The oyster sauce is often associated with authentic and traditional Chinese cuisine. However, leading restaurants and chefs are embracing the taste and aroma of this condiment and using it to prepare delicious delicacies like stir-fry vegetables.
The only problem is that your oyster sauce will go bad sooner or later, so you need to use it as soon as possible. But how should you distinguish between a good bottle of oyster sauce and a bad one? How long will your fresh bottle last?
If such questions linger in your mind, you have landed in the right place since we shall provide you with all the answers you need. In addition, we will highlight the approximate shelf life so that you can plan accordingly.
How Long Does Oyster Sauce Last?
The shelf life of Oyster Sauce depends greatly on the quality and producer. Like other sauces, the better the quality, the longer the shelf life.
How long does Oyster sauce last unopened?
The unopened bottle of Oyster Sauce usually has a shelf life of 18-24 months. You may check the best-by or use-by date on the label to know how long your Oyster Sauce would last. The quality of the sauce comes into play after it is opened.
How long does Oyster sauce last once opened?
As per the Foodkeeper Application, the opened Oyster Sauce must be consumed within three-six months. It is the timeframe for almost all the brands of Oyster Sauces. If the sauce is made of high-quality ingredients, it may sustain its quality for up to 365 days or even more.
If you are unsure about the quality, complete the bottle of Oyster Sauce within six months for the best taste and flavor.
|Oyster Sauce (Unopened)||Best-By Date Plus Three-Six Months for Best Flavor and Quality||–|
|Oyster Sauce (Opened)||–||Three-Six Months for Best Taste and Quality|
Please note that the time duration mentioned above is only the estimate as the shelf life of Oyster Sauce depends significantly on the quality and producer.
How Can You Tell if Oyster Sauce Sauce Is Bad?
Oyster Sauce is a blend of caramelized oyster juices, sugar, and salt and thickened using cornstarch, as per Wikipedia. So, it tends to go bad, especially when proper safety measures and hygiene are not followed.
Here are a few tell-tale signs that can help you identify the spoilage of the Oyster Sauce.
Flavor and Color
Oyster Sauce has a dark brown color with a salty and caramel sweet flavor. When the sauce gets darker, and the taste gets bitter, it is a sign of spoilage, and you must discard it in such conditions.
The fresh Oyster Sauce usually has a tantalizing aroma and smell. But, when it turns moldy or putrid, it is time to discard the Oyster Sauce. So, use your nose to smell and know whether it has gone bad.
The most vital sign is mold growth. Oyster Sauce is made out of fermentation, and there is a higher chance of microbial spoilage over time. When you see mold growth on the surface of the sauce, discard it and replace it with a new sauce.
Oyster Sauce usually has a thick consistency. So, when you see the texture is like water and the thickness has gone, it is time to discard the sauce as it is a sign of spoilage.
How long does oyster sauce last in the Refrigerator
Let us learn how an oyster sauce can react when stored in a refrigerator and on the counter.
Until your Oyster Sauce is sealed and unopened, shelf-stable is absolutely fine. The unopened Oyster Sauce is good for storage in your kitchen cabinet or pantry as it needs no refrigeration.
But, once you open the Oyster Sauce and the seal is broken, it needs continuous refrigeration to sustain its quality, taste, and flavor. You must not store it at room temperature after opening as it leads to microbial spoilage when exposed to air.
As mentioned, Oyster Sauce is not a shelf-stable sauce and hence needs proper refrigeration after opening. However, the unopened bottle of Oyster Sauce needs no refrigeration as it has very low water activity. It means water is bound to salt, reducing the chance of microbial spoilage when unopened.
But, after opening, it needs continuous refrigeration as it is prone to oxidative degradation, and hence refrigeration is necessary to prevent it.
Is it okay to use expired Oyster sauce?
It is absolutely fine to use Oyster Sauce for a couple of days after expiry. It won’t make you sick. But, if there is an offensive smell and taste with mold growth on the surface, it may cause serious illness if you consume it accidentally.
After expiry, consuming Oyster Sauce may cause food poisoning, and signs may vary depending upon the type of bacteria infecting you. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Feeling of nausea
- Appetite loss
- Cramps on stomach
These symptoms are not fatal as they are curable at home. But, if you notice any of the following symptoms, it calls for a medical visit.
- Blood in Urine
- Difficulty Speaking
- Dehydration with dry mouth
- Diarrhea for more than three days
- Fever more than 101.5F
Read More: Does Tartar Sauce Go Bad?
Can You Freeze Oyster Sauce?
