Cooking oils are a must-have item in every kitchen, but it is a difficult item to keep long term as shelf life varies by the type of cooking oil. Unrefined coconut oils have a shelf life of up to five years, whereas most avocado oils have a one year shelf life. We did our research to find out how to extend the shelf life of cooking oils. In this post, we will cover the basics of extending the shelf life. We have previously written about the shelf life of healthy cooking oils, as well as the best cooking oils for long-term storage, but in this article, we will touch on how to store cooking oil long term. This is a list of the essentials to know to keep your cooking oil in optimum condition.
Why Cooking Oils Go Rancid?
Cooking oils are a great way to enhance the flavor of foods, but once you have a bottle of rancid oil, it will become smelly, sour, and generally unsavory. At this point, it goes right into the trash because you do not want to expose your family to rancid cooking oils. Rancid oils lose their vitamins and nutritional value, so there is no point in keeping them around. Most foods expire, but the primary reason cooking oils go rancidbefore their expiration date is because of:
Exposure to Air
Exposure to Light
Exposure to Heat
When storing oils, have this in mind so you can take the right steps to properly store your oils, preferably in a cool and dark place where exposure to elements is limited.
Where to Properly Store Cooking Oils?
Cooking oils and fats are made from different ingredients, so the way they are stored depends on the type of oils and fats. Still, there are best practices to protect cooking oils from the elements to ensure they have a longer shelf life. The suggestions below are tips to extend the shelf life of cooking oils, overlooking one of the tips could result in the oil becoming rancid.
Storing Oil in the Dark
We found the best way to extend the life of most cooking oils, is to store them in a cool dark place. If left out to get exposure to heat, the cooking oil will age faster and many of the health benefits from the nutrients are lost as well.
Ideally, the best spot for storing oil would be a dark pantry with temperatures ranging between 50°F – 66°F. It can vary in temperature, but generally to preserve taste and nutrients this range is ideal. Although most oils typically stay liquid in the typical home, coconut oils vary from liquid to solid. I’ve had my favorite coconut oil switch from solid to liquid on a hot summer day, later finding out the melting point of coconut oil is 78°F.
Storing Oil in a Refrigerator
If you live in a warm climate, the best place to store cooking oil is in the refrigerator. Refrigeration has no effect on the expiration date, but it prevents exposure to air, light, and heat which can cause the oil to go rancid sooner.
When you store oils in a fridge, you should know that they have different reactions. Extra virgin olive oil becomes cloudy and thick when put in a refrigerator. The olive oil will still be fresh, and safe to eat, but may alter your cooking experience. Another example is with unrefined coconut oil, where putting it in a fridge will lead to the oil hardening, making it harder to scrape. Still, this is a great option for storing oil long term, especially if you need a cool dark place to store it.
Freezing cooking oil is also an option. If stored properly, freezing oil can result in much longer shelf life. It will keep the cooking oil fresh, and you can store it in the freezer until you need it. However, it is important to note that the freezing point is influenced by the type of oil, bottle, and quality of the oil.
Keep Oxygen out of Cooking Oil
Exposure to air is the fastest way to cause oil to go rancid. So, if you do not intend to use the cooking oil soon, it is best to keep the bottle unopened in your food storage location or pantry. An unopened bottle of cooking oils is the best way to ensure longer shelf life.
But if you are using the oil frequently, just remember to seal the cap onto the bottle after each use since prolonged exposure to air will spoil the cooking oil.
Also, glass and stainless steel containers are the best types of materials to prevent exposure to air. Plastic bottles are not foolproof protection against oxygen, and air can slowly seep in over time.
Glass Bottles and Stainless Steel Containers for Storing Oils
When storing oils, a glass bottle or stainless steel container is ideal since they help keep the oil cooler for longer. When plastic bottles are exposed to light, it is easy for the plastic to heat the oil, and the hot oil breaks down the molecules, causing the oil to become rancid and lose its nutritional value.
If you decided to purchase a stainless steel container, make sure it is stainless steel. Metal containers, made from iron or another type of metal may cause the oil to spoil faster since the metals have properties that cause the oil to become rancid.
How to Store Different Types of Cooking Oils?
How to Store Coconut Oil?
When storing coconut oil, you should consider what you hope to do with it, in addition to possible exposure to light, air, and heat. If your goal is to use coconut oil for cooking, it is best to keep the oil in a refrigerator. The coconut oil will harden, and be protected from the elements, helping extend the lifespan of the oil.
But, if you intend to use coconut oil for skin and hair care, it is best to leave it in a dark pantry. At room temperature, the oil is easier to scrape from a glass jar and apply to your skin or hair. Although, you should keep this oil in a place with a consistent temperature. Since coconut oils have a melting point of 78°F, expect them to switch from solid to liquid during warmer months.
We found that people store coconut oil in their bathroom, but this should be avoided because the changing temperature and hot air can cause damage to the oil, making it go rancid sooner.
If stored properly, refined coconut oil has a shelf life of up to two years, and unrefined or virgin coconut oil has a shelf life of up to five years! Coconut oils contain a high proportion of saturated fats and are a relatively stable oil so they are resistant to oxidation and rancidity.
How to Store Olive Oil?
