When I was younger I had a roommate and we lived in this tiny apartment that had a small refrigerator. I was always trying to make room in the fridge so I would take the oil out and put it in the cabinet. The next day I would come home and it would be back in the refrigerator.
Finally, I told her there was no need to refrigerate cooking oil. My mom never did and the oil never went rancid. But my roomy was just as adamant that we were going to die from bad oil because her mom kept it in the refrigerator. Turns out we were both right, and here’s why.
How To Store Fats and Oils
Good oil, meaning oil with lots of antioxidants, can have a shelf life as long as two years. Growing up, there were three kids in our family and food didn’t stay around long enough to go bad which is why my mom didn’t bother putting it in the refrigerator. In fact, she re-used cooking oil and kept it in a little pot on the back of the stove.
My roommate, on the other hand, was an only child. A loaf of bread might go moldy in her house before they got to the last slice. So, oil got refrigerated because it might stay around its entire shelf life.
What Is Oxidation?
Oils break down over time. The process is called oxidation. Eventually the oil will taste bad, smell bad, and become toxic–even carcinogenic–so it’s crucial to discard oil that’s been around too long. Heat, light, and oxygen will accelerate the oxidation process so you need to store oil properly to get full use out of it. Here are some tips on storing fats and oils–
- Store oil in an airtight container to reduce exposure to oxygen.
- Store oil in dark bottles or opaque containers to reduce exposure to sunlight.
- Refrigerate oil to extend its life. This will also reduce exposure to heat and light.
- Monitor the expiration date.
It baffles me why oil is sold in clear bottles, but if you buy it in small quantities one bottle at a time and use it pretty quickly, you won’t do any harm by not refrigerating it. However, consider re-bottling your oils in opaque bottles with an airtight seal. Re-using oil is not ideal, but if you’re old school like my mom strain the oil after using it. That way your chicken won’t taste like fish and vice versa.