cooking oil vs fat for long term storage


Generally speaking, saturated fats are the healthiest and most nutritious option with the longest shelf life. This category includes butter, coconut oil, and ghee. We have discussed the shelf life of cooking oils in the past. but what other types of fats are there, and how do they affect your body? In this article, we will cover this at a high level.

Fats vs oils – we’ll look at it from all the important angles of food storage. But first, let’s establish a clear reference of what we mean when we say fats, and when we say oils.

What are cooking fats and oils?

Cooking fats and oils are both made of, fat, a nutrient, similar to protein and carbohydrate, which are the fundamental macronutrients of the human diet. When it comes to cooking, the primary difference between oil and fat is that the oil is a liquid at room temperature, and the fat is solid.

Fats and oils are essential for cooking and you should have some form of them in your meals. Without fats, a dish will often lack flavor and richness.

Strictly speaking, fats are compounds that are soluble in organic solvents, while being mostly insoluble in water.

Facts about Saturated Fats

What are the different types of cooking fats?

The three types of fats are:

  • Saturated fats: These are fats that are solid at room temperature. For this reason, they are great for cooking as they are not easily damaged by heat. Animal fats are popular saturated fats and some examples are lard, ghee, butter, duck fat, and tallow.

  • Unsaturated fats: Typically unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. There are two types of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. This is the category most cooking oils fall into, and some popular examples include olive oils, canola oils, sunflower oil, and most vegetable oils.

  • Trans fats: The most common type of trans fat is made by industrial food producers to turn liquid fats into solid fats. Through a process called hydrogenation, liquid fats are turned into trans fats which increase the shelf life of the foods it is applied to. This is why microwavable popcorn, margarine, and store bought sweets have a long shelf life. Trans fat, but more broadly, hydrogenated oils should be avoided as they can cause diseases such as inflammation and heart disease.

What are good cooking oils and fats?

“Good cooking oils” are unsaturated fats (liquid at room temperature) that are monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats help form the structural fats of the human body and are considered healthy as they are relatively easier for the body to absorb. Monounsaturated fats are collectively called ‘good fats and are understood to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease risk markers.

Ideally, we would consume unrefined or extra virgin variations of cooking fats as the more natural variation is the healthier option. Popular and healthy sources of unsaturated fats include:

As for healthy cooking fats, saturated fats (solid at room temperature) are rendered from tropical fruits and animal fats. Saturated fats, that are minimally processed, provide numerous health benefits and have a high heat breakpoint when cooking. These types of fats are derived from animals, and some examples include lard, tallow, and duck fat, as well as butter and ghee.

Traditionally, cultures around the world would use animal fats to cook their meals prior to the mass production of GMO vegetables and hydrogenated oils. Heart disease has risen sharply in the past 50 years and many people attribute the rise to higher consumption of processed vegetable oils, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat.

Although safe for consumption, polyunsaturated fats should be avoided. Experts say that replacing polyunsaturated fats with monounsaturated fats in food consumption can help lower bad cholesterol.

Why we need fats and oils in our diet?

People try to avoid “fats” because they are concerned with gaining weight, but fats are actually super important as they help increase the body’s energy levels and healthy cell growth. Our body system cannot make certain fats, so we need to include specific forms of fats and oils in our diet. Fats are also helpful in keeping the body moisturized and protecting organs.

Fats and oils are not a food group but they provide essential food nutrients that aid the body’s growth and development, so they should be considered in breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Given how important fats are to the body, we need to develop our pantry with cooking fats and oils in mind first. In a SHTF scenario, the last thing we want to worry about is calorie and nutrient intake.

Facts about Saturated Fats

How are fats and oils are used in the kitchen?

In the kitchen, fats and oils are an essential part of cooking as it helps give food dimension and richness. And as we mentioned, fats provide essential nutrients for the body.

There are so many choices for cooking oils and fats nowadays. In supermarkets, this aisle is stocked with options, and knowing which is best for you can be tricky. As a rule of thumb, monounsaturated or saturated fats should be used where possible, as these are the most natural and healthiest. Trans fats, which are highly processed and often times genetically modified, should be avoided.

Healthy vs non-healthy fats and oils

There are lots of fats out there, and unfortunately, most of them have a bad reputation. But fats are an essential part of our diet and are needed for healthy bodily function and development. However, it’s important to point out that not all fats are healthy. We do need healthy fats, but overconsumption could lead to unwanted results such as weight gain and high cholesterol levels in the blood.

