How Long You Can Expect An Open Box Of Chicken Stock To Last

A box of store-bought chicken stock can be a real lifesaver when it comes to getting dinner on the table quickly or to avoid an extra grocery run. The ingredient is invaluable for its convenience and shelf stability — in fact, an unopened carton can last up to two years when stored properly. But once you pop one of those cartons open, how much time do you really have to use it up before it goes bad?

How long chicken stock lasts once opened varies from brand to brand, but in general, the product is good to use for three to five days after using it and refrigerating the leftover portions. If the packaging specifies that it will stay fresher for longer than that, you can follow the guidance — and feel free to keep leftovers in the original packaging as long as the box is not damaged and the lid still screws on tightly. Otherwise, it is best to transfer the liquid to a screw-top container or jar with a tight-fitting lid. And, be sure to stash it towards the back of the fridge where the temperature is coldest.

Do chicken stock and broth last for different amounts of time?

When it comes to store-bought cartons and cans of broth and stock, there is no standardized difference for how they are used or made — or for how long they last once opened. Both are typically made by diluting broth or stock concentrates that are sourced from large, third-party suppliers. 

Store-bought brands are made up of nearly identical base ingredients, and any differences in flavor come from vegetables and seasonings added by the company that purchased the concentrate. The terms broth and stock are simply used as marketing terminology, so when it comes to storage, you should treat both in the same way using the guidelines mentioned above.

However, there is a difference between stock and broth when made fresh. In general, stock is all about collagen. Bones — and sometimes vegetables or aromatics — are simmered in water until they start to break down. The result is a thick, richly-flavored liquid that sets up like gelatin when cooled. On the other hand, broth is made by cooking vegetables, aromatics, and meat or bones in water for a shorter amount of time. 

It may be helpful to think of broth as a ready-to-go soup and stock as the complex foundation for sauces or stews, though stock can also be diluted so it is broth-like. Three to five days is a good baseline for freshly made broth and stock, though some sources say they will last up to a week in the fridge.

The best ways to freeze leftover chicken stock

If you are faced with a carton of chicken stock or broth that you don't think you will be able to finish before it spoils, turn to your trusty freezer to salvage it. But, don't just throw that half empty carton in there; instead, transfer it into other vessels so that it is easy to incorporate into future recipes. That way you can also easily see how much you have stored, too.

Ice cube trays are a great tool. You can use a standard tray, or opt for a silicone mold that makes large cubes usually meant for cocktails. Freeze the stock, and then transfer the cubes into a freezer bag. These are perfect for when you deglaze a pan or want to add some oomph to simple pasta sauces. 

You could also invest in 1 and 2 cup deli containers — the kind that soups and curries are often packed in for to-go orders. These are available online and at restaurant supply stores. One cup portions are enough to thin out a stew, and two cups make a perfect single serving of silky egg drop soup. Chicken stock or broth will stay at optimal freshness in the freezer for up to three months, but it is safe to eat for longer than that if you don't mind a slight drop in quality.