Regrettably, Oyster Sauce is not a good choice for freezing because it has high salt content. So, when particles like sodium and chloride dissolve with water or any liquid, they never freeze when stored at high temperatures.
Not getting deeper into the scientific reason here, it is referred to as freezing point depression. The process starts when any particles get dissolved in liquid, and it must not have any salt. The salt particles prevent the freezing process, which is why salt is commonly used in dissolving ice on roads.
Since Oyster Sauce originates from Soy Sauce, it is prepared using a fermented process. During the fermentation, it releases ethanol which is common in alcohol. Therefore, reducing the freezing point of the sauce and hence freezing Oyster Sauce is not recommended.
How to Store Oyster Sauce?
Storage Tips for Unopened Oyster Sauce
It is absolutely okay to store the unopened bottle of Oyster Sauce in your pantry or kitchen cabinet until it is cool, dark, and dry. Oyster Sauce is prepared with a huge amount of sodium, and hence it can naturally prevent the sauce from spoilage when stored at room temperature.
So, the unopened bottle of Oyster Sauce needs no refrigeration as it can be stored in cool and dry places at a stable temperature. Once opened, it belongs to a fridge. The unopened bottle must be away from a direct source of heat and sunlight, and it must be kept in a dark place.
Storage Tips After Opening Oyster Sauce
After opening the bottle of Oyster Sauce, it must be refrigerated to sustain its taste, flavor, and quality up to the best-up date. The cool temperature of the refrigerator helps maintain the flavor and taste longer.
There is no harm in leaving the sauce at room temperature after opening, but it will react with air, and the quality starts degrading faster.
So, some brands suggest proper refrigeration of Oyster Sauce after opening, especially if you intend to use it for a long time. But, if you will use the sauce within a month, it is fine to store it at room temperature after opening. It won’t go bad in such cases.
Pro Tips for Storage
- Keep the lid sealed properly after every serving to prevent the sauce from losing its quality and taste.
- Keep the bottle away from the direct source of light and heat, both for unopened and opened bottles.
- Find any dark and cool place for the Oyster Sauce; when it is unopened, refrigerate it immediately after opening the sauce to retain its quality longer.
- Refrigeration is necessary if you want to enjoy its flavor and taste longer.
What are the Alternatives to Oyster Sauce if it has gone bad?
In case you are unable to find a qualitative oyster sauce bottle in your pantry, try cooking with the following alternatives. Trust us; they will not alter the overall taste of your dish:
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is It Necessary to Refrigerate Oyster Sauce?
Oyster Sauce is enriched with a huge sodium content that can naturally prevent the sauce from going bad. But, after opening, refrigeration is necessary to extend its shelf life and prevent the oxidative degradation of the ingredients. However, it would help to seal the lid tightly before refrigeration. It must be stored in ideal condition if optimal results are required.
Who Invented Oyster Sauce?
Oyster Sauce was invented by Lee Kum Sheung in China. The sauce was launched in the year 1888. He was the owner of a tea stall selling cooked oysters, and he used to cook them using the Oyster Sauce. Soon the sauce started grabbing mass attention, and it got popular.
What Happens When You Don’t Refrigerate the Oyster Sauce?
It is absolutely fine to store the unopened Oyster Sauce in your pantry up to the best-by date. But, once opened, it must be refrigerated. If you leave the opened Oyster Sauce at room temperature, it won’t go bad for a couple of days.
Having said that, the properties like quality and taste will deteriorate faster compared to storing at a cool temperature in the fridge. So, once it is opened, refrigeration is prescribed.
Why is my oyster sauce so thick?
Oyster sauce is naturally thick due to the presence of cornstarch. It might start to appear runny and thin with age. Consider this as your cue to toss that bottle in the garbage.
Does oyster sauce smell bad?
No, the Oyster sauce has a tempting aroma. It might smell a bit fishy, but it is completely normal. You can also cover it up with some lime juice. But avoid using it if you get a moldy smell.
The Bottom Line
Oyster Sauce is the most delicious addition to any Chinese meal. Depending upon the brand, the sauce can be expensive. Therefore, you must keep the sauce fresh as long as possible.
Moreover, you must not mistakenly consume the expired Oyster Sauce as it will make you sick. Make sure you take all possible precautions to identify whether the sauce has gone bad or is fine for consumption. Your smell sense and taste is the major weapon to check this. So, use it before using the Oyster Sauce in every serving to stay safe.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Michael A. Antoine is a Sr. Chef at one of the leading chains of restaurants in the USA. He might raise hell in his kitchen, but his deep and practical knowledge about food and recipes helps us give you the best and tastiest recipes.