How to Tell If Ranch is Bad

If it has a crunch, it’s likely to taste so much better with ranch! It’s no wonder why, according to a recent study, 40% of Americans named ranch as their favorite dressing. However, the main ingredients that make ranch so unforgettable are the same things that make this well-loved dressing and dip highly perishable.

Ranch is bad if it’s already darker in color and has an off, vinegary odor that’s more acerbic than appetizing. The texture may no longer be the same, too, with some watery components noticeable. In some instances, ranch is already bad if it has mold, which the eyes or nose or both can perceive.

Got a pack of ranch that’s been sitting out of the fridge for some time now? Keep reading.

Below, you will come across some of the most important things you need to know about proper ranch storage, be it something that you buy at the grocery store or make in your own kitchen.

ranch dressing

How Do You Store Ranch the Right Way?

Store-bought ranch can be placed in a cool and dry place provided that its container is left unopened. Once opened, however, ranch should be stored in the refrigerator in order to extend its shelf life, preferably within two hours after opening. Homemade ranch should be refrigerated at all times.

What makes ranch taste so good is the right blend of ingredients. Unfortunately, its most important ingredients (buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream and/or yogurt) are all dairy. Everyone knows that dairy products can perish quite easily.

Heat is the number one enemy of dairy products — it will begin to spoil at 40°F (4.44°C) and above.

And because room temperature is between 68°F and 77°F (20°C to 25°C), it’s not a good idea to allow ranch to sit outside the refrigerator for over two hours. As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you put its container back in the fridge after using it, the lower the risk of ranch going bad faster than usual.

But just because ranch is perishable doesn’t mean that you should keep it in the refrigerator. An unopened container of store-bought ranch can be kept in the pantry or any other cool and dry place in the kitchen.

That’s because store-bought ranch contains preservatives in order to extend its shelf life. As a matter of fact, it can stay in excellent condition anywhere from 12 to 18 months if unopened. Once opened, its preservatives are no longer as capable of keeping ranch fresh as before, and this is when the importance of refrigeration comes in.

Store-bought ranch, by the way, also has stabilizers in order to maintain its original consistency and texture.

In the refrigerator, an opened container of store-bought ranch can last for up to six long months. Meanwhile, homemade ranch cannot last that long in the fridge — at most, it can stay fresh for two weeks. Freezing ranch, whether store-bought or made from scratch, is a bad idea as it will lose its quality once thawed.

Failure to store ranch the right way will cause it to go bad, which has the following characteristics:

  • Textural change. Ranch may separate into watery and creamy components.
  • Darker color. It’s not just the texture that is different if ranch is bad but also its color.
  • Off-odor. Bad ranch has a caustic vinegary smell or a moldy odor.
  • Moldy. The presence of mold is a surefire sign that ranch is no longer fit for consumption.
  • Bloated container. Never eat ranch (or any other store-bought product) whose container is bloated.
  • Expiration date. If ranch is well past its expiration date, don’t risk it — throw it away.

What Will Happen If You Eat Expired Ranch?

Just because ranch is already expired doesn’t mean that it’s spoiled. Eating expired ranch will not make you sick, although you might find its taste and texture no longer enjoyable. Eating ranch that is spoiled, whether or not expired, might cause you to encounter the common symptoms of food poisoning.

Expired ranch is ranch that’s past its peak flavor and quality. While it’s true that it may still be safe to eat, ranch that’s past its expiration date is no longer as fresh and delightful as ranch within its best-by date.

Spoiled ranch, on the other hand, is no longer safe to eat.

That’s because it harbors microorganisms that can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and chills. And because germs are invisible to the naked eye, you will have to rely on your senses in order to figure out if ranch is already bad — its appearance, smell and taste are all off.

In some instances, you might notice mold either in the ranch itself or inside the container, or both. In any case, there is only one step to take: toss that ranch into the bin.

What is the Difference Between Ranch Dressing and Ranch Dip?

Ranch dressing and ranch dip have pretty much the very same ingredients, which is why they share the same characteristic flavor and smell. However, ranch dressing is thinner so that it will cover salads trouble-free. Meanwhile, ranch dip is thicker so that it will stick to vegetable slices or chips.

Among ranch lovers, it’s no secret that their favorite dressing is one of the most versatile on the planet.

It’s because of this why ranch can be used as both dressing and dip. Ranch intended as a salad dressing has more water to make it pour out of the container and cover the salad without any trouble.

Ranch intended as a dip contains less water to make it thicker than ranch dressing, thus allowing it to cling to snacks that are more enjoyable with dips.

Some ranch dip manufacturers add a thickening agent instead in order to make their products thick. Xanthan gum and carrageenan are common thickening agents for ranch dip as well as sauces, syrups, etc.

In some instances, ranch dip varieties do not contain buttermilk — only mayonnaise and sour cream or yogurt.

Because the ingredients are basically the same, you can use ranch dressing and ranch dip interchangeably, whichever of the two is available. While the taste and smell are alike, the experience, however, may not be the same.

wings and ranch

Other than as a dressing and dip, you can also use ranch in the following ways:

  • Roast. Various recipes for delicious slow cooker pot roast and Mississippi pot roast call for the addition of ranch in order to infuse the roast with the smell of garlic, onions and other herbs and spices in ranch.
  • Thicken sauces. Just about any cream sauce can be made thicker and richer by adding a little ranch. Some people prefer using ranch and their favorite sauces together without necessarily combining them.
  • Marinade. Thanks to the ingredients of ranch, it makes for a wonderful marinade for chicken and pork when diluted with water — it makes them tender and taste herby, too.
  • Flavor booster. Many seasoned and casual chefs add a little ranch to burgers, meatballs and others in order to enhance their flavors while keeping those who are enjoying them guessing the secret ingredient.

Just Before You Use That Ranch

Storing an unopened container of store-bought ranch is easy. All you have to do is place it in the pantry or any cool and dry place in your kitchen and the product will stay at its best quality anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

However, it’s a completely different story the minute you open its container.

Make sure that you refrigerate a container of ranch within two hours after opening it — the sooner you keep it in the fridge, the better.

Ranch made from scratch should be refrigerated, too. It’s important to keep ranch, whether store-bought or homemade, away from heat because its main ingredients are dairy products, which are highly perishable.

But whether refrigerated or not, it’s always a good idea to observe ranch before using it as a dressing, dip or whatever your heart desires to make sure that the product is still in tip-top condition.

Is ranch healthy?

Health authorities recommend consuming ranch in moderation only. That’s because the dressing is loaded with ingredients that, in excessive amounts, can be unhealthy. For instance, ranch is rich in saturated fat that can increase bad or LDL cholesterol levels. It’s also packed with sodium that can cause a rise in blood pressure.

Can vegans eat ranch?

Traditional ranch is not vegan because its main ingredients (buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream and/or yogurt) are from animal sources. However, these days, there are vegan ranch varieties on the market that substitute non-vegan ingredients with vegan-friendly ingredients, such as vegan buttermilk and vegan mayonnaise.

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