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How to Store Olive Oil Long-Term
Did you know Ancient Romans used extra virgin olive oil for bathing, religious rituals, and medicinal purposes in addition to using it as a core part of their diet? We’re not surprised, olive oil has been used for thousands of years, and for good reason. It is healthy, savory, and versatile. Although it is primarily used for cooking, olive oil can be used to make natural soaps, candles, and as a lubricant, among other use cases as well. So if you are looking to benefit from the many applications of olive oil, then it is important to learn how to store olive oil long-term.
Olive oil can be stored in the pantry, fridge, or freezer. Its storage location will not affect its shelf life, but it will influence how well the oil is preserved. When stored properly, extra-virgin olive oil has a shelf life of 18 months and refined olive oil can last 2 years. Still, despite the shorter shelf life, we suggest extra-virgin olive oil because its flavor is more potent and offers more nutritional value.
In this article, we will discuss long-term storage options, olive oil’s shelf life, and how to tell if it’s gone bad. But first, what is olive oil, and why should you store it?
What is Olive Oil and Why Should you Store it?
Olive oil is the liquid extract of pressed olives. Although most commonly used for cooking, frying, and baking, it is also used in cosmetics, soaps, and as fuel for oil lamps. There are four classifications of olive oil for consumption. They are:
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Extra-virgin olive oil uses olives that are cold-pressed to extract the oil, retaining much of its flavor and nutritional value in the process. It has a low acidity level than more refined varieties of olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is regarded as the highest quality olive oil. The smoke point is 374°F (190°C).
- Virgin Olive Oil: To make virgin-olive oil, olives are cold pressed to extract the oil, but it undergoes mild heating. Although this makes the oil less flavorful and nutritious, its subtle flavor makes it ideal as a salad dressing. The smoke point or virgin olive oil can range from 374°F (190°C) to 405° (207°C).
- Pure Olive Oil: Pure olive oil is made by mixing extra-virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. Although it can be used for cooking, it is often used for massages and therapies
- Refined Olive Oil: Viewed as the lowest quality olive oil, refined oil undergoes high heat to make the oil more resistant to heat, but removing much of the flavor and nutritional value in the process. The high heat resistance makes it a popular cooking oil. The smoke point of refined olive oil can range from 390°F (200°C) to 470°F (245°C), depending on the amount of refinement it undergoes.
Although there is a negative association with “fats,” unrefined olive oils are widely considered to be healthy fats. They reduce bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, help lower blood pressure, and are believed to have anti-cancer properties. This is in contrast to “bad” fats such as canola oil and other high trans fats which are linked to increased blood pressure, hypertension, and strokes.
Extra virgin olive oil undergoes the least amount of refinement, so we recommend this variety of olive oil. Since it has not been refined, it retains more nutrients, flavors, and health benefits.
Olive oil is primarily composed of fat, where one tablespoon of olive oil (13.5g) has 0g of protein, 0g of carbohydrates, and 119 calories. The fats in olive oil are primarily composed of monounsaturated fats (Oleic Acid). See below for more detail on the type of fat breakdown.
Nutrition 1 Tbsp
Calories 120 Kcal
How to Store Olive Oil Long-Term?
Storing olive oil can be a simple process, as there is no need to overcomplicate it. Your goal is to reduce exposure to light, heat, and oxygen. By simply eliminating these environmental aggressors, your oils will be able to reach their maximum shelf life. However, the proper container and storage location influence how well the olive oil can retain its quality and is protected from its environment.
One important item to keep in mind is that as soon as you open the bottle of olive oil, the shelf life of it will be reduced significantly, regardless of how well it is stored.
The type of storage container matters because it determines the exposure to light and air the olive oil will receive. There are typically three common storage containers for cooking oils, and they are:
- Tin Container
- Glass Jars
- Plastic Bottles
Each type of container has its own pros and cons, and we will cover them below.
Tin containers are considered the ideal way to store olive oil. The metallic barrier prevents light as well as air from entering the bottle. Premium olive oils typically come in these types of containers. The main downside of storing olive oil this way is the price point as these bottles are more expensive. However, if you are looking to store large quantities of olive oil long-term, and preserve its quality and flavor, these are the best types of containers.
Another effective way to maintain quality and flavor is to store olive oil in glass jars. You can find olive oil in tinted glass containers which reduces the light entering the jar, preserving the flavor and quality. Although a good storage container, glass jars are not as effective as tin containers in reducing exposure to light. And glass jars are fragile, they shatter more easily than aluminum containers. If you would like a high-quality oil and expect to use the oil within a year, we recommend finding oil in glass jars.
Plastic bottles are a popular storage tool for the oil, however, they are the least effective for storing oil long-term. Plastic bottles, when exposed to light, can heat the oil, reducing the quality, flavor, and freshness in the process. Additionally, plastic bottles are porous so oxygen and moisture will enter the bottle over time. And most importantly, the chemicals in the bottle will leech into the oil, placing microplastics in the oil and causing it to go bad. The main benefit of using olive oil in plastic bottles is the price, lower quality olive oils typically come in plastic bottles, making it an inexpensive option.
