Baked beans are a dish that can be traced back to even beyond the development of America, where Native Americans1 would cultivate the delicious white beans that are so commonly canned and stewed to this day. Though baked beans are most often found in a sealed and disinfected can, once they have been exposed to air and light, bacterial cultures will begin immediate colonization. This is why it is vital to consume your baked beans shortly after cooking, should you choose not to preserve them.
According to a research article conducted by joint US government food safety agencies, microorganisms multiply rapidly in wet environments around room temperature, the exact sort of environment baked beans provide once removed from their can. This means that Baked Beans will only last a total of two to three hours2 before becoming unsafe to eat. Because of this, freezing is recommended for storage purposes, which can extend their shelf life up to six months so long as the conditions are ideal.
Can You Freeze Baked Beens?
Baked beans can be frozen. However, owing to their high water content as well as their high protein macronutrient profile, they are the perfect breeding ground for opportunistic bacteria. While cans of baked beans are sterilized during production3, exposure to the elements will introduce new cultures of microorganisms to your food. This is why freezing is essential for anyone who wishes to store them for later use.
How Long Do Baked Beans Last Outside of the Fridge?
As previously mentioned, baked beans are highly susceptible to bacterial colonization. Once opened, heat and consume immediately or follow our steps to save them for later, as they will last less than six hours outside of a cooled environment.
How Long Do Baked Beans Last in the Fridge?
While freezing is the absolute best long-term storage for baked beans, in some instances, defrosting them becomes a hindrance. Because of this, choosing to refrigerate your baked beans is the ideal situation, so long as it is kept in mind that the shelf life of the beans will be reduced.
To refrigerate your baked beans, pour them evenly into a clean glass or plastic container and seal with cling film or similar product, ensuring that no excess airflow can possibly introduce more bacteria to the beans.
A roll of plastic cling wrap, a sufficiently large plastic or glass container with an airtight cover as well as a freezer is all that’s needed.
Freezing Baked Beans
To begin freezing your baked beans, first remove them from the can and heat them up in a saucepan. Once properly cooked, cover the saucepan and allow to cool to room temperature. Baked beans, owing to their fragile skin and high water content, have a tendency to rupture and burst when rapidly frozen, owing to the crystallization effect of low temperatures. Gradually cooling them to room temperature will allow the beans to retain their texture and shape.
After allowing the beans to return to room temperature, retrieve your glass or plastic container and fill it in such a way that several inches of free space are present between the beans and the cover of the container. After doing so, place the beans within your fridge for approximately six hours before retrieving them and placing them in your freezer. This is to ensure the absolute minimum damage to the beans from the process of rapidly cooking and then freezing them.
Thawing Baked Beans
While thawing and reheating your baked beans in the microwave sounds far more convenient, this will alter the texture of the beans. The ideal route to take when choosing to thaw your beans is by reheating them over low heat in a covered saucepan, allowing the baked beans to gradually thaw without rupturing them. This will also ensure an even heating of your baked beans.
Can Baked Beans Be Re-frozen?
In the event that you have defrosted too large an amount of baked beans or a power failure has interrupted your freezer’s function, you may find yourself needing to refreeze the thawed beans. Simply reproduce the steps found in this article in order to best refreeze them.
Keep in mind that every time your baked beans are thawed, bacterial and enzymatic action is taking place, reducing their shelf-life. A container of baked beans will have a reduced shelf-life, and will not last as long as baked beans that have been frozen continuously.
It is also important to note that the process of thawing and freezing and thawing the baked beans will degrade their texture over time, leading to a lower quality product with each subsequent cycle.
Is First Placing the Baked Beans in the Fridge Optional?
While it is highly recommended that you introduce your baked beans to the freezing temperatures of your freezer gradually, it is entirely possible to place the freshly cooked baked beans directly into your freezer, so long as you understand the effect this will have on their texture. Ensure that there is sufficient space between the beans and the cover of the container, as rapidly freezing the still-warm beans will cause significant expansion.
Signs of spoilage in Baked Beans
The ideal way to tell if your baked beans have succumbed to bacterial colonization is, asides from measuring the time since opening the can, to visually inspect them. While some discoloration is normal when cooking baked beans, any signs of off-colors or mold should warrant an immediate disposal of your baked beans. This is doubly so for any unusual scents that may arise when defrosting and reheating them.
Things to keep in Mind
Though this article primarily focuses on the more common sort of canned baked beans, home cooked baked beans are also subject to the procedures in this article. While dried beans are not subject to sterilization like canned beans are, the cooking process used while softening the dried beans also acts as a form of sterilization.
1. Michael Sletcher, (2004). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: New England. Greenwood Press
2. Unknown author, (December 2020). 4 steps to food safety, foodsafety.gov
3. Lauren O’Callaghan (August 2016). How are your baked beans REALLY made? Behind the scenes footage at a factory reveals ALL BBC Network Express.