Learn how long honey actually lasts, whether you should refrigerate it, what creamed honey is, and more.
Honey jar and honey dipper
Credit: Peter Ardito

Have you ever wondered whether that jar of honey tucked in the back of your kitchen cabinet is still safe to eat? The truth is, yes. "Honey is the only food that never spoils and is always safe to eat," says Frank Mortimer, Cornell University master beekeeper and author of Bee People And The Bugs They Love. In fact, according to Mortimer, honey was "found in an Egyptian tomb that was over 3,500 years old, and it was still edible!"

Should You Refrigerate Honey?

Never refrigerate liquid honey, as it will cause it to crystallize, changing its texture into a coarse, grainy, semi-solid mess, Mortimer explains. "All 100 percent pure, natural, raw honey will crystallize overtime (that's a sign it's 100 percent honey), and it's best to store liquid honey at room temperature to slow down the process," he adds.

In terms of its chemistry, honey is a supersaturated solution of sugars (fructose and glucose), and over time it crystallizes because the glucose molecules pull out of the solution and attach to one another, he says. "If your honey does crystallize, you can always re-liquefy it by placing the jar into a warm — not boiling — bowl of water," he adds. If you go that route, 104° F is the ideal water temperature.

It's worth noting that the crystals, while perhaps visually unappealing, aren't hazardous for your health. "The crystals do not impact the safety of the honey but do alter its appearance," says Kimberly Baker, Ph.D., RD, LD, director of the Clemson Extension Food Systems and Safety Program Team.

What Is Creamed Honey?

European-style creamed honey is 100 percent honey that was produced by controlling the crystallization of honey to create a uniformly creamy consistency and a smooth spreadable texture, explains Mortimer. "You can put creamed honey in the refrigerator because it is already crystallized, so its texture will not change," he adds. You don't need to refrigerate any other type of honey, including honeycomb.

What's the Best Way to Store Honey?

Store it in a closed vessel, so it will be protected from moisture and contamination, says Baker. "Over time, honey may lose color and flavor but it is still safe to eat if it has been stored properly. Honey should be stored in a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid and then kept in a cool (50 to 70 °F), dark, and dry storage location.

However, even the most carefully stored honey can become contaminated and spoil, points out Baker. Make sure to use clean and dry utensils when dipping them into a honey container. (Using your oatmeal spoon in a tub of honey for an extra bit of sweetness? No good.) "If honey smells fermented (like alcohol), has foam, or a pink slime on it then throw it out," she continues. Honey that looks cloudy is beginning to crystallize, and it's still safe to consume.

Can You Freeze Honey?

If for some reason you wanted to ensure the taste of a certain type of honey remains at its peak intensity, take this tip from Ted Dannard, Founder of Savannah Bee Company: Preserve honey's freshness by freezing it to stop it from "getting darker or changing taste which honey does with time as well."


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