Have you ever glanced at the counter only to see a carton of milk left out? Or maybe your power got cut during a storm and don’t have refrigeration. How long will it take for the milk to go bad without refrigeration?
How long can milk sit out? Milk should not sit out of the fridge in normal room temperature (64 F / 18 C) for more than approximately two hours. When room temperature is warmer, like in the summer, milk should not sit out for more than an hour. Any time past that, bacteria will have grown in the milk and it won’t be safe for consumption.
Keeping your milk in the fridge is the only way to keep it safe for consumption. Milk should always be stored at temperatures 40 degrees F (4 C) or below, otherwise, bacteria will grow rapidly and milk will spoil. These include a sour odor, a change in taste, and curdled consistency.
Keep reading to learn more about how long milk can sit out as well as tips for making it last longer!
Tips for Buying Milk at the Supermarket
Milk should be stored in ideal situations to keep it fresh and safe for consumption. Storing milk properly helps it last longer, keep it fresh, and saves you money since your milk won’t go to waste because it was spoiled.
Here are useful tips when buying milk at the supermarket. These tips will help make sure you get milk that is at its peak freshness and will keep fresh for as long as possible.
- If you’re at the supermarket, you should get your milk last. Pick up the milk just before you line up at the cashier. If you cart it and take it around with you as you do the rest of your grocery shopping, it can cause the milk to heat up.
- A tip you may want to try next time you’re at the grocery is to get the milk that has the furthest expiration date. These are usually at the back of the fridge where the newest ones are stored.
- Bring a cooler to put the milk in when you get to your vehicle, especially if you have a long drive ahead. When you get home, be sure to put it in the fridge as soon as possible.
The Knox Electric Travel Cooler and Warmer is ideal for keeping milk or other perishables cool while traveling home from the store. The cooler is spacious holding a lot of groceries. You can plug it in your car or at home as an extra fridge.
Storing Milk at Home
When at home, there are several things you can do to make sure that you store your milk properly. Doing so will ensure the milk stays as fresh as possible.
- At home, be sure to fully consume the milk within five to seven days of the sell-by date. However, some people recommend to finish the milk within three days after opening it. If you have a small family, it’s actually better to buy smaller containers of milk so that it does not end up spoiling.
- Be sure to follow the first in, first out policy and consume your products starting with the older ones first.
- Put your milk containers on the shelves inside your fridge, not in the door. The shelves have a cooler and more consistent temperature than the door, especially since the door is often open and closed, so the temperate changes a lot.
How to Keep Milk Fresh for Longer in the Refrigerator
Did you know that there are ways you can help keep your refrigerated milk last longer? You can help prevent contamination or spoilage of your milk and help keep it fresh for longer by doing the following:
- Be sure to keep the lids on your milk bottles. Make it a habit to secure the lids at all times so that the milk doesn’t get any of the odors from other food stored in the fridge.
- Leftover milk should be discarded and never put back in the bottle. Milk that is left out for an hour in the summer, or two hours outside the fridge, may already have bacteria growing on it. If you put it back in the bottle, the rest of the milk will spoil.
- Milk should be stored in a cool, dim place. You shouldn’t leave it out where it is exposed to light or even the sun, as this destroys the vitamins and nutrients in milk. You also risk warming it up, which causes it to spoil faster.
- Keep your fridge clean; make sure that any other food kept in it is properly stored and sealed to avoid cross-contamination.
The Health Benefits and Nutritional Information of Milk
Milk is the first food mammals consume. It is often associated with good health and strong bones. Regular milk consumption is said to give a wide range of health benefits because of the wide range of nutrients it gives.
Milk is a source of calcium which is important in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Milk also provides Vitamin D, which further helps with bone health. Both calcium and Vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis. Of course, it’s not enough that you just drink milk – following a balanced diet and overall healthy life will help avoid getting osteoporosis in the future.
Did you know that you can get potassium from cow’s milk? Potassium helps in reducing blood pressure and enhance the dilation of blood vessels. Other sources of potassium include tomatoes, oranges, bananas, and yogurt. Just don’t have too much potassium as an excess amount not good; plus a sudden increase in your potassium intake can cause more harm than good. Always consult with your doctor first before making any changes in your diet or before taking any new supplements.
Milk can also help improve your mood. Milk has Vitamin D, and this vitamin is known to help our bodies produce serotonin – a hormone that contributes to a person’s happiness and well-being. Vitamin D deficiency is often associated with fatigue, depression, and even PMS. Regular milk consumption not only helps keep you healthy but also happy!
Can You Freeze Milk?
If there was a sale in your supermarket, or maybe a buy-one-get-one offer on milk that you couldn’t pass up on, don’t be afraid to buy milk. You can freeze milk and store it for up to three months. Frozen and then thawed milk may have a different taste and texture from what you’re used to but it’s still safe especially if you’ll be using it to cook or bake.
