4 Simple but Clever Ways to Keep Cooking Oil Fresh Longer

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Ever reached into the depths of your cupboard and pulled out a half-empty container of vegetable oil that’s past the printed Best By date and wondered if it’s still good to use? Storing oil is tricky over the long term. Although it will never have the long shelf life of our other long-term storage foods, it can be stored safely.

In this article, we’ll look at four ways to keep the oil you store fresh longer, as well as how to tell if it’s okay to use, even if it’s past the best by or expiry date. Because you wouldn’t want to eat boiled food for every meal in an emergency, would you? I don’t even want to do that in everyday life!

But if you don’t know how to store cooking oil, and you’re not keeping a supply of it in your emergency food storage, that’s what you may end up eating every day, meal after meal.

image: various cooking oils  in bottles with their plant beside them

Does vegetable oil go bad?

Yes. Vegetable oil contains super high levels of polyunsaturated fat; those are the fats that allow oil to be liquid when it’s at room temperature, compared to say, shortening. In general, polyunsaturated or unsaturated fats have a less stable chemical makeup and can turn rancid much more quickly. That’s why it’s important to know how to store cooking oil properly. There are things you have some control over that will help.

How can you tell if vegetable oil has gone bad?

Don’t throw away oil just because it’s past the best by date printed on the container. Instead, smell it. If it has a musty, bitter, or sour odor, it’s bad; don’t use it. Also, if there’s mold anywhere, it’s past human consumption.

How long is vegetable oil good for once opened?

Unopened, properly stored oil is good for about two years. The shelf life of an opened bottle of vegetable oil varies from a few months to a year.  depending on its quality and how it’s stored. This is a rough estimate, as oil quality and storage conditions greatly impact how long it lasts on the shelf.

Keeping the Oils You Store Fresh Longer

When thinking about how to store cooking oil, keep in mind the four main storage conditions affecting shelf life: light, temperature, time, oxygen, and apply them to the oils you store to minimize rancidity before you use it.

Remember that heat, light, and oxygen cause oxidation. Oxidized oils contain toxic compounds and should be avoided.

1. Storing oil in the dark

Lesson number one in how to store cooking oil is that light is one of the main enemies of oil. You may have noticed that many oils come in very dark bottles — dark green, even black. The dark plastic or glass container helps keep the oil fresh for longer, but you’ll also want to store oil in a dark cupboard or pantry, where there is never any light and especially direct sunlight. Even if that means keeping the bottles inside a box.

2. Be cool

Refrigerate or freeze your oil to lengthen its’ shelf life. If it thickens, just let it warm to room temperature before using it. Coconut oil is a great option for the oils we typically think of for cooking and baking. If you cook from scratch, you may already know that; if you don’t, you should learn. Knowing how to cook from scratch is a critical survival skill.

Coconut oil can be kept in the fridge and has a longer shelf life than other oils since it’s a saturated fat. If space is tight at your house, look around for anything you can clear out, give away, or store somewhere else in order to store your extra oil. NEVER, EVER store oil in the heat.

The most important step in storing oil is keeping track of the date you purchased it and rotating it regularly.

3. How long has it been?

The most important step in storing oil is keeping track of the date you purchased it and rotating it regularly. By the time it reaches its stamped best by/expiration date, it may already be too rancid to use.

If you don’t use oil all that often, buy smaller bottles and rotate through them more quickly. And for the love of all things fried, don’t succumb to the temptation of buying oil at Costco. However, if you do, I’ve included ideas for using old oil later in this article.

The rancid oil contains free radicals, which have been known to be a factor in inflammation and the destruction of cells and tissue.

If you’ve stocked up on several bottles of oil, put yourself on a strict rotation basis, so the oil gets used up, and you replace it with a fresh bottle.

4. Keep oxygen out of stored oil

Obviously, you won’t be able to use oxygen absorbers in your bottles of oil!  The only measure you can take is storing oil in jars and then using a Food Saver device to extract oxygen from the jar. However, even that isn’t foolproof.

The better option is to track your household’s oil consumption to determine what size containers work best for you. Some families work through a gallon of olive oil in just a couple of months, while that would be a year’s worth for others. Buy oil in containers that you know will be used up within two months or less. That means you will want to store 6-7 bottles for the year and then rotate, adding fresh oil every couple of months or so.

