How To Tell When Pickles Have Gone Bad

Whether you like them deep-fried, sliced for a burger, split down the middle, dipped in Tajin, or the size of your own head and purchased from a concession stand, pickles always make for a zesty, memorable snack. More than just a funky finger food, pickles, which are just cucumbers brined in vinegar, can be used for soup, dips, and even as a pizza topping. Not to mention that pickle juice makes for a great chaser or infused liquor — hey, don't knock it 'til you try it!

Not only are pickles tasty and versatile, but they also offer abundant health benefits to match. According to WebMD, pickles are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, can aid in digestion, and help fight disease. But like any great food, it's critical to know the signs of spoiled pickles to avoid an upset stomach, or worse, food poisoning.

Fizz and murky brine are telltale signs of spoiled pickles

Unless you purchase fermented pickles or other pickled items that employ a fermentation process like kimchi, if you see fizzing in the jar, can it. Doctor Stephanie Smith, assistant professor and consumer food safety specialist at the Washington State University School of Food Science tells Epicurious that fizzing can be a sign of unwanted and even dangerous microbial growth. While unopened, Smith jarred pickles can maintain their quality for over a year — a great option for apocalypse food! She adds that the sooner you eat them though, the better.

Author and canning teacher Marisa McClellan says refrigerated pickles, different from jarred pickles, will only last three to four weeks. Once the brine turns from clear to "murky," they've gone bad. When not properly stored in the refrigerator, pressure from unwanted fermentation begins to build causing the lid to swell — another sign of expiry (per Epicurious).

According to Twice as Tasty, jar pickles should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place while refrigerated pickles should be stored in a "nonreactive container with a nonreactive lid" to avoid a bulging lid and a potential explosion.

Happy pickle eating!