If you mass-produce hot sauce for sale it may not get shipped immediately and will have to be stored while orders are taken and it gets shipped for delivery. You should not make more sauce than what your projected sales indicate but forecasting can prove to be difficult and there may be times when you want to consider refrigerating your hot sauce to keep it fresh.
A hot sauce does not need to be refrigerated unless it has a pH of 4.6 or higher. Most hot sauces will have a high vinegar content which will reduce the pH to a shelf-stable level below 4.6 pH. Hot sauce should be stored in room temperature conditions between 68o F (20o C) and 72o F (22o C) to ensure that it retains its potency, flavor, and freshness over time.
Refrigeration will take additional upfront costs for equipment and ongoing operational costs to power the equipment, refrigerator, or cooler. This will also take up space in the facility where you make hot sauce, especially if you produce it on a large scale. Fortunately, hot sauce comes in smaller containers so you can fit a lot of sauce in a standard 18 cubic foot refrigerator.
There will also be an additional cost for shipping if the sauce needs to be refrigerated during delivery. Typically, only sauces containing dairy products like cheese, cream, or milk would need consistent refrigerated delivery and storage, and these ingredients are unusual in a hot sauce.
Storing hot sauce in the refrigerator
If you have the room in a refrigerator or a refrigerated cooler, then there is no reason not to store hot sauce in these conditions but most hot sauces don’t need to. This will keep the flavor of the hot sauce consistent with the original recipe if a sauce needs to be stored for long durations. A refrigerator will usually have consistent temperatures and it is the inconsistent storing conditions that can influence the original flavoring of the hot sauce.
Typically, a refrigeration unit is kept at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius. Bacterial growth that creates food poisoning grows at temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature inside of the refrigerator is important as well because you don’t want a hot sauce to freeze, it’s just not the same.
It is important to test hot sauce for pH level throughout long storage and varying temperature conditions to ensure it will maintain its flavor and heat level.
Refrigeration is considered a form of preservation and will slow down the decay and bacterial growth of fresh foods, therefore the refrigerator or icebox was invented. However subtle it may be a hot sauce can change flavor, appearance, and heat level over time. The right stored conditions can prevent this from happening.
What happens if a stored hot sauce gets too hot?
Ideally, a hot sauce with a pH of 4.6 or below can be stored for long durations if temperatures are kept between 68o and 72o Fahrenheit or 20o – 22o Celsius. If these temperatures fluctuate too much, or the temperatures exceed 72 degrees for too long it can affect the contents of the hot sauce.
Any hot sauce kept or stored at temperatures above 72 degrees has the chance that it will “cook” and this will change the flavor, color, and heat level of the sauce. Although slow cooking temperatures are slightly above 80 degrees, long-term storage in these conditions can cause a sauce to lose its heat and pungency. I make hot sauces that are cooked and they become thick and rich flavorful hot sauces. However, bottled and capped hot sauces may just become gooey if stored at temperatures over 80o F (26.67o C).
Does hot sauce go bad?
Hot sauce will go bad…eventually. Generally speaking, it takes a period of over 6 months for hot sauce to go bad, even after it is opened. Once opened make sure the cap and top are cleaned and there is not any residue that has dried inside the cap or around the top of the bottle. This could cause bacteria growth and the entire bottle of hot sauce to go bad before its expiration date. Always check the expiration date or “best if used by” date that the manufacturer has provided on the bottle.
How to maximize the shelf life of a hot sauce
The shelf life of a hot sauce can be increased or extended through contents such as vinegar, citrus juices, or preservatives. However, how a sauce is stored is also important to prolong the length in which it still tastes fresh. Refrigeration is a preservative method but, for the cost reasons stated above, it is not typically used for hot sauces.
Storing hot sauce long term
If you are not storing hot sauce in a refrigerator before or during delivery that it should be stored in “room temperature” conditions until the point of sale. These conditions and temperatures can fluctuate or change within the facility that the sauce is stored but conditions should fall between 68o F (20o C) and 72o F (22o C).
What is considered the average room temperature can be different by region or by industry. For example, the pharmaceutical industry’s definition of room temperature is slightly warmer than other industries.
It is safe to store hot sauce in these conditions, but the area or “room” must remain consistent with these temperatures. Regularly check and monitor temperatures and conditions of storage against the freshness of a hot sauce to ensure quality products are getting delivered. This can be done by pH testing, temperature testing, and taste testing a hot sauce over time.
Does hot sauce lose potency over time?
It has been my experience that hot sauces can change flavoring and the amount of heat over time. Some state that they can become hotter, less spicy, or become a “dull” flavor if not stored in the right conditions over time.
How to tell if a hot sauce has gone bad
You may think that it should be a no-brainer to tell if a hot sauce has gone bad or not but some acidic vinegar-based hot sauces will take a long time to expire. Dark or black dried hot sauce on the cap or top does not necessarily mean the hot sauce has gone bad but that the residue left has dried. This is seen on most ketchup and mustard containers as well. This can cause more bacteria to grow but is not an indication the sauce has gone bad.
Hot sauce can have a strong and pungent scent to it and it can be difficult to determine if it has gone bad just by smelling it. Unlike milk which has a short shelf life and strong odor when it has expired, hot sauce is a little more subtle. If there is fuzzy-looking spotty mold growth on the surface of a hot sauce… then it has gone bad…obviously