Is there an alternative to oil?

Some food storage experts have given up on storing oil long-term and have switched to storing shortening. Shortening can easily be packed into canning jars, and with the use of a Food Saver, can be vacuum sealed for true long-term storage. When a recipe calls for oil, melt the shortening, and there’s your oil. Shortening powder is also an option.

A good compromise would be to store oil using the guidelines described above and store shortening in vacuum-packed jars for storage for up to several years.

What to do with old oil?

Aside from the unpleasant odor and the bad taste it can impart to food as a result, there’s evidence that rancid oils contain free radicals, which can be a health threat. Best not to use it for human consumption.

You could dispose of it. After cooling completely, put large amounts into a lidded container and throw it away and wipe up smaller amounts with paper towels and toss it in the garbage.

However, rancid oil is useful for other things. Here are a few ideas:

  • Lice treatmentOil suffocates the lice, and a nit comb removes them from hair. Vegetable and olive oil both work.
  • Produce biodiesel – If you’re a DIYer, you might find these basic steps for a homemade biodiesel plant interesting.
  • Remove sticker residue – Any cooking oil works. Just put some on a paper towel and lay it over the gummy gunk for a few minutes, then wipe. Repeat as needed.

One important reason to store and use oil is that it quickly boosts our daily calorie count.

Is storing oil worth the hassle?

Absolutely! In fact, it’s one of the top ten foods to stock up on. One important reason to store and use oil is that it quickly boosts our daily calorie count. If you’re dieting, you’re probably staying away from oils, but imagine if you were in an emergency situation and were 100% reliant on your food storage. Chances would be very good that between a much higher level of stress and more physical activity, your body will need well over 3,000 calories per day.

Adding oils to recipes, salads, or even a tablespoon or two of flaxseed or coconut oil in a smoothie provides extra calories, not to mention all the health benefits of using good oils.

TIP– Spice up your meals! Eating bland food for a while would be okay in a disaster, but why not avoid that? Oils and spices make boring food exciting! Read about 28 oils and spices you need in your pantry to avoid plain food.

We stack those buckets of wheat, rice, and beans, knowing they’ll be good for decades. Storing oil is just one item that will require a bit more attention in our food storage pantries.

What tips do you have about how to store cooking oil longer?

Originally published January 23, 2018; updated 7/18/23.

65 thoughts on “4 Simple but Clever Ways to Keep Cooking Oil Fresh Longer”

  1. Hello from another Zonie. I don't currently live there but I have a little over three years to retire from the military and then I am moving home. All of my family is in the Phoenix Metro area. You have a huge amount of good info on your on this site and I am looking forward to learning from it. Thank You.

  2. Lisa, I have shortening (regular and butter flavored) and large Mason jars. I've ordered a vacuum lid from Food Saver for my jars. Would you recommend placing shortening in the Mason jars and vacuum sealing the lids?

    I also plan on vacuuming my seed stockpile in the Mason jars and storing them in a cool, dark, and dry place. (My closet.)

    1. I too put my seeds in a jar and vacuumed the air out. Then I learned that with seeds, moisture is more important to keep out, than oxygen. So I'm going to the local shoe store and getting some silicon packets to absorb the moisture.

  3. Well, this brings forth a question then (nice article, BTW). I am not a proponent of using hydrogenated oils (shortening), though that's an entirely different argument, so I am wondering: is it possible to store liquid oils by pressure canning? If so, that would be an excellent method to use, and one could put it in half-pint or pint jars, depending on how much one would expect to use in a short time. And if this is not desirable, why not? The oil would never get over about 240 degrees, which is way below the danger point for oil…..just wondering?

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      I actually had a hard time finding information about storing oil, other than storing it in a dark, cool place. I would like to know, myself, if pressure canning oil is possible and desirable, and I agree with you about the use of shortening. I much prefer healthier oils, which brings us back around to the storage issue! I can understand why otherwise health-conscious preppers turn to shortening for long-term storage. If you learn anything more about storing oil, I hope you'll share it with us.

      1. The LDS Preparedness Manual has about 2 pages of information on storing oils and fats, including some 'possible' long term storage (best to read all the info they have on it to be careful). If you can get a copy, it is well worth it for almost everything.

