Does cream of tartar go bad?

You sure don’t use cream of tartar that often. You probably don’t even remember when you bought the package you’re using now. And after a few years of storage, you’re probably wondering: does cream of tartar go bad?

Since cream of tartar (or potassium bitartrate, technically speaking) comes in powdered form, you might assume it lasts forever. But since it’s often used in baking as an anti-caking and thickening agent, you suspect it’s something akin to baking soda or baking powder. And that means it will probably lose power gradually. And it turns out that you are quite right.

If you want to learn about the storage, shelf life, and potency of cream of tartar, this article is for you. Keep reading.

baking powder 1

How to store cream of tartar

You should store cream of tartar the same way you store your friends, baking soda and baking powder. That means it should be in a closet away from heat sources and sunlight. Although the pantry is the perfect place for him, the kitchen is a somewhat more practical option. This is especially true if you use cream of tartar more often than once a year.

Like other powdered products, cream of tartar tends to draw moisture from the air. Therefore, once the container is opened, you should always keep it tightly closed.

If your cream of tartar comes in a paper container, it’s best to pour the powder into a small jar after opening the container. The paper packaging offers little protection against moisture or strong odors. Or anything else, really.

Baked goods with cream of tartar

How long does cream of tartar last?

Like other powdered products, as long as it does not come into contact with water, the cream of tartar does not spoil. That means it’s basically safe to use forever.

However, there is usually an expiration date on the label. Some producers put it for legal requirements, others because people tend to trust food more if it comes with a date. But that date is also quite useful because it tells you if you need to check its potency before using it.

Baked powdered sugar in a strainer

Now let’s talk about checking the potency of cream of tartar. If you’re not sure if the cream of tartar is still usable, try stirring a half teaspoon of the product into a half cup of hot water. Then add a pinch of baking soda. If the mixture foams, the cream of tartar is still usable for baking, stabilizing egg whites and whipping cream, etc.

Cream of tartar (unopened or opened) Conservation + 6 months

Please note that the period above is only a rough estimate.

How do you know if cream of tartar is bad?

As I said before, unless water reaches the container, the cream of tartar does not go bad. And even if a small amount of moisture gets into the jar, it probably won’t cause mold to grow. Instead, small clumps are likely to form, which you can get rid of by passing the powder through a spice mill, strainer, or using a pestle and mortar.

But if more moisture gets into the jar, the powder will go bad. If it has turned into a solid lump, or there is mold or other organic growth on the surface, it’s time to go. The same if it has changed color or there are some dark specks here and there. An unpleasant odor is also a sure sign that you need to dispose of the powder.

If the whole product seems fine, but you keep it for a long time, test its potency before using it. This way you make sure that it will not ruin the dish you are preparing, and you will not have to start from scratch.

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