I firmly believe that having chocolate on hand — whether in the form of powder, baking bars, snacking bars, or chips — is always a good idea. You never know when the craving for brownies will strike, when an unexpected celebration calls for cake, or when you just need to break off a square of good dark chocolate and have a moment. As important as it is to have the sweet stuff on hand, it's equally important to store it properly to maintain freshness. Here are the best ways to store all of your chocolate goods in the kitchen.
The Wrong Way to Store All Chocolate
Hold it! If you've got some chocolate — whether it's cocoa powder, a half-open bag of chocolate chips, or that fancy bar you picked up in the checkout line at Trader Joe's — stored above the stove, you'll need to move it the second you finish reading this article. No matter the type of chocolate, proximity to heat is should be avoided. So while storing it above the stove is the biggest no-no, the same rule goes for anywhere else that gets much warmer than room temperature in your kitchen.
There's more to it than no heat, though: Different types of chocolate prefer to be stored in different environments. Here are the basics.
No matter the type, it's best to store cocoa powder in an airtight container in a cool — 60°F to 70°F — and dark place. Often the original container you bought it in is just fine, as it's packaged with a tight-fitting lid. Stored this way, it will keep well for up to two years. Note: It should not be stored in the refrigerator, as the humidity there can promote spoilage.
Any and all chocolate bars, whether they are for baking or snacking, are best stored at cool room temperature (60°F to 70°F), kept away from both sunlight and heat. Wrap all bars tightly! Extra protection in the form of plastic wrap or a zip-top bag prevents other pantry odors like spices from absorbing into your chocolate.
What if cool room temperature isn't possible? Is your kitchen always warm? If that's the case, it's okay to store bars in your fridge or freezer. Wrap the chocolate well and let it come to room temperature in the wrapping to prevent condensation from forming (the added moisture can affect the texture of the chocolate). Kept under the right conditions, dark chocolate will keep for two years, while milk and white chocolate will keep for one year.
Your standard bag of chocolate chips is actually formulated to withstand high temperatures — have you ever noticed that when baked into cookies, they never really melt completely and they still retain their shape? They're manufactured with less cocoa butter than chocolate bars, which makes the chocolate very thick and less likely to change shape when heated. That means that while they are still best stored like bars — at cool room temperature (60°F to 70°F), away from sunlight, and tightly sealed — they'll be okay if the environment is a little warmer than that and should keep well for up to two years.
Chocolate baking wafers are the opposite of chocolate chips. As they're often melted down for dipping and candy-making, they aren't formulated to withstand high temperatures. Instead, they'll melt just as easily as bars, if not easier, given their small size. Store them like bars, sealed in an airtight container at 60°F to 70°F, away from sunlight and heat. The same rule for bars, above, applies for storing wafers in the fridge or freezer as well. They'll keep for about one year.
Chocolate Truffles or Bonbons
Whether you whipped up a batch of homemade truffles or you treated yourself to a box of fancy chocolates, they should also be kept at the same temperature listed above, 60°F to 70°F, wrapped up airtight, and kept away from sunlight. More generic chocolates like, say, Russell Stover, will keep well for up to six months, but homemade chocolates or those from a high-quality chocolate shop will have a much shorter life span, since they lack preservatives. They'll likely keep for a month or two, but don't hesitate to ask the shop you bought them from for the specifics.