    2. It seems to me that pressure canning liquid oils is a bad idea for one simple reason…heat rapidly causes oils to go rancid.

      1. Exactly right, Chandra. It’s important to keep all oils as cool as possible, and even then they go rancid over time.

  4. Pingback: Survival4Chicks » Blog Archive » How to Store [cooking] Oil Safely

  5. Adding Vitamin E to an opened bottle of oil adds antioxidents that extend the shelf life somewhat. I usually pierce 3 or 4 vitamin E capsules and squeeze the contents into the bottle of oil.

  6. Some good news! I'm watching History Channel's "Modern Marvels" episode "Fry It" (2010). They're covering cooking oil and said even rancid oil still hinders bacterial growth and is relatively safe to consume, just not as appetizing.

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      That would be good news. There is so much conflicting information out there. Just yesterday I contacted a food preservation expert with this question, Karen Breese, she checked with another expert she knows who said oil could be stored indefinitely! Well, it CAN be stored indefinitely, but should it be consumed after long periods of time? Probably the safest bet would be to keep it in the freezer and rotate. In a SHTF scenario, it might be canola oil that becomes as valuable as gold!

      1. I have not frozen oil but I have kept it in the fridg. The only thing I ever noticed with the refrigerated oil is that it does turn cloudy. Doesn't hurt the oil though and I have used it for years. I suggest rotate , rotate, rotate and don't store it for long , long periods of time. Also there are lots of ways to fry foods. If your going to fry why be all that concerned about the fat used? I would not worry about it . When it comes to having to use it in a crisis I would use what I have and then plan on going back to real healthy oils as soon as possible. This problem shouldn't last forever. I HOPE ! Love all your info. You are doing a good job. I heard that hydrogenated oil was created by heating it ! But what do I know ?

        1. Actually, you seem to know quite a bit! As much as I love storing food long-term, oil is something that has to be rotated. I read somewhere that olive oil in ancient clay jars had been found at an archaeological site, and it was still good. Most of the experts I've read, say that it can go rancid just like any other oil. Yes, you're right. In a crisis, you just make do with what you have.

          1. We just toured an olive oil farm/bottling plant in Spain. I asked the owner how long an unopened bottle of olive oil will last and he said years! Cool dark place of course.

  7. Vegetable and seed oils are notorious for rancidity. Check out sources of animal fats, coconut oil, and palm oil, and don't forget the olive oil. These oils can keep for extended periods of time without a lot of fuss.

  8. In fact, the saturated tropical fats (coconut, palm fruit) are perfect for long term storage and extremely healthy. See Dr. Bruce Fife's website for sound science on this. Naturally saturated fats are actually the healthy ones (plain chemistry here) and unsaturated go rancid easily-bad. Thats why crisco was a boon…artifically saturate the veggie oil with hydrogen (hydrogenated) and increase shelf life and preserve it artifically-bad. Fats that saturated by nature are healthy and shelf stable for years even in a plastic tub. I buy them by in 5 gallon tubs and after three years, they are still perfect. Flax oil is highly prone to rancidy and free radicals. Great for paint though as it's really linseed oil. Great for painting, not for eating.

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      It seems that the best bet is to go with shortening repackaged in canning jars and given the Food Saver vacuum treatment or buying saturated oils, such as coconut. I've read mixed reviews on the shelf-life of olive oil, everywhere from a few months to centuries!

      1. Late to this topic. I just sealed in mason jars 12 quarts of peanut oil. Should last a few years.
        In a dark room in a dark closet.

      2. Hi, I’m just wondering if you’ve found new answers to any of these questions? Love what you’re doing. Keep up the good work.

  9. For those of you that don't like the hydrogenated shortenings like Crisco, I've bought a case of Spectrum Organic all vegetable shortening. It's non-hydrogenated, no trans fat, made from pressed palm oil, and makes a great pie crust. I got the case from Azure Standard out of Oregon, who deliver in our area by truck. As far as I can tell it should last a long time on the shelf.

