How To Test Baking Powder For Freshness

You found a can of baking powder tucked away in the back corner of the pantry and you aren’t sure how old it is or whether it’s still good to use. Now you’re wondering if it’s possible to skip altogether, does the recipe you are trying to make really require it?

You’re likely making some sort of baked goods and yes, you do need this ingredient (or at least an equivalent leavener). Baking powder is what makes the batter rise.

If you do have an old can in the cupboard but you are hesitating to use it because you aren’t sure if it’s still good or OK to use, here’s a quick and effective test for freshness:

  • Pour a teaspoonful of baking powder into a bowl or small glass.
  • Fill the vessel with hot water to cover the B.P. (about 1/4 cup should do it).

If it begins to bubble happily, it’s fine to use in your recipes. If it doesn’t, don’t chance it and try a substitute instead (or run to the store for a new container if time allows).

Not going to work, I need a substitute ASAP! If you’re in a pinch and willing to make your own, try (equivalent to 1 tsp B.P.):

1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp cornstarch

There are a few more options found on this page: (scroll down a bit to find the right section) Handy Substitute Recipes.

I just bought this! How can it possibly be expired or inactive? For best results, do not dip a wet spoon into the can when measuring what you need. The moisture will activate the powder left behind in the container and it won’t be as good to use next time. If you see lumps in it, that’s usually a sign moisture has found its way in.

Another possibility is that you purchased a package that was already expired (sometimes stores keep old products on shelves, always check dates)…or it was overheated in transport and/or storage.

More Tips

  • If sealed properly, baking powder can last two years. Sometimes the freshness or Use-By date is stamped on the bottom.
  • It’s a key part of “kitchen science” and an active ingredient that helps baked goods rise (called a leavening agent). Without it items will be flat and the texture unappealing.
  • This isn’t an ingredient you want to be sloppy about measuring, a titch too much or too little can cause a fussy recipe to fail.
  • For best results, keep stored in a cool, dark place. The container is usually a material that will keep out the light so that shouldn’t be a problem, just don’t store it in the cupboard above the stove.
  • Don’t throw out the old expired stuff! Keep it on hand to be used around the house in cleaning. It can act as a “softscrub” when removing stains and for absorbing spilled liquids or dousing stove top fires.
  • If the container was a dud and has an expiry date that is still far off, it might be worth your time contacting the Company who manufactured it. They just might do the right thing and send you a fresh new can.

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