This question occurred to me the other day as I was dropping in on a rather eccentric friend who collects antiques. As we walked through his collection of strange objects and knick-knacks, he stopped in his tracks and gestured towards a small fridge – a strange place to keep a collectible item, I thought. As he opened the door, I laid eyes on a wrapper that instantly brought back memories of my childhood; a Marathon bar wrapper!
Marathon bars, now known as Snickers, were discontinued way back in 1990. So, this bar of chocolate in seemingly immaculate condition had been sitting there in a fridge for 30 years. Surely, I thought, it couldn’t still be edible, could it? How long does chocolate even last? I’m relatively sure that many of you have found yourself in this situation before (though perhaps not with a bar quite this dated) and thought to yourself, “could I still eat this?” Well, after doing some research on this, what we found was pretty surprising to say the least. So, now that you are primed for it, let’s find out was that Marathon bar actually edible, or would it have been a fatal mistake to even try it!
How Long Does Chocolate Last?
Admittedly, it is pretty rare that a bar of chocolate or even an Easter egg will end up in a position where it is put away or stored for a special occasion for any considerable length of time. Nevertheless, maybe some of you out there are more disciplined in that regard than the average person. Naturally, a good indicator of a products longevity is its sell by date. The chances are that if it has exceeded this by a long shot, your food isn’t going to taste as good, or perhaps it may even be hazardous to consume. But, chocolate happens to be one of those magical things that can be stored and consumed far beyond this date, if you know what you are doing.
The trouble with this is, not all chocolate bars that you can buy are solely consistent of chocolate. They may contain nuts, or biscuit, or any other number of elements with a shorter shelf life. Naturally, once the first ingredient in a product is gone off, the whole thing has to go in the bin. So, consider this guide to be accurate only in the case where your chocolate is 100% milk, dark, or white chocolate. In the cases with other ingredients, we would suggest following the printed sell by date. For simple chocolate products, stored correctly from day one, our estimates go as such:
Dark Chocolate: Can be stored for up to 9 to 12 months after the sell by date, opened or unopened.
White Chocolate: Can be stored for up to 3 to 6 months after the sell by date, opened or unopened.
Milk Chocolate: Can be stored for up to 3 to 6 months after the sell by date, opened or unopened.
Naturally, this does not bode well for that relic of a Marathon bar which still rests in its own section of a mini fridge. By these estimates, that ship should have sailed about 28 years ago! Regardless, as you can see, there is plenty of potential to still enjoy your forgotten chocolate, provided of course that it was stored correctly in the interim. This leads us nicely into our next segment, which should clarify once and for all how safe it is to munch the forbidden treats…
The Best Way to Store Chocolate
Chocolate really isn’t all that particular about what temperature it gets stored at. However, if we were to put an optimal temperature range on it, we would have to say somewhere in between 54 and 62 degrees (or 12-16 in Celsius). This means that the fridge is ruled out as a good hiding place, which leaves us instead with areas such as the pantry, or, if you have small kids to hide it from, the bedside locker is a totally viable option.
Your main enemies when storing chocolate are going to be heat and odours. Too much heat and the form of the chocolate will change, affecting its flavour. Chocolate also absorbs any odours that happen to be near it as it is quite porous in nature. Nobody wants a bar of chocolate that tastes like onions, so choose wisely as to where exactly it will remain. Opened chocolate can last just as long as an unopened bar, but just make sure that it is wrapped up properly again before it is put away.
Should Chocolate be Refrigerated?
If you have read this article from the beginning, you will find that the whole cause for it being written was a curiosity over whether an “antique” bar of chocolate dating from 1990 was still edible. Now, this bar was also stored in the fridge, and had been for a whopping 30 years! One would think that that was the perfect place for it, but alas, it turns out that it absolutely wasn’t.
As it turns out, unless you are living in a particularly warm and humid climate, there is no need to refrigerate your chocolate. In fact, doing so may actually shorten its shelf life dramatically as the temperature is several degrees below its optimal storage temperature. The reason for this is relatively straightforward. When placed in the fridge, chocolate will attempt to act like a sponge, absorbing all of the residual moisture and odours that dwell within the average fridge. Freezing, on the other hand, is a much safer option for those in warmer climates. Doing so will neither damage the quality of the chocolate nor expose it to residual moisture (if stored in a freezer bag). However, there are really no tangible benefits to doing such a thing as it won’t prolong its shelf life. In conclusion, it is definitely a bad idea to eat a bar of chocolate that has been in the fridge for any length of time whatsoever.
Chocolate Storage, Sell-by Dates, and Other Related Questions
How long does chocolate last after packaging?
Our conservative estimates would recommend that white and milk chocolate are best eaten up to 6 months after the expiration date. With dark chocolate that estimate increases to 12 months.
Why does dark chocolate last longer than other kinds?
The shelf life of dark chocolate is longer than that of other varieties due to its cacao butter content. Cacao butter is a fat, but it is primarily a saturated fat which remains in a solid state at room temperature. Due to the fact that saturated fats are unsusceptible to degradation, in high quantities they can act almost like a preservative. Because of this, dark chocolate will gain on average an extra 3 months shelf life.
What is the oldest bar of chocolate?
The world’s first solid bar of chocolate was manufactured by Fry’s in Bristol, England back in 1847. Amazingly, a similar bar to this is still made today by this same company. This was a dark chocolate bar as milk chocolate was not invented until Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle came upon the idea in Switzerland in 1875.
How long does chocolate syrup last?
Once a bottle of chocolate syrup has been opened, it will stay good for up to an extra 6 additional months if stored in the refrigerator. However, homemade chocolate syrup won’t last nearly as long and is best used within the space of a few days.