If you are rifling through your kitchen cupboards and you come across an old packet of meringue powder, you might be wondering whether it ever expires, or if it’s okay to eat whenever. Dried food can last for a very long time, so does meringue powder ever go off, or does it last for good?
Does meringue powder expire? Meringue powder has a shelf life of two years in general, so if it is older than this, you should probably discard it. Meringue powder has egg whites in it, and should not be used past its date, because eggs are a common source of food poisoning and it is better not to risk this. The mix may not have preservatives in to make it last longer.
What is Meringue Powder Made Of?
Meringue powder ingredients may vary slightly, but in general, it will be made of dried egg whites, cornstarch, citric acid, sugar, and stabilizers to keep the product good even as time passes.
Of all these ingredients, the egg whites are the ones that are most likely to expire. They have been preserved by being dried, as dried foods tend to be less vulnerable to mold than wet ones, with bacteria and mold invading any damp food.
However, despite this preservation method, egg whites can still go off. The other ingredients probably will not do so (although their quality may degrade with time). Cornstarch, sugar, and citric acid should last very well, even when left for years, but egg whites won’t stay good forever.
How Can You Make Meringue Powder Last Longer?
Storing your meringue powder properly is key to making sure that it lasts. If it isn’t stored properly, meringue powder will expire even before the estimated date. Meringue powder should be kept in a cool, dark, dry place – with the emphasis on dry.
You should not ever let meringue powder get wet, because this will compromise the stability of the egg whites. Even sugar can mold if you let it get wet.
In general, meringue powder will be kept in some sort of plastic packaging that should stop the mix from getting wet even if it is put in a damp corner of a cupboard, but it is better not to test this. A small hole in the packet could result in moldy mixture.
If the packet of your meringue powder gets damaged, decant the powder into a sealed, airtight container, and label and date it so that you know what’s in there. Don’t leave it in a damaged packet, because even the moisture in the air could cause the mix to become damp, and that might cause it to go off.
If your meringue powder is in a tub, make sure you put the lid on firmly after each use.
Do You Need to Refrigerate Meringue Powder?
No, meringue powder does not need to be refrigerated. Indeed, it should not be, as the inside of a fridge is often damp, and this will cause meringue powder to turn moldy. You should not put meringue powder in your fridge, even in a sealed container; there is no benefit to doing this.
Instead, keep meringue powder as instructed on the packaging, in a cool, dry place. Don’t expose it to heat or moisture, and it should last well.
How Do You Know If Meringue Powder is Okay to Use?
If you are in doubt about meringue powder, it is safer not to use it because of the egg in the product. However, if you want to check whether meringue powder is okay, sniff it and examine it visually. It should not smell moldy or stale, and it should not have any spots of color in it.
If the meringue powder has any dark or unusual color spots in it, you should discard it. These might be spots of mold and if so, the mold spores will be spread throughout the product even if you can’t see them.
An odd smell is also a sure sign that the meringue powder has gone off, and it should be thrown away.
When uncertain, it is safest to throw away meringue powder and buy a fresh supply, rather than risking using it in food. Even cooked food may not make it safe to consume.
How Do You Read the Expiry Codes on Meringue Powder?
If you’re looking for an expiry date on a meringue packet, you might find you can’t locate one! However, you should be able to find a product code. It should be about eight digits long, and the first two digits represent the year. The next three digits tell you the number of the day that the product was made on.
For example, if your meringue powder says 21024555, you should take the 21 to mean that the product was made in 2021. The next three digits, 024, tell you that it was made on the 24th day of the year. This would be January 24th.
You can then use this to work out how long ago the meringue powder was made, and how much longer it should therefore last (or if it is out of date). It should be okay for two years after this date.
What Can You Use Meringue Powder For?
If you have meringue powder that’s going off soon and you are trying to use it up, you might be wondering what to use it for, apart from meringues. Fortunately, it has quite a few uses, including in royal icing, the topping for a lemon meringue pie, and piped meringue cookies.
Whenever you have a recipe that calls for egg whites, you can use meringue powder instead. It has the advantage of being sterile, whereas raw egg whites carry a slight risk of salmonella. However, the disadvantage of meringue powder is that it can have a somewhat grainy texture, which may be noticeable in the dessert.
Meringue powder that has gone past its expiry date should not be used. It contains dried egg whites and while these may not be dangerous, they are potentially unsafe to use when they are no longer in date. Because egg carries a salmonella risk, it is safer to throw away expired egg products, even dried ones.