Note: In recent years we have learned about the dangerous effects of consuming microplastics. We suggest avoiding plastics that can leech into your diet.
Although the storage location does not affect the max shelf life of olive oil, it is just as important as the storage location. The proper storage location can keep the oil fresh and preserve its quality for years. As a reminder, your goal is to reduce exposure to heat, light, and oxygen. Whether you are storing oil in a freezer, fridge, or pantry, these three locations are effective against heat and light.
The freezer is the most effective storage location for long-term storage. However, it is best if you do not expect to use olive oil any time soon. Since olive oil will become completely frozen at 10°F (-12°C), it won’t be easily accessible for regular use. Still, frozen oil will retain its flavor and nutrients so there is no need to worry about a change in quality. Simply placing the oil at room temperature overnight will let the oil liquefy.
Storing in the fridge allows you to protect your bottle from heat and light, but also allows us to use it regularly. Olive oil will solidify around 54°F (12°C), where it may turn cloudy, but completely safe to consume regularly. As the olive oil hardens, it may affect how you use it for cooking, but know that the oil retains its nutrients and flavor regardless of its thickness.
Although storing olive oil at room temperature leaves it unprotected from heat, it is still a safe way to store olive oil. Simply aim to store olive oil in a cool, dark place, away from the stove and sunlight. Keeping it in a pantry would protect the container from most environmental aggressors. However, if you live in a warm climate where the temperatures regularly exceed 80°F (27°C), you should consider storing cooking oils in the fridge or freezer.
Shelf Life of Olive Oil
The shelf life of olive oil depends on the classification of oil, as well as if the bottle has been opened or unopened. Refined olive oil has the longest shelf life, however, it is less flavorful and nutrient-dense because of the heating process it undergoes. Extra-virgin olive oil has a potent flavor and contains higher amounts of nutrients, but it has a shorter shelf life. Below is a helpful table of the shelf life of olive oils:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Refined Olive Oil
Unopened Bottle 12-18 Months 18-24 Months
Opened Bottle 3-6 Months 6-8 Months
Once the bottle has been opened, we suggest finishing the bottle within 3-6 months for the best quality and flavor. After the oil has been exposed to oxygen, the quality will begin to degrade.
How can I tell if Olive Oil has Gone Bad?
There is an easy 3 step approach to determine if your oil has gone rancid. Simply, rely on your sense of sight, smell, and taste to determine if the oil is still safe for cooking.
- Step 1: Rely on your sense of sight, and look for signs of discoloration. If the oil changes from a vibrant yellow-green color to a dull color, it may be a sign the oil has gone bad. Also, you should know rancid oils do not grow mold, however herbs and spices in the oil can grow mold.
- Step 2: If you still have doubts about the oil, the next step is to smell the oil. Rancid oil smell soapy, and have an off odor to it. You will know immediately if the oil has gone bad.
- Step 3: Lastly, if the oil smells fine and looks fine, consider tasting a small sample of the oil. A small sample is safe to eat, and it will tell you if it has gone bad. Rancid oil tastes spoiled and you will have your answer.
If you suspect your oil of being bad, it is better to dispose of it than expose your family to rancid oil. Although rancid oil will not make you sick, it will have negative long-term health effects on your body. Consuming a rancid oil will increase the free radicals in the body which destabilize healthy cells. What else, cooking with rancid oil can ruin a dish because rancid oils are simply, unsavory.
How to Dispose of Olive Oil?
When disposing of olive oil, it is a good practice to repurpose the oil or place it in a plastic bag before going into the trash. Disposing of it through the kitchen drain can damage the pipes over time, leading to an expensive call to a plumber. Fortunately, if you find yourself with rancid oil, there are some easy ways to dispose of it. Consider:
- DIY Candles
- DIY Soap
- Use it as a lubricant for metal hinges
- Use it for cleaning and shinning
- Recycle in compost
- Pour cool oil into a plastic bag, and throw it in the trash
The shelf life of extra-virgin olive oil is 18 months, and 24 months for refined olive oil. Storing olive oil in a pantry, fridge, or freezer will not affect the shelf life, but if the bottle is opened or unopened will. Once opened, the extra virgin olive oil should be consumed within 3-6 months, and refined olive oil should be consumed within 6-9 months. When possible, we always suggest extra virgin olive oil over refined oils because it is more flavorful, nutrient-dense, and generally healthier. Although refined olive oil has a longer shelf life, it is not as healthy as unrefined varieties of olive oil.
Related Article: Best Cooking Oils for Long-Term Storage
Related Article: How to Store Cooking Oils Long-Term
Related Article: Extending the Shelf Life of Coconut Oil for Long-Term Storage
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