Similar to other oils, preventing exposure to light, air, and heat will prevent olive oil from going rancid. And if properly stored, olive oil has a shelf life of up to two years. If you prefer extra virgin olive oil in your pantry, it has a shelf life of up to 18 months. However, it is important to keep in mind that olive oil is one of the most popular cooking oils and an essential ingredient in many Mediterranean cuisines. Given this, there are lots of theories and suggestions on how to store olive oil. Still, for olive oil storage, most people agree that:
Olive oil should be stored in a dark place, where the temperature is consistent and the oil is protected from light, air, and heat.
Regardless of the container or jar, make sure the seal is air-tight to prevent oxidation. Exposure to air is the quickest way to cause rancid oil.
Keep olive oil in an opaque glass jar or stainless steel container, because it reduces the oil’s exposure to light, helping ensure the oil stays fresh for longer.
When exposed to sunlight or air, olive oil can release free radicals that damage cells in your body, so it is important to store olive oil properly to avoid damage to the oil.
Also, olive oil is safe to store in a refrigerator. Keeping it stored in a refrigerator will protect its exposure to sunlight and heat. Although, the cooler temperature will make olive oil slightly thicker and cloudy.
How to Store Avocado Oil?
Avocado oils are one of my favorite types of oils to cook with, but they are known for their very short shelf life. At best, an unopen bottle has a shelf life of one year, and if unrefined as high as nine months if stored in a refrigerator. To properly store avocado oil, it should be treated much like olive oil. Ideally, you can keep it in an opaque jar or stainless steel container.
Additionally, avocado oil should be stored in a dark place, such as a pantry or refrigerator. This will keep the oil cool, helping extend the shelf life. Similar to olive oil, it will become cloudy and thicker when kept in a refrigerator.
As preppers, we are thinking about SHTF scenarios, so keeping a cooking oil with a long shelf life in the event of an emergency is ideal. Vegetable oils, but specifically, hydrogenated oils have a shelf life of up to five years, so it’s good to have an extra gallon as a backup cooking oil.
When storing vegetable oils, preventing exposure to heat, air, and light is the most important consideration. However, one consideration, is that many vegetable oils come in plastic bottles, which does not protect the oil to the extent that a glass container would. If you intend to purchase vegetable oil, you should keep it in a glass bottle to ensure it does not go rancid.
I try to avoid vegetable oils since they tend to be genetically modified, high in trans fats, and are heavily processed. But, we like to keep vegetable oils around because they are great for household tasks, like polishing furniture and lubricating squeaky hinges. Heavily processed oils tend to be odorless, so they can serve as a non-toxic tool if other cleaning supplies are not easily accessible.
If you are more concerned about having a cooking oil with a long shelf life, we recommend unrefined coconut oil because it is a healthier product with a similar shelf life of five years. But you should know that on a per ounce basis, coconut oil is more expensive than canola oil, corn oil, or most other vegetable oils.
How can I tell if Cooking Oil is Bad?
Rancid oil has significantly lower nutrients, a sour taste, and a foul odor. You do not want to serve this to your family as there is almost no nutritional value, and can ruin a dish. The good news is that rancid oil is easy to notice. As soon as you suspect it of going bad, you should look for:
Foul odor: rancid oils should smell sour, harsh, fermenting, or rotting.
Harsh taste: oils past their expiration date will taste sour. You’ll know immediately it has expired.
If you are unsure of what rancid oil smells like, you can test it out by pouring the oil into a glass or plastic bottle and exposing it to air and light for a week. After a week, you can smell the oil and it will have a foul smell.
Healthy Cooking Oil Alternatives with a Long Shelf Life
At Soulful Prepper, we promote consuming healthy cooking oils as they are not only healthier but energize you as well. And we avoid discussing low-quality oils that we do not consume. This includes most seed oils and fats that are high in trans fats, and are known to cause heart disease.
As we prepare for SHTF scenarios, we want to have a supply of healthy foods, fats, and fresh oils that keep us healthy and energized. Below is a list of the shelf life of alternative healthy oils and animal fats:
As food insecurity becomes a real concern for middle-class Americans, preppers should start sorting through their existing food storage. Some questions to ask themselves are:
Which items are in short supply?
What are the expiration dates of my food items?
What will be valuable for trade?
Which items are essential for my family’s health?
These are some of the questions we should be asking ourselves as we build our emergency food storage.
Avoid cooking oils from getting exposure to light, air, and heat. Knowing these three rancid causing factors, you can extend the shelf life of the cooking oils in your pantry. If you suspect rancid cooking oil, check for a sour smell or taste, as these are the main indicators of expired oil. At this point, it is best to remove the oil from your pantry since there is no value in holding onto it.
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Saul is a founder and editor of Soulful Prepper. He previously worked as an emerging technology advisor to companies and governments. But now, he makes his living by advising people on prepping and holistic living. In his personal time, he enjoys hiking with his wife, biohacking, reading about history, and embracing his spirituality.
Learn how to store cooking oil for the long term. As preppers, we need to protect our food storage to ensure we can continue to provide healthy and nutritious food to ourselves and family. Staying healthy and energized is how we survive a SHTF scenario.
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