- Ice cream can easily be negatively impacted by temperature change, so it’s important to handle it carefully.
- Microwaving ice cream will make it easy to scoop, but it will permanently damage the texture of the dessert.
- Wetting a scooper with warm or hot water is also a big no-no, as it can easily melt the ice cream and contribute to that unwelcome layer of ice crystals on top.
- Storing ice cream in the back of the freezer instead of in the freezer door can help extend the shelf life of your dessert.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ice cream is a delicious treat that can be enjoyed year-round, but it’s also a fickle one that can easily melt or form ice crystals when handled or stored improperly.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to extend the shelf life of this frosty dessert.
Here are some common mistakes people make when buying, serving, and storing ice cream and how to avoid them.
You don’t examine the ice-cream containers while at the grocery store.
“One of the biggest pain points in distribution for ice cream makers is grocery-store freezers,” Van Leeuwen said. “They are opened a lot and sometimes break down. Big temperature fluctuations can degrade the texture of the ice cream.”
Because of this, he said you should avoid buying from a freezer where the ice cream feels soft or where the containers are covered in frost. Instead, you may want to try asking the frozen-foods manager if they have any additional product in the back.
You don’t keep the lid of the container on tightly, which can cause your ice cream to form ice crystals.
It’s extremely important to put the lid of an ice-cream container on tightly before putting it back in the freezer.
This will help prevent ice crystals from forming on top of your dessert, per the International Dairy Foods Association.
You’re putting ice cream in your cart first instead of last, which can lead to a melted mess.
“My biggest ice-cream pet peeve is when I see shoppers start in the frozen aisle of the store and then shop all the other aisles while their ice cream melts in the bottom of their cart,” Aaron Beth Butterworth, a senior specialist who works on innovating products for Dreyer’s Ice Cream, told Insider.
It’s best to do all of your other shopping first and then swing by the ice-cream aisle last so that your frozen dessert is the last thing in your cart and it stays cold for longer.
“Also try to bring insulated shopping bags and get it home as quickly as possible so the delicate air and ice structure are not disrupted by the melting/outside temperatures, especially in summer,” Butterworth added.
You microwave your ice cream just to slightly soften it, which can ruin the texture of the entire dessert.
The biggest mistake people make when serving ice cream is putting it in the microwave to make it soft, according to Butterworth.
Since the microwave warms things so quickly, your ice cream gets more “melted” rather than “softened.”
Plus, this seemingly handy trick can permanently “ruin” the texture of your ice cream, according to Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
Butterworth explained that when you microwave ice cream, it melts out the air pockets that make the dessert so fluffy and soft.
Wetting your scooper or spoon with hot water before serving ice cream is handy, but it’s not great in the long run.
Although wetting your ice-cream scoop or spoon with hot or warm water will make it easy to serve up the dessert, Britton Bauer said this is a mistake.
“What happens is that water from a wet scoop glazes your ice cream with a thin layer of ice, and a hot and wet scoop actually melts ice cream too much. Then the remaining ice cream will form ice crystals faster when you return it to your freezer,” Britton Bauer told Insider.
A room-temperature scooper is always the way to go, she added. It will melt just a little bit of the ice cream as you run it over the surface, giving the scoop enough slide.
Putting melted ice cream in the freezer won’t magically fix the dessert.
After you’re done scooping your ice cream into your bowl, put the carton right back in the freezer, Britton Bauer told Insider.
“Any part of the ice cream that melts will freeze into crunchy ice crystals (what looks like freezer burn) and will attract more ice crystals to form,” Britton Bauer said.
When it comes to storage, the worst place to put your ice cream is in the freezer door.
- Diana Haronis / Contributor/Getty
“Never place ice cream in the freezer door because it is the warmest part of your freezer. It’s where the temperature of your ice cream could fluctuate the most,” Britton Bauer told Insider. “This is a big problem, especially when trying to prevent freezer burn.”
Instead, store it in one of the corners in the back, as this is the coldest part of the freezer, she added.
Storing ice cream next to foods with strong odors can lead to funky tasting desserts.
- ben-bryant/ iStock
Another thing you want to avoid when storing your ice cream is placing it next to foods with strong odors, said Butterworth.
“Dairy tends to absorb smells easily, so we always want to try to store product away from very strong scented things (i.e. fish, pizza, super-strong mint),” Butterworth told Insider.
If your freezer isn’t cold enough, your ice cream can’t thrive.
Although ice cream is easier to scoop when it’s not as cold, it’s best when stored at chilly temperatures.
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, ice cream should be thoroughly frozen and should feel hard to the touch. Ideally, it should be stored between temperatures of -5 and 0 degrees Fahrenheit,
If your freezer has adjustable temperature settings, put it on the coldest option, preferably 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below, Britton Bauer recommended.
It’s fine to eat ice cream that’s been open for longer than a week, but it may not be as tasty as when you first brought it home.
No matter how well you store your ice cream, keeping your dessert in the freezer for a prolonged period of time will eventually alter the flavor and texture of your ice cream, per Serious Eats.
As Van Leeuwen told Insider, you want to eat ice cream in a timely manner and you should avoid buying “an oversized container if it won’t get eaten right away.”
Covering your ice cream with wax paper or parchment paper can help you avoid that unpleasant layer of icy crystals.
- Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
“To extend the life of your ice cream, I recommend covering the surface with wax paper or parchment paper, whichever you have on hand,” Britton Bauer said. “This will help prevent an icy layer from forming atop your ice cream.”
But you’ll want to avoid using plastic wrap, as it will freeze into the folds of your ice cream, she explained.