Natural saturated fats and unnatural trans fats are often associated together, but they are not alike. Although they can be solid at room temperature, trans fat goes through a process called hydrogenation which yields complex fats that are difficult for the body to break down. Saturated fats on the other hand, if unrefined, are easily absorbable and highly nutritious.

Saturated fats are mostly derived from animals, and are called ‘animal fats’ collectively. You can get them from rendering beef fat (tallow), pork fat (lard), and duck fat. However, saturated fats can also come from coconut oil, which is considered a superfood for its countless health benefits. One point a prepper should keep in mind about coconut oil, is that it has a shelf life of up to 5 years if stored properly. Despite all the benefits of these types of fats, eating too much saturated fats can increase blood cholesterol levels and bad cholesterol levels, so it is important to eat them in moderation.

Trans fats can raise bad cholesterol levels and suppress good cholesterol levels. Doctors have linked trans fats with an increased risk of inflammation in the body. You can get trans fats in fried foods like doughnuts and french fries, cookies, margarine, etc. They should be avoided as much as possible.

Unsaturated Fats, but more specifically, monounsaturated are healthy for consumption. Foods that normally contain this type of fat are liquid at room temperature and are easily broken down by the body. You can find monounsaturated fats in extra virgin olive oils and unrefined avocado oils.

Also, the shelf life of avocado oil and olive oil can be as long as two years if stored properly, making them excellent choices for long-term storage.

Even though unsaturated fats are mostly harmless when consumed, all types of fats should be taken in moderation as they all contain calories – which can cause health complications when not looked after.

Examples of Trans Fat Foods

Shelf Life of cooking fats and oils

When building an emergency food storage pantry, cooking fats and oils should be considered before most other foods in your pantry. Mainly because so much of what you can cook depends on the type of cooking fats available. And in terms of your health, fats are essential macronutrients in our diet since specific fats cannot be naturally produced in our body. So this means we have to consume them.

The shelf life of cooking oils and fats varies from product to product. And there are other considerations that affect shelf life such as:

  • Where the product is sourced

  • Exposure to Sunlight, Heat, or Oxygen

  • Type of fat

Generally speaking, hydrogenated and processed cooking oils are made to have a longer shelf life than naturally occurring fats. However, keep in mind that the health benefits are significantly reduced, and can cause various diseases as previously mentioned.

Still, saturated fats are actually chemically stable compounds and healthy cooking oils such as unrefined coconut oil which has a shelf life of up to five years!

A common misconception of vegetable oils is that they are all healthy. This is not always the case, as many oils derived from plants are genetically modified for mass production. The unnatural oils are high in complex fats difficult for the body to absorb.

Cooking Oils

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of fat are animal fats?

Animal fats are saturated fats, which means they are solid at room temperature. Examples of animal based fats are: butter, ghee, tallow, lard, and duck fat.

In contrast, seed and vegetable oils are unsaturated fats and liquid at room temperature.

How to dispose of cooking oils and fats?

The best way to dispose of cooking oils and fats is to reuse them in an environmentally friendly way. Pouring down used cooking oils and fats in a drain can cause damage to the pipes, and result in an expensive call to the plumber. Some ideas to dispose of cooking oils and fats include:

  • Giving the used oil to your dog

  • Adding to a bird feeder

  • Making soap

  • Making candles

  • Adding to compost

How are cooking fats and oils made?


Fats are made from rendering the fat out of animals in the case of lard, tallow, and duck fat. Where the fat is sourced from the body of the animal as well as the diet of the animal influences the quality and flavor of the cooking fat produced.


Oils are made by extracting the oil from the pulp of the fruit or vegetable, which typically means mechanically pressing it. This is a helpful video to see how traditional extra virgin olive oil is made in Italy.


Generally speaking, cooking oils are liquid and fats are solid at room temperature. There are many different types of fats and oils but you should primarily consume the more natural and least processed options as these provide the most health benefits. In the case of long term storage, saturated fats are the healthiest option with the longest shelf life. Trans fats may have a long shelf life, but they are linked to diseases, which is the last thing a prepper wants to be concerned about in a SHTF scenario.

Disclaimer: This is not health advice. This is the opinion of individuals who practice holistic living. You should consult with health experts before making drastic changes to your diet.

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