How Long Will Heavy Cream Last Past Its Expiration Date?

There's nothing worse than sticking your hand into the fridge for a carton of heavy cream to add to a recipe or to transform into whipped cream only to find it is past its expiration date. But before you immediately decide to toss that carton, keep this in mind: An unopened container of heavy cream should be good for several weeks past its best-if-used-by date as long as it has been stored at the proper temperature of no more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And once opened, your heavy cream could be usable for up to a month.

There are a few factors behind this. Heavy cream is made with between 36% and 48% milk fat. This fat, which makes whipped cream and sauces voluminous and velvety smooth, also helps to keep heavy cream from quickly going bad once it has been opened. It's also important to take note of whether or not your carton of heavy cream is pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized. That will also help it last longer in your fridge because it has been heated to kill bacteria that would otherwise cause the heavy cream to spoil faster.

Use your sense to make a judgment call

So how can you tell if your heavy cream has gone bad? The best thing to do is take a peek and smell it. If there is no mold growing in the container, it is sans clumps that look like cottage cheese, and it doesn't smell as if it has soured, chances are you are good to go ahead and use it. Of course, if you have the slightest reservation, don't feel too bad about dumping that expired heavy cream into the kitchen sink. Better not to risk an upset stomach or worse.

Additionally, as convenient as it might be, if you want to prolong your heavy cream's freshness, you should avoid keeping the carton in the fridge door and instead opt for the back of the appliance where the temperature is more consistently cold. If you have no clear plans to use up the carton of heavy cream patiently waiting in your fridge, consider making some honey whipped cream to dollop on your desserts or create some no-churn vanilla dulce de leche homemade ice cream. You can also freeze your heavy cream ; it will last up to three or four months in the freezer before its quality starts to diminish.