Mirin is a sweet and syrupy liquid Japanese condiment used for seasoning and glazing foods. It is a type of rice wine brewed from rice called koji, alcohol, and glutinous rice. It contains lower alcohol content and higher sugar content that form naturally during fermentation.
But does mirin need to be refrigerated? Let’s find out.
What is Mirin?
Mirin is a traditional Japanese seasoning used in cooking to add sweetness, depth, and a rich umami flavor to dishes. It is a type of rice wine that is made by fermenting glutinous rice with koji (a type of fungus), and then adding distilled alcohol, sugar, and salt to the mixture. Mirin has a distinct golden color and a syrupy consistency that makes it perfect for glazing, marinading, and adding flavor to sauces.
Mirin has a long history in Japanese cuisine and is believed to have originated in the 16th century. It was initially used as a medicinal drink and was later adopted as a cooking ingredient. In Japan, Mirin is an essential ingredient in many dishes, including teriyaki chicken, soba noodles, and tempura sauce.
There are two main types of Mirin: hon-mirin (meaning true or real Mirin) and shio-mirin (meaning salt Mirin). Hon-mirin is the traditional type of Mirin, made by fermenting glutinous rice with koji and is considered to be the authentic and best-tasting Mirin. Hon-mirin has a higher sugar content, making it sweeter and more flavorful, and has a lower alcohol content than shio-mirin. Shio-mirin is a newer and less expensive type of Mirin that is made by adding salt to sake, resulting in a lower quality, less sweet, and more salty taste than hon-mirin.
In addition to its unique flavor, Mirin is also a popular ingredient because it helps to tenderize meat and seafood, and adds a glossy sheen to sauces and glazes. It is also believed to have health benefits, such as improving digestion and boosting the immune system.
Overall, Mirin is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, adding flavor, depth, and richness to many dishes. Its unique taste and consistency make it a versatile ingredient in cooking, and its long history in Japanese culture makes it an important part of culinary traditions.
Does Mirin Need to Be Refrigerated?
Because of the alcohol and salt used in preparing mirin, it generally lasts a long time, and wouldn’t need to be refrigerated. So, pantries, drawers, and cupboards are all good places to store them.
As long as it is in a cool place and away from sunlight, it can last for several months or years depending on the brand, recipe used, and storage condition.
Storing mirin in the refrigerator can give it additional shell life. Refrigeration is mostly recommended to retain its flavor and quality for a longer period especially if it has been opened.
There are 3 types of mirin:
- Hon-mirin (true mirin): This type of mirin contains about 14% alcohol content and 0% salt. It’s produced through a mashing process.
- Shio Mirin (salt mirin): It contains 1.5% of salt.
- Mirin-fu chomiryo (new mirin): Shin mirin contains less than 1% alcohol and also less than 1% salt.
Here are some advantages of adding Mirin to your meals:
- Giving food an appetizing and delicious look
- Keeping food shape intact when cooking
- Deepening the flavor of dishes
- Making food like meat or fish more tender
- Adding natural sweetness to dishes
- Suppressing fishy smells and other food odors
Mirin is mostly used in preparing popular Japanese sauces like teriyaki and sukiyaki which are healthy options because they are low in fat and calories.
It is essential to store Mirin correctly to ensure its freshness and taste. Mirin should be stored in an airtight container and kept away from direct sunlight, heat, and humidity. When storing Mirin, it is crucial to keep in mind that it is sensitive to air exposure and can quickly spoil if not stored properly. If Mirin is not used frequently, it is best to keep it in the fridge to prolong its shelf life and prevent bacterial growth.
If you have opened a bottle of Mirin and only plan to use it occasionally, it is recommended to store it in the refrigerator. However, if you use Mirin frequently and go through it quickly, storing it at room temperature may be acceptable. It is worth noting that if Mirin is stored in the refrigerator, it may become thick or crystallize due to its high sugar content. In this case, the Mirin should be gently warmed before use to liquefy it.
Improper storage of Mirin can lead to spoilage, fermentation, and a change in its taste and quality. Spoiled Mirin will have a sour or vinegar-like smell and may have a cloudy or discolored appearance. Consuming spoiled Mirin can be harmful to health and should be avoided.
How to Tell If Mirin Is Bad
Usually, mirin does not show any distinct sign of spoilage. This makes it especially challenging to identify bad mirin, but you can always make use of sense organs like taste, smell, and sight to notice if your mirin has gone bad or not.
Here are some ways to check if your mirin has gone bad:
- Longevity: If your mirin has been left out open for days, it is best to discard it as a whole to prevent food poisoning.
- Color: Mirin generally has a yellowish or golden yellow color, but the color varies by brand. When the color of your mirin has completely changed compared to how it was when you bought it, it likely has gone bad and is no longer safe to consume.
