If you’re looking for a quick and easy meal or snack that’s hot, gooey, salty, and delicious nothing really beats a Hot Pocket!
These little inside-out pizzas (they’re kind of like mini calzones!) are guaranteed to fill you up and satisfy your savory cravings.
But what happens if there was a sale on Hot Pockets and you bought a bunch of boxes. Or what if you bought some and found them in the freezer months later.
Are your Hot Pockets still safe to eat? Do they have an expiry date? And if so, what happens after they pass that date?
We’ve done the research for you to discover whether you have to throw those Hot Pockets away or if they can live to be eaten another day.
So, do Hot Pockets expire? Technically, all Hot Pockets come with an expiry date. However, as long as they have stayed frozen the entire time, they are usually still safe to eat even if expired. They may be a little freezer burnt, but they won’t make you sick. Just look out for mold or a slimy texture.
Keep reading to learn more about whether Hot Pockets expire, if you can still eat them after they expire, what happens to them after they expire, and more!
Do Hot Pockets Expire?
One of the rules of manufacturing and selling foods is that companies are legally required to put expiry dates on their products in order to protect consumers. As such, Hot Pockets technically have expiry dates printed on them.
The expiration date is typically 14 months after the date of manufacturing, and they cannot legally be sold if they have passed this expiration date.
However, as long as you keep your Hot Pockets in the freezer they should still be edible long after the expiry date.
Can You Eat Hot Pockets After They Expire?
If you’ve looked in your freezer and found a box of Hot Pockets only to find they have expired, don’t despair!
As long as your Hot Pockets have remained frozen (not thawed then refrozen) then they are probably perfectly safe to eat even if they have expired.
Since they are in the freezer, bacteria can’t really grow on the Hot Pocket (it’s too cold!), so they don’t spoil the same way something spoils at room temperature or even in the fridge.
A few things to look out for to make sure your Hot Pocket hasn’t spoiled include:
- A slimy or sticky texture on the outside
- Flecks of white, blue, green, or black mold
- A weird smell
If your Hot Pocket has any of the above, you should definitely throw it away to make sure you don’t get food poisoning.
Aside from those few issues, the main thing that happens after your Hot Pocket expires is that the taste, texture, and quality may decline.
So your Hot Pocket might not taste as great, but it won’t make you sick and will still hit the spot if you’re in a pinch and looking for a quick meal or snack.
What Happens to Hot Pockets After They Expire?
When you freeze food as a preservation method, the cold temperatures prevent bacteria from growing on the food and causing it to spoil.
Freezing is a great way to store food for longer than in the fridge, where the temperature doesn’t drop low enough to completely halt the growth of bacteria.
However, just because bacterial growth is virtually eliminated in frozen foods doesn’t mean that they still can’t spoil in other ways.
Namely, these foods can see a decrease in terms of quality, texture, and flavor the longer they are frozen for.
When Hot Pockets in particular expire, a few things can happen to them:
They May Get Freezer Burn
The longer an item is left in the freezer, the more likely it is to develop freezer burn.
This issue is a result of moisture loss as an item sits in the freezer, which leads to a dried-out and “burnt” texture. Technically, the freezing process draws the moisture out of the food and freezes the outside of it.
The resulting food can end up looking shriveled, covered in ice crystals, tough, and discolored. The amount of air that’s in the packaging of a product contributes to how quickly a product develops freezer burn or not.
While freezer-burnt food doesn’t look or taste great, technically it is still safe to eat. If your Hot Pocket has freezer burn, it might not cook as evenly.
If that’s the case you may need to rotate and flip it around a couple of times as it cooks to try to get it to cook as evenly as possible.
So if your hot pockets are freezer-burnt, you can eat them, just be aware they likely won’t taste as good as they would prior to their expiry date.
The Ingredients Might Not Taste as Fresh
The longer your Hot Pocket stays in the freezer, the more likely it is that the ingredients inside it may not taste as fresh and delicious as a newer Hot Pocket.
With that in mind, as long as you’re not eating a 3-year-old Hot Pocket, the difference in taste and quality is likely going to be pretty small.
The Dough Might Dry Out
If your Hot Pocket doesn’t have freezer burn, the dough on the outside of the pocket can still dry out a bit the longer it is in the freezer.
While this drier texture might not taste as great as a fresh Hot Pocket, it won’t make you sick, so go ahead and eat it up!
Do Hot Pockets Have to Stay Frozen?
In order for your Hot Pockets to last until their expiry date, they should stay frozen until you are ready to eat them.
You especially don’t want to thaw and then refreeze your Hot Pockets since this could increase the bacterial growth and increase the risk of spoilage.
The only time you can thaw your Hot Pocket is right before you plan to eat it. Place it in the fridge overnight or on the countertop for a couple of hours and then cook it right away to prevent it from going bad.
Can You Keep Hot Pockets in the Fridge?
If you want to thaw your Hot Pockets so that they cook faster and more evenly, you can keep them in the fridge for about 3-4 days.
You don’t want to keep them in the fridge longer than that since the meat and cheese inside of the Hot Pocket could start to spoil.
How Long Do Hot Pockets Last in the Fridge?
Having a few Hot Pockets in the fridge that are already thawed can speed up your cooking time and make sure that they cook evenly.
However, hot pockets only last about 3-4 days in the fridge so you won’t want to take out more than you can eat within that time or you risk having them spoil.
Once they spoil, you’ll have to throw them away since spoiled meat and cheese are at a high risk of food poisoning!
How Do You Thaw Hot Pockets?
If you want to thaw your Hot Pockets, the best way to do so is to put them in the fridge overnight and let them thaw.
If you are in more of a hurry, you can set them on the counter for 3-4 hours to thaw instead. You don’t need to remove the Hot Pocket from its plastic wrapping before thawing.
We don’t recommend leaving them on the counter longer than 4 hours since they contain meat and cheese, which can both spoil if left at room temperature for too long.
Can You Microwave Hot Pockets?
If you want to get your Hot Pocket cooked quickly, you can pop it right in the microwave!
Just make sure you flip it over during the cooking process so that it cooks evenly. Cooking your Hot Pocket in the microwave is definitely the fastest method, but it may also come out a little soggy.
Can You Cook a Hot Pocket in an Air Fryer?
If you want to cook your Hot Pocket so that it has a crispy, golden-brown crust, but you don’t want to have to put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes, cooking it in an air fryer is definitely the way to go. I recommend this one I use!
This cooking method is under 10 minutes and gives you the best results!
- Place your Hot Pockets in a single layer in the fryer basket or on the wire rack.
- Set the temperature to 350°F.
- Place the Hot Pockets in the air fryer for about 6-7 minutes. You will likely want to flip them over at around the 3-minute mark for even cooking.
- Once your Hot Pockets are golden brown and crispy, remove them from the air fryer. Let them cool a couple of minutes (that filling is HOT!) and then enjoy!
If you want to make your own hot (pizza) pocket, check out this great video from chef Matty Matheson!
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