Not only does salt give food extra flavor, but it is also essential for human life. Because of this, salt can be found in practically every kitchen.
Despite its commonality, maybe you have never thought much about salt and its shelf life. It is always there when you need it, but maybe you have found yourself wondering… will this salt go bad?
The answer to this question might actually depend on what type of salt you have. Curious? Read ahead.
The Different Types Of Salt
You may find yourself thinking, “but salt is salt!” However, the shelf life of your salt may largely depend on whether or not one simple ingredient has been added: iodine.
In the 1920s, Dr. David Murray Cowie was working to address the iodine deficiency in many diets. The solution? Add iodine to salt! Now, around 70 percent of households use salt with iodine added, though they may not even realize it.
If the salt has been iodized, it will have a shorter shelf life. The stability of iodized salt will decrease over time when exposed to air, moisture, and other factors. The packaging of the salt will indicate whether or not it has been iodized.
There are many other types of salt, including sea salt, kosher salt, flake salt, Himalayan salt, and many others. You may realize salt is a more diverse culinary category than you would have guessed!
The Shelf Life Of Salt
Check the label of your salt to see whether or not it has been “iodized” or has iodine added. If so, this salt will only be good for around five years.
Most other types of salt, ranging from sea salt to kosher salt, will never expire. But, is it possible for salt to lose its flavor or go stale?
Does Salt Go Bad?
A common mineral, natural salts (not iodized) will essentially never go bad.
Why does salt not go bad? Salt itself is a preservative and can even be used to preserve other types of foods. When food spoils, it is because bacterial, fungal, yeast, or other type of microbial growth has occurred. In order for this to happen, water has to be present. Salt will absorb water and create an environment that prevents microbial growth.
Keep in Mind: Salt is harvested from natural environments and goes through minimal change before ending up in your food. It has lasted millions of years in its current state, so a few years in your pantry is nothing.
So, Why The Expiration Date?
Most salts purchased at the grocery store will have a “best by” date included on the packaging. Typically, this date will be many years in the future.
Many salts contain some additives such as anti-caking agents or additional flavoring. Nothing magically occurs when the salt reaches the ”best by” date, but it is possible for the salt to begin clumping or for added flavoring to lose its potency.
Bottom Line: Using salt past its expiration date is perfectly safe, and it will likely still have much of its flavor.
How To Store Salt
Even though natural salts will not go bad, they still need to be stored properly. Improper storage can lead to wasted salt.
Salt should be kept away from any sources of moisture. Salt is a hygroscopic mineral, which means it will attract and absorb water and odors. Exposure to moisture can make salt clump.
While it may be tempting to keep your salt shaker right next to your stove, this can actually affect the quality of your salt. The steam and odors coming off the cooking food will be absorbed by salt, which can affect its flavor.
To prevent this, store salt in an airtight container or in a cabinet away from sources of odor or moisture.
In Summary: Salt
- As a natural preservative, most salts will never expire.
- Iodized salt will have a shorter shelf life, but will still be good for many years.
- Some salts will have additional additives for flavor or cooking purposes. Double check the “use by” date to see what the manufacturer has recommended.
- After its labeled “use by” date, salt may begin to clump or lose some added flavors, but it will still be perfectly safe to eat.
- Ensure salt is kept in a moisture and odor-free environment, or the salt will begin to absorb new flavors.
A common item in every kitchen, salt provides both flavor and essential nutrients to our meals. As you might have guessed, most natural salts will last forever, keeping your dishes tasty for many years to come.