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Does Spam Go Bad? All You Need To Know About Its Shelf Life And Expiration

Last Updated: August 2, 2022

Spam, one of mankind’s greatest creations. Does it go bad? Let’s find out.

Spam can be eaten as a steak with rice, as a sushi component, with noodles, or with bread in a mean sandwich. This traditional canned meat is a staple in homes throughout the world with pricing ranging from $1.50 to over $8 a can in Asia. Spam may not sound appealing, but prepared correctly, it’s a satisfying salty protein with minimal effort.

Spam with ramen noodles, Lauri Patterson, Getty Images
Spam “Musubi”, RocksterWho, Getty Images

Used for quick meals and with an incredible shelflife, this is an item you’ll see at least one of in many a prepper’s storage.

Sure to keep you sustained in any disaster scenario, Spam can be eaten cold but is better served hot.

No power? Now it’s time to take out your camping stove and fry up some Spam.

Spam can save the day and keep you and your family well-fed.

But how long does it last?

And how long can we keep it in our pantries, in the back, knowing it’s there for a rainy day?

The exact expiration date of a canned product depends on rust, humidity, temperature, and exposure to light. Nonetheless, let’s estimate how many years Spam can hold up to the test of time.

What Is Spam?

Before we dive into shelflife and expiration dates, let’s take a step back and look at what Spam is.

Spam is comprised of deboned pork shoulder meat and ham — no other scraps of a pig.

The meat is then ground and vacuum mixed with salt, sugar, sodium nitrite, and water as the main ingredients. That’s six key ingredients.

Spam food label

Sodium nitrate works to preserve the flavor and color of the pork shoulder and ham, removing the need for artificial color additives. Sodium nitrate also stops the meat from going bad by inhibiting the oxidation of the fats (lipids) in the meat, preventing bacteria from forming in the meat.

Other additives include modified potato starch included that binds the ingredients together. The modified potato starch not only binds the ingredients to give Spam a consistent texture and taste, but it helps protect the meat from extreme changes in temperatures or acidity levels.

Spam is stable. Not a mystery meat, it’s essentially pork shoulder, ham, and salt mixed with some potato starch and canned very well. With Hormell’s canning history reaching over 75 years, the canning process has been quality-assured at least 75 times in a row.

How Long Does Spam Last?

All canned goods have a “Best Consumed Before” date printed somewhere on the can.

Hormel, the producers of Spam and many other canned goods, state that the contents should be eaten by the date printed on the bottom of each Spam can.

However, canned goods retain nutrition and sustenance long after the Best-Before date. Instead of viewing the date as a use-by date, consider it a best before date, where food can be eaten after the date stated. When it comes to Spam and other canned goods, the best before date usually indicates a product’s time before losing its prime quality, texture, and flavor.

Stored properly, with light, temperature, humidity, and the can’s integrity managed well, canned goods can be eaten long after they’ve officially expired. But, remember, anything stored long-term with over 10% moisture content carries the risk of botulism poisoning upon consumption.

Steel food cans are like atmospherically controlled containers. They protect food from air and light to prevent spoilage. Providing that your can of Spam is not bulging and has no dents or punctures, then it should be safe for you to consume.

A great general rule of thumb for a prepper is:

When in doubt, throw it out.

Prepper Values

You don’t want to eat anything that has gone bad, so keep an eye out for smells or color changes, and don’t take any chances because botulism is not a happy state.

Spam does contain other additives and preservatives other than the six mentioned. They help the food last for a long time. Spam is also packaged at high temperatures to help extend the shelf life. The same concept applies to freeze-drying. Therefore, a few cans will be stable in your pantry for two to five years.

Once a tin is open, it will last in the refrigerator for three to five days.

Storing Spam

Storing Spam

What are the best conditions to store Spam?

  • Dark — no sunlight
  • Between 50 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Spam-can-integrity (no dents, cracks, or breakage)
  • Humidity levels at approximately 50%
  • No rust

You will want to keep it in the dark and dry cupboard where the temperature does not exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit or get colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If your Spam can freezes, it could expand and break the seal integrity.

If you notice any of your cans are leaking, rusted, or dented, then throw them away. Their integrity will be compromised, and they won’t be safe to eat.

Without electricity or cooling, you will want to eat the contents once opened to avoid warm temperatures spoiling your Spam.

Once opened, generally, a can of spam will provide a full complement to a meal for two people, reducing the need to store leftover Spam from one can. When storing open Spam cans, cover them with plastic cling wrap and place them in the fridge.

You can also place the Spam in plastic Tupperware containers and keep it refrigerated until your next meal, keeping your Spam as fresh as possible!

In Closing

Spam, it’s what’s for dinner.

In closing, Spam lasts for as long as five years in the proper storage conditions. Check your long-term storage conditions regularly, for once your item is spoiled, there’s no use for it other than fertilizer and reusable packaging.

In case you’re wondering about a decent Spam recipe, here’s one for you.

“Always Be Ready” Max

Spam Musubi

Spam, the love-it-or-hate-it canned ham, was introduced in 1937 and gained popularity during World War II, when more than 150 million pounds were shipped to American troops overseas. Soldiers introduced it to locals, who used the product to create spin-offs of regional dishes like Japanese onigiri and Korean budae jjigae. According to Hormel Foods Corporation, residents of Hawaii eat more Spam than those of any other state. A popular way to eat it there is in the tradition of Japanese omusubi: Stack a pan-fried slice of Spam and a rice patty and wrap a piece of roasted nori around it. This version of the dish is adapted from “Aloha Kitchen: Recipes From Hawai‘i,” a cookbook of classic Hawaiian dishes by Alana Kysar.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Course Spam Musubi
Cuisine Korean
Servings 8 servings

Equipment

  • 1 Rice Cooker
  • 1 Frying Pan

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 can 120oz Spam cut horizontally into 8 slices
  • 3 sheets roasted sushi nori cut into thirds crosswise
  • 2 tsp furikake
  • 5-6 cups short-grain white rice

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, sugar and mirin (if using). Set aside.
  • Lightly coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil and heat over medium.
    Fry the Spam slices until evenly browned and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
    Turn off the heat.
    Working quickly to avoid burning, add the soy mixture and turn the Spam slices until evenly coated in glaze. Immediately transfer the Spam slices and glaze to a plate.
  • To mold the musubi, start by placing a strip of nori, rough side up, on a cutting board or clean work surface.
    Place a Spam musubi maker mold over it, in the middle, then place a slice of Spam into the mold. (If you don’t have a mold, you can line a clean Spam can with plastic wrap instead, and place a slice of Spam at the bottom.)
    Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon furikake over the Spam, then fill the mold or can with a generous mound of rice.
    Press the rice firmly with the musubi maker press or with your hands until it is 3/4- to 1-inch thick, adding more rice as needed.
  • Use the press to hold the rice down with one hand and pull the mold upward to unmold the musubi with your other hand. (If you’re using the Spam can, gently lift the Spam and rice out of the can by gently pulling on both sides of the plastic wrap.)
    Wrap the nori around the Spam-rice stack, bringing both ends of the strip to the middle, folding one over the other, and flipping it over so the seam is down and the Spam is facing up.
    Repeat with remaining ingredients.
    Serve immediately or wrap with plastic wrap to take with you on the go.
Keyword spam, spam and rice

How Spam Is Made by madehow.com

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