    1. I just stocked up on Spectrum Organic sunflower oil today, actually. And then I was looking up uses, properties etc. and I’m pretty sure I meant safflower. Right? One of them I found in my basement as a kid (it must have been there before we moved in) and while I don’t remember the type of ‘cooking’ I did with it, I definitely don’t remember any ill effect. Maybe rancidity is somewhat relative to circumstance…

  10. Olive oil stored in tins (rather than glass or plastic bottles) has a longer-term shelf life if you follow the same guidlines, of light, oxygen, and temperature that you listed in your posting. According to Alton Brown from the food network, if stored in a dark, cool place, unopened, it will store indefinitely. I have a combination of oils as part of my plan. Olive oil, coconut oil, and canola oil. These oils are not only good for consumption, but they have other topical properties as well.

    Coconut oil is a natural anti-bacterial agent. It can be used on the skin as a moisturizer for very dry skin, and helps to keep you smelling good and fresh. Another little tidbit about olive oil is that it has the same anti-inflammatory properties that ibuprophen has when it is consumed without heating. That is why it is a good heart-healthy oil in that it helps to reduce inflammation in our bodies, and as a topical treatment for rashes and insect bites.

    1. Those of you advocating canola oil: HORRIBLE oil!!! it is HIGHLY processed as it is actually Rapeseed, and requires heavy processing to make it non toxic for human consumption. BAD STUFF!!!

      1. Just to add to Carol L. Canola oil MUST be processed EXACTLY according to the specs. If their machines are not calibrated exactly, at all times, it will become toxic. If they are off to either side (high or low) then it begins to get into the bad range. It requires constant maintenance of their equipment, and I don’t trust others that much anymore. Think about labor issues that all companies deal with, how many new employees are trusted to complete this very important task.
        If you still prefer Canola oil, just make sure you only get top quality brands that you really really trust.

    1. If you can find shortening, Crisco, usually, in a metal can, it will last indefinitely. However, most shortening isn't packaged that way anymore. It comes in foil-wrapped sticks or cardboard-ish containers. If that's all you can find, just pack the shortening into canning jars and use a Foodsaver jar attachment to remove air from the jar. This is an excellent way to keep shortening fresh for years.

  11. FYI – you can also Buy “Powdered Shortening” and store in a #10 can. Keeping it in a coolest area, will last quite awhile.

    1. thesurvivalmom

      Shortening powder is very helpful as an ingredient in baking but still cannot be used for frying. I tried it once and it turned into a plastic-y sort of mess.

  12. I’ve sealed (canned) crisco, coconut and gee (butter) in canning small canning jars. Hopefully 5 year shelf life. Nothing beats the comforting flavor of butter on re-hydrated veggies, sun baked bread or pop corn!

  13. I am interested in how Steve cans his crisco and coconut oil. How long and at what pressure. Have watched videos on canning butter (ghee) and wonder if it is similar, except for having to cook it down.

  14. Pingback: How to Store Oil Safely » Staying Prepared

    1. The Survival Mom

      The best way is to pack it into canning jars and using a jar sealer attachment, seal the jar with a Food Saver.

  15. Thanks for the info! I’m going to pull out all my palm shortening that came to me in plastic tubs and repack it in jars and vacuum seal. Hopefully that will extend the life. It was very expensive and I’m just not using it nearly fast enough. I’m afraid of losing my investment. Wonder if I should freeze it as well for now? How long do you think it extends the life by vacuum sealing it in jars?

  16. Hello, I’m not sure if this would work or not but rather than repacking shortening in canning jars could you just drop the entire can of unopened shortening in a mylar bag with oxygen absorbers and seal? Wouldn’t this remove the oxygen that would cause it to go rancid? What do you think? It would be great if it was this easy. lol


    1. The Survival Mom

      Wanda, removal of oxygen is going to help the shortening last longer and maybe your plan would work. The vacuum packing in canning jars and then using a jar sealer works because it removes the oxygen. With your idea, there may be a bit of oxygen in the new container of shortening, but very little and the mylar bag/oxy absorber would work to keep out any additional oxygen. I’d say, give it a try!

