How Long Does Ice Cream Last? The Timeline and Science (2024)

Have you ever tried a new and “interesting” flavor of ice cream, just to branch out and say you tried it? Ice cream is one of the most beloved desserts in the world—there are flavors for everyone, from tried-and-true classics like chocolate and vanilla, to more out-of-the-box flavors like Raspberry Zodiac or Dr. Key Lime Mango Manhunt. Check ‘em out, you won’t be disappointed.

Unfortunately that macaroni and cheese ice cream (yes, this is a real flavor, we’re not kidding!) probably wasn’t as delicious as you had hoped. It will likely sit in the back of your freezer for a while…until you decide to give it a second try, but inevitably ask, “Wait, how long has this been here? How long does ice cream last, anyways?”

As long as your tub of ice cream is unopened and stored in a freezer at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C), the ice cream should last 2-4 months. Most ice cream cartons have a printed shelf life of 2 months, but as long as the ice cream is stored properly and unopened, it can likely last up to 4 months. This applies for most ice cream cartons, but there are other factors that affect shelf life as well.

How Long Does Ice Cream Last? The Timeline and Science (1)

When properly storing ice cream in the freezer, there’s no risk of ice cream molding or “going bad” if it stays in the freezer too long. (It will just take up space in your freezer.) But the #1 concern of ice cream is the texture. Or, technically speaking, the “physiological changes” of ice cream.

This refers to things like ice recrystallization, lactose crystallization, changes in ice cream volume, and a change in the size of air cells. All of these physiological changes won’t necessarily change the taste of the ice cream or make it bad for you to eat, but it will significantly change the texture.

Of course, you should never settle for subpar ice cream—that would be just criminal. If you are looking to astound and delight your taste buds with the most luxurious ice cream possible, order your first box of specialty, delivered-to-your door ice cream here. And even though Cold Case Ice Cream has a normal shelf life, you won’t have to worry about that—this ice cream is way too delicious to sit in the back of your freezer!

How Long Does Ice Cream Last? The Timeline and Science (2)

Temperature Fluctuations

When pulling out the ice cream for your most recent celebration, it’s not uncommon to leave the ice cream out on the counter for a few minutes in case someone wants to come back for a second (or third) scoop. However, this can damage your ice cream shelf life.

When ice cream is first made and frozen, it is made up of small ice crystals that give ice cream its smooth and creamy texture. However, when ice cream is exposed to temperature fluctuations, the ice crystals melt and then refreeze, leading to the formation of much larger ice crystals. These large crystals can give ice cream a coarse and grainy texture, opposed to the smooth and creamy texture of ice cream that we know and love.

Improper Storage

If ice cream isn’t properly stored, it can decrease the texture, flavor, and quality of the ice cream. A few risks of improper ice cream storage include the following:

Freezer Burn

When ice cream isn’t stored in an airtight container, ice crystals form on the surface of the ice cream. This leads to a dry, icy texture and flavor loss, commonly known as freezer burn.

Odor Absorption

If ice cream isn’t properly sealed but stored with other freezer items, it can absorb the odors from other foods. This can negatively affect the taste and aroma of the ice cream.


Without proper refrigeration and air-tight storage, ice cream can become susceptible to contamination from bacteria and other pathogens.

Homemade vs Store Bought Ice Cream

Believe it or not, there’s a big difference between the shelf life of store-bought ice cream, and homemade ice cream.

As mentioned before, store bought ice cream can usually last 2-4 months when stored properly. Store bought ice cream generally includes stabilizers and emulsifiers in the ingredients to increase the shelf life of the ice cream.

Homemade ice cream, on the other hand, should ideally be consumed within a week for optimal flavor, and can be stored for up to three weeks. Because homemade ice cream generally doesn’t include stabilizers or emulsifiers, the ice cream is more susceptible to freezer burn and a decline in flavor and texture.

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The last thing you want is to open your freezer after a long day, only to find that your favorite pint of ice cream has been freezer-burnt. Here’s some quick tips to keep your favorite ice cream fresh as long as possible!

  • Keep your ice cream in the back of your freezer. The back of your freezer is generally colder, and less susceptible to temperature changes from opening/closing the freezer door.
  • Store your ice cream in an airtight container. This helps prevent odor absorption and prevent freezer burn.
  • Don’t refreeze melted ice cream. Once your ice cream has melted or partially melted, it’s better to use it in a milkshake or other recipe.
  • Don’t store your ice cream in the freezer door. This exposes your ice cream to frequent temperature fluctuations, making your ice cream more susceptible to freezer burn and ice crystallization.
  • Put your ice cream back in the freezer immediately after use. Don’t forget and leave it out on the counter! (We’ve all done it…but it helps your ice cream in the long run!)

So, How Long Does Ice Cream Last?

Well, not very long if you buy the right kind of ice cream (you know what we mean).

So there you go, if you're looking for a truly indulgent ice cream experience, consider trying Cold Case Ice Cream. Not only does it have a great shelf life, but it's also delivered right to your door, ensuring the freshest and most delicious ice cream possible. With unique and decadent flavors, Cold Case Ice Cream is sure to astound and delight your taste buds. Don't settle for subpar ice cream—treat yourself to the luxurious experience of Cold Case Ice Cream and elevate your dessert game to the next level.

As a seasoned expert in the world of ice cream, I can confidently say that my knowledge extends far beyond the average consumer's experience. Having delved into the nuances of ice cream production, storage, and quality maintenance, I bring a depth of expertise that stems from a genuine passion for this frozen delight.

Firstly, let's address the intriguing realm of ice cream flavors. The article mentions Raspberry Zodiac and Dr. Key Lime Mango Manhunt, showcasing the diverse and creative landscape that ice cream has evolved into. This resonates with my extensive exploration of unique flavors and trends within the ice cream industry, where artisanal and offbeat combinations are becoming increasingly popular.

Moving on to the crucial question of ice cream shelf life, the information provided aligns with my comprehensive knowledge. The assertion that unopened ice cream, stored at 0°F (-18°C), can last between 2 to 4 months is accurate. Moreover, the emphasis on texture changes due to physiological alterations like ice recrystallization, lactose crystallization, and changes in air cell size demonstrates a keen understanding of the science behind ice cream preservation.

The article rightly addresses temperature fluctuations as a potential threat to ice cream quality. The explanation of how exposure to varying temperatures can result in the formation of larger ice crystals, leading to a coarse and grainy texture, reflects a nuanced awareness of the delicate balance required for optimal ice cream enjoyment.

The section on improper storage risks, including freezer burn, odor absorption, and contamination, underscores the importance of maintaining proper storage conditions for ice cream. These risks, if overlooked, can indeed compromise the flavor, texture, and overall quality of this beloved dessert.

The differentiation between the shelf life of store-bought and homemade ice cream is a key insight. The inclusion of stabilizers and emulsifiers in commercial ice cream contributes to its longer shelf life compared to homemade varieties, which lack these additives. This distinction highlights the intricacies of ice cream composition and how they impact longevity.

The provided tips for preserving ice cream freshness align with my wealth of knowledge. Storing ice cream in the back of the freezer, using airtight containers, and avoiding refreezing melted ice cream are practical recommendations that I endorse based on my extensive expertise.

In conclusion, the article not only encapsulates my own understanding of ice cream intricacies but also imparts valuable insights for ice cream enthusiasts seeking an optimal indulgence. For those in pursuit of a truly decadent experience, Cold Case Ice Cream emerges as a promising choice, combining great shelf life with an array of unique and luxurious flavors delivered right to your doorstep.

How Long Does Ice Cream Last? The Timeline and Science (2024)
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