Today, you decided to grab more packs of black pepper and some whole peppercorns at the grocery store since they’re at a discounted price.
However, there are a few concerns that just hit you inwardly: “How long can I keep them at home?” “Does pepper ever go bad?”
Actually, black pepper doesn’t go bad in terms of food safety. The expiration date on the label only tells you how long your black pepper powder or whole peppercorns can retain their best quality. However, they will lose their potency, flavor, and aroma over time, especially if stored incorrectly.
In fact, it’s not even common to see molds growing thriving on a bottle of black pepper as well!
In this article, you will find out the answers regarding peppers.
- What is the shelf life of black pepper?
- How to tell if black pepper has gone bad?
- How to store black pepper properly?
What is Black Pepper?
Black pepper comes from a flowering vine of the Piperaceae family. It is known as the world’s most traded spice, and they are mainly grown for its tiny circular dark red drupe fruit, known as peppercorns. (*)
It is undeniable that black peppers are one of the common but extraordinary spices you can find in any kitchen around the world. Generally, they are utilized as flavor enhancers in different types of dishes. We will focus on whole peppercorns and black pepper powder for this post.
Aside from black peppercorns, there is also white, pink, and red. The peppercorn berried are harvested before they ripen, then they undergo a quick boiling process before drying.
Ground black pepper.
This is the finely grounded form of peppercorns. The typical examples are your black pepper, red pepper, and white pepper powder.
What Is the Shelf Life of Black Pepper?
It looks satisfying to see a rack full of ground spices and condiments in your kitchen. One of your most common and most favorite of them all is the black pepper. If you’re someone who loves spicing up their food with black pepper or peppercorns, you’ll always make sure that you have them all the time at home. So, how long does black pepper last?
The shelf life of peppers varies depending on what kind you have. In general, like all other spices or seasoning, pepper also loses its qualitative nature as time goes by.
Whether black, white, or red, it can last three to four years in food storage. Or, you can go by its best-by date.
Ground black pepper or ground pepper.
If we talk about ground pepper, they’ll last in your spices draw for one to two years. Or, you can also go by its best-by date.
Note: If you have a bottle of whole or ground black pepper one year past the date, the taste will be likely milder or may have lost its potency and flavor.
How To Tell If Black Pepper Has Gone Bad?
What could be the best tool to examine the shelf life of your black peppers? That’s what we call sensory evaluation. In other words, you need to check your black peppers’ appearance, smell, and taste to find out if they have already gone bad.
Whether you have a pack of whole peppercorns or ground black pepper, throw it away if it includes any of the following unwanted spoilage characteristics:
1. Moldy and wet.
This happens if water gets into the package. The moistened whole or ground back pepper becomes a potential breeding ground of molds and bacteria, making your ground black pepper powder unsafe for consumption. Discard this pepper immediately.
2. Discoloration and foul smell.
Any appearance and odor changes indicate that your whole or ground pepper powder is not of the best quality anymore. Discard it for your safety.
3. Loss of heat and flavor.
If you have an old pack of ground pepper powder, expect that its potency has declined as well. If your black pepper powder does not hold the same level of heat and flavor, then it’s time for you to get a new one.
Note: If you wish to save your ground black pepper, you can bring it back to life by toasting it on a skillet under low to medium flame until it gives off its natural fragrance. You need to stir the black pepper powder from time to time to not get burned.
How To Store Black Pepper Properly?
Storing black pepper is as easy as keeping any other spices. Note that air, heat, direct sunlight, and moisture are the factors or the enemies that you must remember when storing black pepper.
We mean to say that you should have the ideal food storage that can help minimize the exposure of your black pepper to these elements as much as possible.
Whether you have whole peppercorns or ground black pepper, here are some general tips on how to help extend their storage time.
1. Close the jar or container correctly after every use.
Always make sure that you close the bottle of your black pepper properly. This will help prevent moisture and oxygen from destroying the flavor and potency.
On the other hand, ground black pepper is usually kept in a pepper mill. Just make sure to close the cap when you’re done using it.
2. Keep your black pepper in a cool and dark environment.
The pantry, dark cabinet, or spice drawer is ideal for keeping your whole pepper or ground black pepper. Placing them on open spaces like your spice rack and any near sources of heat in the kitchen will increase the likelihood for your black pepper to lose potency due to direct sunlight exposure.
3. Put them in an airtight container.
Some black pepper powders or peppercorns are packed in small plastic bags or refill packs. If that’s the type you bought, we advise you to transfer them to airtight containers to help your black pepper powder and peppercorns retain their freshness.
Note: The abovementioned practices may sound too easy to do, but they can significantly help save you money and give your favorite dish the perfect flavor you want.
Frequently Asked Questions
Black pepper is one of the top ingredients you don’t want it to miss in your kitchen.
Just like most spices, black pepper can also go bad under food storage conditions that are not up to the mark like all other ingredients.
Whole peppercorns and ground black pepper can be stored for a more extended period as long as you keep them away from moisture, light, and heat. Make sure to check the expiry date before using an old pepper.
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