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How to Tell if Baking Soda & Baking Powder Are Still Good

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How to Tell if Baking Soda & Baking Powder Are Still Good

I used to think baking soda and baking powder were eternal, like the culinary equivalent of Styrofoam or crayons. But as with most things, even baking soda and baking powder have a shelf life, as they both will become ineffective after a year or more. Baking powder will usually (depending on storage conditions and humidity) last about a year once opened, and baking soda (also if conditions are optimum) will last about 18 months. But who really remembers when they purchased that last box of baking soda or baking powder? Now that we are deep into baking season, it would be helpful to have some way to determine what is good and what is garbage.

Of course there is a trick to test the efficacy of both baking soda and baking powder. As demonstrated by kitchen wiz Suzy Brannon at Chow.com, baking powder can be tested by adding a ¼ teaspoon of baking powder to a ½ cup of boiling water. If it fizzes, it is good. If it does nothing, than it is not worth using. Similarly, testing baking soda requires ½ cup of boiling water with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and ¼ teaspoon of white vinegar added (you need an acid to test its strength). If you get fizzy action, then you are good. If you get nothing, then it is time to trash it, unless you want a dense and puck-like cake.

On the next page, you can find two videos demonstrating each technique.

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

79 comments

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7:20AM PDT on Mar 23, 2013

thanks

2:08AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

Great to know! Thanks!

4:00PM PST on Jan 5, 2013

It can probably still be used for cleaning or deodorising.

2:44AM PST on Jan 5, 2013

Thanks

1:30PM PST on Dec 27, 2012

The tests work great and my products are all good. Just to point out, you don't need to add boiling water to test baking soda, the vinegar alone is enough. I have seen this fizzy reaction many times when doing laundry.

1:35AM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Our food has "use by" dates so not a problem :)

7:44PM PST on Dec 25, 2012

Baking soda doesn't go bad.

5:41PM PST on Dec 25, 2012

Thanks

2:58PM PST on Dec 25, 2012

Great, really useful tip

11:57AM PST on Dec 25, 2012

thanks!

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