Here’s How Long Ice Cream Can Last In the Freezer (and How to Store It)

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Gina Eykemans)

True story: I know a guy in Columbus, Ohio, who hangs on to pints of limited-edition flavors by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Not for days or weeks, but for months and longer. Because, as he’s explained, sometimes you get a hankering for a scoop of Lapsang Souchong with Armagnac Prunes, a flavor that was discontinued years ago.

Even if you won’t be curating a collection of artisanal ice creams from your favorite producers, you may still want to fill your freezer with a pint or two — and you’ll want that ice cream to be tasting great and free of nasty little ice crystals.

Here’s how to make sure that’s the case.

(Image credit: Ben & Jerry’s)

Meet Eric Fredette, a flavor guru (actual title) at Ben & Jerry’s. He is responsible for developing new flavors for the brand (thank you, Eric, for Coconut Seven Layer Bar!). He’s also responsible for this great advice on how to pamper ice cream in a freezer.

1. Don’t store it with stinky stuff.

If your freezer happens to be full of garlic and onions, it’s not the best environment for your ice cream. Over time these things will give off odors that an opened container of ice cream will absorb. We’ll let you figure out what’s more important to you.

2. Do store it in a chest freezer, if you have one.

New frost-free freezers have default defrost cycles, during which the air inside the freezer warms slightly for short periods of time, Fredette explains. Each time that happens, ice crystals in your favorite pint get a little bigger. “This creates a grainy texture and colder mouthfeel in the product,” he says.

Have a chest freezer somewhere in the house? That would be the best place to store ice cream at home. Chest freezers are typically set at a temperature lower than the freezer attached to your kitchen appliance. Plus, it’s likely that you open and close your chest freezer less than your main freezer.

3. Do reach for the plastic wrap.

Once that plastic lining has been opened, do your best to recreate that protective barrier between the ice cream and air. “We recommend placing a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper in direct contact with the surface of the ice cream,” Fredette says. “This prevents air from ‘drying out’ the exposed ice cream. It will also prevent some of the ice crystals that form on opened ice cream.”

4. Don’t store your ice cream on the freezer door.

If you don’t have a chest freezer and your fridge/freezer combo appliance is your only option, store ice cream in the coldest place in the freezer: the center shelf, in the back of the compartment. Do not store ice cream in the door of a freezer (that’s better for things like nuts, bread, and butter).

5. Don’t freeze your ice cream forever.

Properly frozen food is technically safe indefinitely. That doesn’t mean ice cream should be enjoyed indefinitely. “Ice cream that has been kept frozen should be good up to the expiration date,” Fredette said. “We do not recommend consuming ice cream after the expiration date.”

How many cartons of ice cream are in your freezer right now?