Iconic foods have been a part of our culture for so long that multiple generations are able to recognize brands decades old. Spam is an example of a pantry staple that is consumed in both lean and rich times.
Preppers and survivalists include Spam into their food supplies as a shelf stable, long-lasting source of protein that can be eaten raw or cooked.
Some people have cracked open and eaten a can of Spam long past its due date with no ill effects. We know a sealed can of Spam can last up to 5 years on the shelf, but how long does it last when opened?
Spam should last at least 7-10 days with refrigeration, though according to the manufacturer, Spam should be eaten within 2-3 days after being open (fridge or no fridge).
Now, you might have jumped to the conclusion that Spam might be unhealthy for you due to the preservatives in it, which is fair.
Although, you should probably keep reading to learn a little bit more about this product and how it might not be so bad for you after all.
What is Spam?
Spam is synonymous with meat in a can. It is as recognizable as corned beef or deviled ham. Preppers call it the ultimate survival food while campers call it a delicacy over the fire.
However, you view spam is part of the collective picture the blue can has implanted in our minds.
Health nuts may call Spam a chemical nightmare; others say it’s not even real meat.
You’d be surprised to learn that it’s actually just meat in a can that’s been preserved really well. It’s the process that gives it the manufactured look and texture, but in the end it is just meat.
What Ingredients Are In Spam?
There are few ingredients inside a can of Spam with the majority of them used in traditional methods of preserving meat. The ingredients according to the manufacturer are:
- Potato Starch
- Sodium Nitrite
The important ingredients to watch are salt and sodium nitrite. Both are great preservatives for long-term storage. They could have just used salt on its own but the sodium nitrite preserves the texture and taste.
Sodium nitrite prevents the fats from oxidizing which stops the bacteria from getting into the meat and spoiling it.
This pretty much makes it never have an expiry date. You don’t want to wait too long before eating it because the taste and texture are going to change the more it ages.
Afterwards the can is vacuum sealed and cooked off so that there is no chance of any bacteria causing issues with the product.
This combination of ingredients and manufacturing processes is what ensures the long shelf-life of Spam.
How Long is Spam Good For After Opening?
You can expect to get at least a week out of a can of opened Spam. This will be based on where you store the can.
The refrigerator will be the best place to put it since it will take longer for bacteria to start to grow.
If you are going to leave it out on the counter then you’ll want to consume it within a day as the meat will start to spoil quicker.
A lot of campers will take Spam on their fall and winter trips since the opened can will hold longer if they can’t eat it right away.
How Long is it Good For Unopened?
An unopened can of Spam can last up to 5 years on the shelf. There is a best before date that the manufacturer recommends you eat the food by.
The salt and sodium nitrite alone would be enough to preserve the meat for an extended period of time.
Add in the cooking and vacuum sealing processes and you have a rock solid survival food for your pantry.
What Does Spoiled Spam Look Like?
Old Spam is still fine to eat, however, spoiled spam can cause serious health problems if it is consumed. Spam that has gone bad when you start to smell a rotting smell from the can.
Once opened you’ll notice that the meat itself is glistening with a weird slime. If you still feel like eating it after noticing that then you will more than likely have a rough time later on.
Botulism is a real threat with spoiled Spam. It is commonly found in meat or food that is improperly stored. It can cause issues in your brain and if left unchecked can ultimately lead to your death.
Food poisoning is another problem with spoiled foods, including spam. This leads to intestinal distress, diarrhea, fever, and chills.
Can You Freeze Opened Spam?
Freezing opened Spam will preserve the product but destroy the taste and texture. It is best to finish a can after opening it to avoid any degradation. You have 7-10 days to finish it after it’s been opened.
Safety Precautions When Eating Spam
Unfortunately, the process that seals in the Spam goodness also makes the can susceptible to breaks and dents.
As with all canned products, any kind of malformation on the can may break the seal and allow bacteria to start breeding inside the can.
It is important to stay away from dented cans since they have a large potential for food poisoning.
If you open the can and notice the food is still fine, it could still be harboring some bacteria within. Make sure you keep your cans away from concrete walls.
If you open a can of Spam the shelf life is drastically reduced and you’ll want to consume it within a week after you put it in the fridge.
This slows down any bacteria from getting into the can and ensures that the taste is preserved. Spam is very similar to another form of survival food called Pemmican which also has a long shelf life.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve never tried Spam before then these questions might give you some of the answers that you’re looking for.
The manufacturer is playing it safe when it comes to the expiry date. The longevity of Spam goes way beyond the expiry date.
As long as the can is not damaged and the food seems sound, it is safe to eat Spam after the expiry date.
According to the manufacturer, Spam cans are made of aluminum.
As with most canned goods it is best to store Spam in a cool, dry place. A basement, cellar or pantry is the perfect place for long-term storage.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.