  17. “light, oxygen, temperature, and time”… There is so little information on the web about storing oils, and what is out there pretty much says “don’t bother, much”. I use an HVAC pump with a Food Saver Jar cap to seal oils. I discovered an odd thing. I’d heat the oil to between 250 and 300F, pour into the jar and seal it with the pump. The oil would “boil” in the jar for quite some time under evacuation. I believe, it turns out, that water is a fifth parameter. Oil carries water, and a good bit of it seems. Water is a strong oxidation catalyst. From what I’ve found, its called “water activity”, and it ultimately does things like the plastic of DVD_R’s in. When I jar coconut oil, I loose about 1/4″ of head space to the entrained water (and probably some aromatic factors) boiling off. That’s about 1 oz in 32, quite a lot. Still, light and temperature contribute to something called “auto oxidation”, where the molecule flips electrons on its own. But that requires energy inputs (light and temperature). So, I believe, significantly longer oil storage is possible. But, I doubt it will ever survive the 30 some years of the likes of rice.

  18. FYI: pressure can various types of meat. It will store 15+ years in a cool dark place. When you open a can and cook it pour off the fat and use it in your other cooking application where the extra fat is needed. I have had 10 year old commercially cans tuna in oil and it didn’t taste or smell rancid at all. Not sure the oil type but if it can be canned commercially it can be canned with a home pressure canner.
    Alternatively look into meet potting. Old timers would go 20 or more years digging their meat out without ever havinging the fat go rancid.

  19. I have a 6 gallon bucket of lard. If I open it to use, I know it will go rancid before I can use it all. Is it possible to open it, heat it up and pour the hot oil into mason jars to seal?

    1. The Survival Mom

      Here’s a better way to preserve it for a longer shelf life. Spoon the lard into canning jars and use a spatula to press it into the jar so there are no air holes. Place a canning lid on each jar (no need for the rims) and, using a Food Saver jar attachment, vacuum out all remaining air inside the jar. It’s possible for lard and shortening to last for years using this method.

      1. How Many Years??? I’ve just spent about 4 hours reading info online about fat storage (not the first time….) and there appears to be very little new information in 2017.
        IF Crisco is repacked in a canning jar (1/2 pint or pint size), then, using a Food Saver jar attachment, all remaining air inside the jar is removed with the vacuum feature, how many years past the original manufacturer’s storage date will the Crisco last?
        I’ve had zero success finding either a definitive answer to the question above, OR finding shortening packed in the “old-fashioned” metal cans.
        Thanks. Love your site!

  20. If you have the room in your fridge, you can store your (glass bottle) cooking oil in it. Not the bottle you use daily; it would be a bottle you are storing for future use.

    I once bought a quart of olive oil in a tin can. I put it in the freezer. The tin can expanded slightly. A year later I thawed it out and the oil was perfectly good. I haven’t tried to freeze a glass bottle of oil, for fear the oil might expand and break the glass.

    I store 4 oils. Olive; coconut; refined avocado, which has the highest smoke point of any cooking oil and is very healthy; and sesame oil purely for flavoring.

  21. When I was young, cooking oil wasn’t something to be found in my grandma’s pantry. She used butter, Crisco, and bacon fat to fry and to bake. We were pretty healthy, and were never sick b/c of the fats she used. When a cow or pig is butchered, there is often plenty of fat/ lard which can be rendered. (It can sometimes be ordered from the butcher.) We used to add it to venison when we ground the meat. I wonder if a visit to local senior care centers wouldn’t provide insight into some of the questions we have?

  22. Great ideas.just the..least you expect we’ll running arnd looking for T.P and paper towel.our family has to do better.

  23. I have a couple of friends with 3D printers. I am going to ask them to make me a couple of grids, with wide feet of some kind, to put in jars of solid fats, and a couple of grids with hollow floats for liquid oils.

    Then, try repackaging some Crisco, lard, and solid-at-room-temperature coconut oil; and liquid coconut oil, high-grade olive oil (not a favorite of mine), Black Walnut oil, and a couple more probably, after doing some more research.

    With the grid in the top of the jar, I can place an oxygen absorber or a desiccant pack in the jar and keep it out of the oil.

    Another thought just occurred to me is to modify the jar lids and hang the grid from the lid. Probably use a food-safe adhesive.

    Of course, I do intend to have a couple of types of oil presses. One to make oils for biodiesel and one or more types for producing edible oils from various items. I think it would be a good PAW (Post Apocalyptic World) income-producing endeavor.

    Just some thoughts and just my opinion.

  24. In a pinch, if your oil has gone bad, you can use most of them as a liquid candle with a floating wick, as seen in lots of places, Or, in many “oil lamps” instead of commercially sold “lamp oil”.

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