Can Heat Cause Canned Food to Spoil? Here’s What Experts Say

Canned food has long since been the go-to method to store foods for extended periods. However, if you want canned food to last, you must keep it properly.

Canned foods will spoil in heat and should not be stored in extreme conditions. Canned foods do not require refrigeration. However, that does not mean they can be stored at any temperature.

This article will explain the best temperatures to store your canned foods. It will also explain the ideal storage conditions and some tips on determining if your canned foods are still safe for eating.

Safe Temperatures to Store Canned Foods

Canned foods fall into the nonperishable category, which means they not only have a long shelf life but can also be stored at room temperature. Because of these properties, canned foods are a top choice for food drives and emergency preparedness kits.

Canned foods are meant to be kept or stored at room temperature. Ideally, this means that the environment that canned foods are kept in should not exceed 75 °F (23.9 °C), and temperatures between 50 and 70 °F (10 and 21°F) are preferable.

Exposure To Heat

At temperatures that consistently remain above 75 °F (23.9 °C), canned foods will lose nutrients, and the contents may deteriorate. This could impact the nutritional value as well as the color and flavor.

When temperatures reach 100 °F (37 °C), your canned foods will spoil. This spoilage can occur rapidly, and the food will become unsafe at temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C).

Exposure to Extreme Cold

If heat can wreak havoc on your canned goods, could cold do the same? The answer is maybe. You can freeze canned foods, but the cans must be adequately defrosted.

Canned frozen foods can be safely thawed but should never be refrozen. To safely thaw a frozen can, it must be unthawed in the refrigerator. Cans thawed at 40 °F (4 °C) or more are unsafe to consume.

Even when unthawed appropriately, the expansion that happens when a can is frozen can still allow bacteria to enter the can and the food. After allowing frozen, canned foods to unthaw in the refrigerator, you will need to open them and check the look and smell before attempting to eat them.

canned food in the heat

How to Store Canned Foods

For safe consumption, canned foods must be stored in certain conditions. Canned foods should be stored in cool, dry spaces. They should not be stored on the floor. They also shouldn’t be exposed to sunlight or heat.

The best place to store canned foods is in your cabinet or pantry. These spaces are generally temperature-controlled and are considered shelf-stable environments.

If you do not have a pantry and your cabinets are at capacity, there are other alternatives for canned food storage. You can use another closet in your home or store the canned foods in a container under a bed!

Locations You Should Never Store Your Canned Foods In

You may need to get creative to find the best place to store your canned foods long-term. However, there are a handful of places that you should not utilize under any condition.

  • Attics
  • Damp basements
  • Garages
  • In cabinets directly above stoves or other heat sources
  • Sheds and other uninsulated outdoor storage units
  • Under sinks

Signs Canned Foods Are No Longer Good

Letting your canned foods spoil because of improper storage defeats the purpose of having an emergency preparedness kit.

That’s why it is good practice to check the canned foods in your emergency preparedness kit periodically, at least twice a year. Besides checking their expiration date, you should visually inspect the outside of the can.

Below are some things that indicate that canned foods should be discarded.

  • Rust. Sometimes, rust can penetrate the can, creating an environment where spoilage can occur.
  • The can is deeply dented. Some minor dents are okay, but deeply dented cans may have pin-hole-sized openings, allowing bacteria to enter. Cans with minor dents should be carefully inspected.
  • The can is bulging and leaking. This may be a given. Dampness from the leaking may lead to corrosion of neighboring cans.
  • There’s a foul odor emitting from the can. Needless to say, if your can smells weird, it probably means its contents have gone bad.

Another tip for keeping canned foods is to use the “first in, first out” method. This means rotating the cans to keep the oldest cans at the forefront and consuming those before canned foods with more recent use-by dates.

Finally, it is better to be safe than sorry. Do not eat any canned foods that you suspect may be spoiled. It is best to properly dispose of the can rather than take a chance and eat it. You should never taste the food to check for spoilage.

How To Dispose of Canned Foods

If you determine that your canned foods are not safe to consume, your next step is to dispose of the food. However, it would be best if you did not dispose of it in such a manner that other people or animals can get to it and potentially eat it.

If you have a garbage disposal, this is the best option:

  1. Empty the contents into the garbage disposal and let the disposal take care of the rest.
  2. Rinse the can before placing it in the trash—or better yet, into a recycling bin.

If you do not have a garbage disposal, it is best to leave the can unopened. Place the can into a bag, and put the bag into a trash bag.


Canned food can be an excellent option for long-term storage as it has a long shelf life and can be stored at room temperature. However, it is essential to store canned food in cool, dry spaces, away from heat and sunlight, and to check for any signs of spoilage or damage.

Canned food should not be exposed to extreme temperatures, as it can lose nutrients and deteriorate at temperatures above 75 °F (23.9 °C) and spoil at temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C). It is also essential to properly defrost and inspect canned and frozen food before consuming it to ensure it is safe. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your canned food remains fresh and safe for as long as possible.

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