That mustard that's been in the refrigerator since last summer's cookout should still be okay to slather on a hot dog this weekend. But if you're pulling out pickles and ketchup of the same vintage, it's safer to toss them than dress your burger with them. Mustard typically keeps for a year in the refrigerator but the shelf life of most other condiments is much shorter.
You might want to check the expiration date of your sauces and toppings before your first picnic this season. Here's how long the Food Safety and Inspection Service says you can safely refrigerate certain things after they've been opened. (You can check other foods by using the Food Keeper feature on the Food Marketing Institute website.)
- Ketchup, cocktail or chili sauce: 6 months;
- Chutney: 1 to 2 months;
- Horseradish: 3 to 4 months;
- Mustard: 12 months;
- Pickles and olives: 2 weeks;
- Mayonnaise and salad dressing: Up to 2 months;
- Barbecue sauce: 4 months;
- Worchestershire sauce: 12 months;
- Jams and jellies: 6 months.
Of course, food stays freshest when your refrigerator is kept at the right temperature, which is 37 degrees to 38 degrees F for the fridge and 0 degrees F for the freezer. If your refrigerator doesn't have a built-in thermometer, buy an appliance thermometer. When Consumer Reports tests refrigerators it looks for consistent temperature performance. The best score an excellent on our tests but we've found some clunkers such as the bottom-freezer Blomberg BRFB1450, $2,200, which was not only mediocre in keeping a constant temperature but was an energy hog as well.
—Mary H.J. Farrell