- Smell: Mirin is known for the sweet fragrance it produces when heated. When your mirin starts to give an unpleasant or rotten aroma, then you know that your mirin has lost its quality and flavor.
- Taste: If your mirin gives a weird, strong, tangy, and stale-like taste unlike the usual subtle sweetness and slightly tangy taste, it could mean that the mirin is bad.
Does Mirin Expire?
Like every other condiment, mirin, opened or unopened, does not have an indefinite shelf life. It loses its quality over time and does go bad if not stored properly.
Although mirin lasts for a very long time especially when stored in a cool place, away from the sun and heat, its shell life varies from one type to another. So, it’s impossible to clearly state a definite time frame.
After about 2-3 months, the flavor of mirin starts to fade bit by bit even though at this time, it is still safe for consumption.
Read also: Does Tamari Need to Be Refrigerated?
How long will mirin last after opening?
The shelf life of Mirin after opening depends on several factors, such as the type of Mirin, how it is stored, and how frequently it is used. Generally, hon-mirin (true Mirin) has a higher sugar content and a lower alcohol content than shio-mirin (salt Mirin), making it more prone to spoilage and fermentation. Therefore, hon-mirin should be refrigerated after opening to prolong its shelf life.
If Mirin is stored correctly in an airtight container away from heat, sunlight, and humidity, it can last for up to six months after opening. However, if the Mirin is exposed to air or not stored correctly, it can spoil or ferment quickly, reducing its shelf life.
If you use Mirin frequently in your cooking, it may be a good idea to purchase smaller bottles to ensure that you use it before it spoils. Additionally, if you notice any signs of spoilage, such as a sour smell or cloudy appearance, it is best to discard the Mirin as it may not be safe to consume.
How to Use Mirin
Mirin is a versatile ingredient that adds sweetness, depth, and a rich umami flavor to many Japanese dishes. Here are some common culinary uses and tips for cooking with Mirin:
- Marinades: Mirin is an excellent ingredient for marinades as it helps to tenderize meat and seafood while adding flavor. Mix Mirin with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and other seasonings to create a flavorful marinade for beef, chicken, or fish.
- Glazes: Mirin is often used to make glazes for grilled or broiled meats, seafood, and vegetables. Combine Mirin with soy sauce, sugar, and dashi (Japanese fish stock) to make a teriyaki-style glaze that adds a glossy sheen to dishes.
- Sauces: Mirin is a key ingredient in many Japanese sauces, including tempura sauce, teriyaki sauce, and ponzu sauce. Mix Mirin with soy sauce, dashi, and other seasonings to create a flavorful sauce for dipping or drizzling.
- Dressings: Mirin can be used to add sweetness and depth to salad dressings. Mix Mirin with rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey to make a tangy and sweet dressing that pairs well with Asian salads.
- Soups and stews: Mirin can be used to add flavor and balance to soups and stews. Add a splash of Mirin to miso soup, udon soup, or nabe (Japanese hot pot) for an extra depth of flavor.
- Rice dishes: Mirin is often used in Japanese rice dishes such as takikomi gohan (seasoned rice with vegetables and meat) and sushi rice. Mix Mirin with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt to create a sweet and tangy seasoning for rice.
When using Mirin in cooking, it is important to balance its sweetness and avoid making dishes overly sweet. To balance the sweetness of Mirin, use it in combination with salty or acidic ingredients such as soy sauce or vinegar.
If you cannot find Mirin, you can substitute it with a mixture of dry sherry and sugar or sweet sake. However, keep in mind that these substitutes will have a slightly different taste and may not provide the same depth and complexity as Mirin.
What Does Mirin Smell Like?
Mirin has a unique, overpowering smell. It is said that 36 key compounds contribute to its distinct aroma and rich fragrance which includes malted rice. This is why it can mask the fish flavor.
How to Store Mirin
Mirin is stored differently according to its type. For example, hon-mirin has high alcohol content and fermented seasoning. As a result, it doesn’t get spoilt easily. It can be stored in its original bottle, tightly sealed, in a cool and dark place like your pantry or cupboard.
Mirin-fu has less than 1% alcohol content and is best stored in the refrigerator, opened or unopened, to extend its shelf life. Unopened mirin-fu is still safe for consumption even when it is past the best before date as long as it is properly stored in the fridge.
Read also: Does Tamari Need to Be Refrigerated?
Do You Need to Refrigerate Mirin After Opening?
Refrigerating mirin after opening is a very good choice. This is actually recommended as it will help to preserve the quality and flavor of the condiment for a long time.
After opening, it is best to use mirin within 3 months for rich flavor and better taste. However, storing mirin in the refrigerator or not remains a matter of preference and personal choice.