mengel, co-owner of Loblolly Creamery, makers of small-batch, handcrafted ice cream in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Sea Salt Ice Cream
Photograher: Greg DuPree Prop Stylist: Mary Clayton Carl Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey

How long does ice cream last?

According to Mengel, ice cream does have a shelf life, however, it will probably last a lot longer than you think. She says that the commercial ice cream you get from the grocery store can usually last a year in the freezer (this is mainly due to preservatives). She adds, "At Loblolly we put our expiration date as 3 months because we do not use any artificial stabilizers." So in general, commercial ice cream will last longer than handmade ice cream. This is especially important to know if you have an ice cream maker to make cornbread ice cream or pistachio ice cream at home.

Where is the best part of the freezer to store ice cream?

It turns out, all parts of the freezer were not created equally when it comes to storing ice cream. Mengel says you should always store your ice cream in the coldest part of your freezer. In general, this is away from the door, in the back.

How can you make your ice cream last longer?

Mengel says you can help your ice cream last longer and avoid freezer burn by covering it with plastic cling wrap or pressing wax paper to the surface of the ice cream before you put the lid back on. She also says, "it's important to put it in the freezer as soon as you get home from the store so it doesn't begin to soften or melt."

Can you still eat ice cream if it gets freezer burn?

We were relieved to hear Mengnel say that you can still eat ice cream with freezer burn, however, she was quick to point out that it won't taste as good. To make up for this, she recommends turning freezer-burned ice cream into milkshakes. This was good news since now we have an excuse to make Southern-style milkshakes.

You're probably scooping your ice cream wrong

Mengel says that there are a lot of common mistakes when it comes to scooping ice cream. They include thawing it on the counter, using a hot ice cream scoop, zapping it in the microwave, or doing anything that involves melting that delicious frozen treat. Says Mengel, "letting the ice cream thaw can ruin the texture the next time you take it out of the freezer." She adds that the ideal scooping temperature is 5 degrees. Now, that we know, we're off to eat some ice cream.

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