When freezing milk, be sure to leave a little space at the top of the container, don’t fill it to the brim with milk. Liquids like milk expand when frozen, and the extra space will allow for the milk to expand properly.
If you freeze milk, you should thaw it in the fridge first. If any separation occurs, you can use a blender to recombine the milk. Skim milk freezes the best, although condensed and evaporated milk does freeze well too.
How to Tell if Milk is Bad
As you’ve probably noticed, supermarkets put a sell-by or a best before date on their products, and this date is supposed to tell consumers when the product reaches its optimum quality. However, this date is just an estimate, and it’s easy to find out if something is already spoiled.
For bread, even if it’s just one piece that has mold, it’s not safe to eat anymore. For eggs, you can put an egg in water and if it floats, it is not safe to eat. But what about milk? How can you tell if milk has gone bad (other than just looking at the expiry date)?
The quickest and easiest way to tell if milk is already spoiled is by checking its consistency or texture. If the milk is lumpy or has chunks – don’t drink it or even try to taste it! It’s definitely gone bad and it’s time to throw it away. Other signs that the milk has gone bad are a sour smell and discoloration.
The Ideal Temperature for Keeping Milk Fresh
Milk is a staple beverage in many homes across the world. It’s also very versatile – it can be a drink, used in cereals and oatmeal for breakfast, added to a smoothie, or used for cooking and baking. So that bacteria does not grow on milk, it should be kept in temperatures of 40 degrees F (4 C) or below. This should be observed from the warehouse to the distribution center while being delivered to the supermarket, and from the supermarket to your home.
To ensure your fridge is at this proper temperature at all times, use a fridge thermometer like the Liwiner Digital Waterproof Accurate Fridge Thermometer (click to see price on Amazon). This is an easy-to-use thermometer with a large display that is easy to see. I have these thermometers in my fridge and freezer, and they’ve worked great for years.
For ultimate peace of mind in knowing exactly what temperature your milk, food, fridge, and anything else is at, use the ennoLogic Temperature Gun (click to see price and specs on Amazon). This is a highly accurate, dual laser point temperature gun that scans and tracks the exact temperature of your milk or anything else.
The cooler you keep milk, the longer it lasts and the safer it is for consumption. If you warm milk, you allow bacteria to grow at a fast rate. If you keep milk refrigerated and observe proper storage, it should last to around two weeks.
Young children, pregnant women, elderly people and people with medical conditions like diabetes or kidney diseases can get seriously sick from consuming contaminated food. These people and the people who are in charge of taking care of them should be extra cautious when it comes to handling milk and food in general.
How Can Milk in Supermarkets Last Out of the Fridge?
You may have noticed milk cartons and containers in the supermarket all lined up on shelves outside the fridge. How can these milk cartons last out of the fridge in supermarkets?
If you’ve noticed, there are individual-sized milk containers that are just on shelves, and they’re not sold or stored cold. This kind of milk is called UHT – which is short for Ultra High-Temperature Pasteurized. However, there are UHT milk that’s stored in supermarket chillers – so what’s the difference?
The difference is in the packaging. Milk that is stored in aseptic packaging means it’s kept in a sterilized container, and this helps the milk to last without being spoiled. However, once you open it, the shelf life is shortened and it then needs to be kept in the fridge.
Is UHT Good or Bad?
UHT or Ultra-High Temperature Pasteurization is a process where milk is heated to around 280 degrees F for two seconds. This process is able to kill more bacteria than the regular pasteurization process. Since more bacteria is killed, the milk has a longer shelf life before it goes bad. Is it a good thing, or a bad thing?
From the point of view of producers and retailers, UHT milk is a good thing. This kind of milk helps save a lot of money because refrigeration is not required post-production, during delivery, and once the milk is delivered to the supermarket.
The extended shelf life alone already means a lot of savings and less food waste. Some consumers also think that UHT milk is a good thing – it’s one less thing to refrigerate and worry about.
Some people, however, do not like the idea of UHT milk mainly because good bacteria is also killed off during the pasteurization process. You won’t get the full benefits of drinking milk anymore if you were to drink UHT milk. But in terms of safety and freshness, traditionally pasteurized milk and UHT milk are the same – it’s up to you to decide which one you like more.
Conclusion: How Long Can Milk Sit Out?
You’re in the kitchen and out of the corner of your eye, you see the milk carton sitting on your counter. You may be thinking – who left it out, and is it still safe? How long can milk sit out?
Generally speaking, milk should not sit out of the fridge for more than two hours. In the summertime when temperatures reach 90 degrees F, milk should not sit out for more than an hour. Any time past that, bacteria will have grown and it is no longer safe for consumption.
You don’t need to taste the milk to find out if it’s gone bad. You can use your other senses – sight and smell. If the milk smells on the sour side, and if you see that the texture has started to curdle or is clumpy, you should throw it away. Be mindful of how you store your milk to avoid waste and get your money’s worth.