Honey is a staple in many kitchens and it's a useful sweetener for foods and drinks alike. The great news about honey is that it never goes bad and it's very easy to store. Even if your honey begins to crystallize, there's a very simple way to restore it.
Storing Your Honey
Honey is one of the easiest things in your pantry to store. Simply keep it in a cool location away from direct sunlight and in a tightly sealed container.
It's recommended that you use the original container the honey came in, though any glass jar or food-safe plastic container will work. Avoid storing honey in metal because it can oxidize.
It is not necessary to refrigerate honey. In fact, it's much easier to handle if you don't because the cooler temperature will cause the honey to solidify. This makes it difficult to use when you need it and you will have to warm it up to get it back to a liquid state. Honey may also be frozen, although there's really no need.
Avoid Heat and Moisture
The most detrimental things you can do to honey are exposing it to heat and allowing moisture inside the container.
A normal room temperature is ideal. If your house tends to get warm, find the coolest spot in the pantry for your honey. Also, be sure to keep it away from the stove, any heat-producing appliances, and sunlight.
To avoid introducing moisture to your honey, make sure the container has a tight seal and use a dry spoon whenever you dip into a jar. Even a small amount of water can promote fermentation, which is how mead is made. For your kitchen supply, this is less than ideal and it can actually lower the quality of your honey.
Honey has an amazingly long shelf life. Thanks to the high concentration of sugars, honey is one of the most stable natural foods you will find. It can have an almost indefinite shelf life if it's stored properly.
You will notice that honey producers put a "best by" date of about two years on the label. According to the National Honey Board, this is done for practical purposes because honey varies greatly. However, they do note that honey can be stable for decades and even centuries
In reality, the shelf life of honey depends on how it's manufactured—whether it is pasteurized or raw, the packaging, etc.—and how it's stored. There are some natural chemical changes that can occur, so you might notice it get dark or crystallize. It may also lose some of its flavor and aroma over time, though it will not "go bad" in the typical food spoilage sense.
How to Fix Crystallized Honey
Do not be alarmed if your honey becomes cloudy during storage. This is called crystallization. It is not harmful nor is it any indication of deterioration.
Raw honey with high pollen content will crystallize faster than most commercially produced honey. Cold temperatures also cause crystals and sometimes it's desirable. Crystallized honey is one of the many forms intentionally produced by many beekeepers.
If your honey crystallizes, you can easily re-liquify it. Simply place the jar in a pan of hot water and stir while gently heating it. Do not overheat it though. Excessive heat may alter the flavor and color if the sugars begin to caramelize.
Also, avoid the microwave as this can get too hot too quickly. If stovetop warming is out of the question, use a bowl of hot water instead. It may take a little longer to liquify and you may need to replace the water if it cools too much, but it will work eventually.
National Honey Board. Frequently Asked Questions. 2017.
Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and health: a review of recent clinical research. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017;9(2):121-127.