Do Anchovies go bad?

Most of you may shake your head at the thought of anchovies, but there could be a reason for this, and it’s likely that the only time you have tried anchovies, they have been poor quality on a poor-quality pizza. But fresh anchovies from American waters taste fantastic. If you love anchovies, you will know they have a short shelf life, but can they be stored long-term?

Anchovies are an indication of how healthy the ocean is. If there are lots, the birds are happy, and the salmon thrive. Still, depleted stocks suggest that high pollution levels and overfishing devastate the anchovy and are playing havoc with this tiny fish.

This article will uncover what is behind the short shelf life of anchovies and how you can store them for maximum shelf life. We answer many frequently asked questions and give the consumer the best factual information.

Let’s dive in.

Do anchovies expire?

Yes. If you have fresh anchovies, this little fish has a high amount of fat and oil in the meat, so after a couple of days of not being stored correctly, they turn rancid. For this reason, the anchovies are packed in salt to preserve the little fish.

You may know that anchovies are bought in cans, jars, salted, or oil. They are the same fish. They all start life being salted when caught, and then from there, the salt is rinsed off and placed in the oil.

This process extends the life of the anchovies for a long time, which is why you don’t see anchovies being stored in the chiller section at the grocery store.

If you are wondering how long anchovies last, it can be indefinitely for unopened cans that are not damaged. Once opened, the anchovies are preserved remarkably well and will last for 1 to 2 years before they come to the end of their life in a can.

Open cans of anchovies are best stored in the fridge. Keeping them cool seems logical, and the anchovies last ideally when stored in the fridge.

If you have a swollen can of anchovies, discard it, the bacteria in the can is producing gas, which indicates the anchovies should not be eaten.

If you do have an open can of anchovies, transfer them to an airtight container, they will last longer in the environment, and it does keep a check on bacteria exposure.

If you see a white residue surrounding the fish, it’s not a problem, and it’s the remnants of the salt in the fish coming out into the oil. 

Do anchovies need to be refrigerated?

Unopened cans of anchovies can be stored in the kitchen cabinet, but once open, the anchovies should be stored in the fridge at 4℉ or below.

However, it is advisable to transfer the anchovies from the can into an airtight container, ensuring they are covered in oil. This will prevent exposure to bacteria keeping the anchovies for longer.

If the anchovies are stirred in a jar, the jar can be stored in the fridge as long as the lid is securely placed.

If you are lucky enough to have fresh anchovies from the fish market, the fish will only last for a couple of days in the fridge if they are not salted.

Open anchovies will last 18 months and may be longer in the fridge.

Do anchovies need to be covered?

Yes. Covering the anchovies will reduce exposure to bacteria. If you have anchovies in a bowl in the fridge, ensure they are covered with oil for protection, and salted anchovies should be covered with salt.

Canned anchovies should be transferred to an airtight container with a sealable lid.

Can you put warm anchovies in the fridge?

If you did heat anchovies, the answer would be no. But anchovies, other than being placed on pizza, are heated and melted and are then added to savory dishes for that depth of flavor that is not remotely fishy.

But for the sake of a complete answer to question No. Let the anchovies or the food containing anchovies cool to room temperature before placing it in the fridge. Once you introduce heat into the fridge, the interior temperature could rise. For food safety reasons, warm food should not be placed in the fridge.

Your fridge temperature hovers just below 4℉. Temperatures above this are considered to be the food danger zone. The food danger zone is a temperature range from 40 to 140℉.

In this temperature range, bacterial growth accelerates. After just two hours, the bacteria will have reached significant levels, potentially making the fish or any other food stirred in the fridge inedible due to its risk of causing food poisoning.

Only place foods that have cooled to room temperature in the fridge.

How long can anchovies sit out?

Two hours. Cooked or uncooked, the same principles apply to anchovies as to other perishable foods. If the food is sitting in the danger zone, the bacterial growth will be substantial and could make the food poisonous if left out for two hours.

According to the USDA, any perishable product has a shelf life of two hours sitting out before it becomes inedible and potentially dangerous to consume due to the proliferation of bacteria. 

These foods should be discarded.

Salting protects the anchovies from bacteria. They still contain fats and natural oil that will turn rancid. Even if this was correct, anchovies should be stored in a cool environment as they spoil exceptionally quickly at room temperature.

Do unopened anchovies go bad?

No, they can last indefinitely. An unopened can or jar of anchovies stored in a cool place such as a fridge or cool pantry will last a long time.

Cans and jars of anchovies will still be good to eat a few years past the expiry date. However, if the canned anchovies are swelling in the can, they are spoiled and should be tossed away.

If cans or jars show signs of leakage or rust, you should consider the anchovies spoiled.

How long do anchovies last in the fridge?

If the can is unopened, the anchovies have an indefinite shelf life in the fridge and are opened. They can last for 18 months if stirred correctly in an airtight container.

Do frozen anchovies go bad?

It’s normal to use anchovies sparingly in most dishes, so the flavor is subtle, which can lead to anchovies sitting around for a long time and possibly needing another solution for extended storage.

The anchovy is a delicate fish apart from its diminutive size. But do freezing anchovies extend their shelf life? No, it makes the shelf life shorter.

Maybe you have fresh anchovies. This will be the best and quickest way to prevent them from going bad.

Technically any food frozen at 0℉ or below should last indefinitely, but when freezing delicate fish, it is not quite the same assumption. Anchovies frozen have a relatively short shelf life and will only last for three months before spoiling.

Freezing anchovies

  • Assuming the fish have been eviscerated and cleaned carefully, you must prepare your storage method.
  • It’s best to use a container with a sealable lid for freezing. Use grease-proof paper to line the storage container. You will transfer the freezer to the freezer bags later.
  • Place the anchovies on a tray and freeze for 2 hours, ensuring they are not touching.
  • Retrieve the anchovies.
  • Place the frozen anchovies in the freezer bags and seal them, and double bag the anchovies if possible to prevent any odor from tainting the other frozen food.
  • Mark the freezer bags with the freezing date and the expiration date.

Storting anchovies this way will extend the shelf life up to 3 months. After this time, you can thaw them in a bowl of cold water and then salt them or store them in oil.

If you go past the three months, the anchovies will go bad despite being frozen.

Can you freeze anchovies in oil?

Yes, but they last longer preserved in oil than in the freezer. It is not advisable to add oil to the freezer bags. It won’t achieve anything other than a frozen block of oil.

Why do anchovies last so long?

The anchovies do not have a brine solution for at least six months. They use an old form of preservation, salt. This preserves the fish. You can then keep it this way and just rinse the brine off when you want to eat them, or wash the brine off and store it in oil.

Typically anchovies would have been heated and sterilized to kill bacteria, but the fish is so delicate it would turn to mush.

Final thoughts

If you can get your hands on fresh anchovies, do it, and take the time to preserve them yourself, you will have a superior product, and you can freeze them for three months before you get to that point.

It seems futile to freeze canned or anchovies in a jar. The shelf life is longer stored in oil than freezing offers.

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