How to Properly Store Cooking Oil, According to Experts

Plus, one thing you should never do.

Bottles of oils on table against color background
Photo: Getty Images

Whether you love to drizzle some sesame oil on top of your finished stir fry, or sauté some tasty root vegetables in olive oil, properly storing any and all of your go-to cooking oils can make or break a meal. Why? Though not tricky to store correctly, some cooking oils can become rancid if they are not kept in the proper spot in your kitchen or pantry. And proper storage depends on exactly which cooking oils you use, as well as how frequently you use them.

"When it comes to storing oil, there is no one size fits all. The one thing you should never do is store your oils above the stove where they are exposed to heat inside their containers on a regular basis," explains celebrity chef and founder of Chefs Life Oils, Brian Malarkey. "Extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oils, peanut oils, and coconut oils should be stored in a cool, dark place that's also dry—preferably a pantry away from appliances and sunlight because exposure to heat breaks down the oils, and, in turn, can make them rancid."

Rancid cooking oil not only tastes bad, but can have a negative effect on your health, says Aysegul Sanford, a food blogger and owner of Foolproof Living. "The [oxidation] process produces free radicals, which can enter your body and cause long-term damage," he explains. "In order to prevent oxidation, the goal is to limit the amount of moisture and air that comes into contact with the oil. Glass or metal containers work best, and glass jars are great because they are air-tight and easy to reuse."

For more tips and tricks on how to best store olive oil, coconut oil, and other popular cooking oils, here is some advice from the pros.

How to Store Olive Oil

"We should treat extra virgin olive oil like fresh fruit juice. The oil we press from olives is perishable, and unlike fine wine, it doesn't improve with time," says Mary Mori, the VP of technical services at California Olive Ranch. When it comes to storing olive oil (and any cooking oil, for that matter), Mori notes that there are a few key factors to consider. "There are four main enemies of cooking oil—time, heat, oxygen, and light," she explains. "Oxygen can cause the oil quality to deteriorate over time, causing rancidity, so it's important to always secure the lid tightly when you aren't using it. Also, I never recommend transferring your oil to a new container or using any type of special pourers, because that allows oxygen to start degrading the oil."

In terms of heat, Mori notes that the ideal temperature at which you should store your olive oil is about 65 degrees. "One of the best places to store your olive oil is safely in a cupboard in a cool, dark place," she declares. "Do not store your oil near the stove range, as the heat accelerates the rate at which the oil starts to go rancid. I see plenty of people store their bottles of olive oil on the counter right next to their stove. Not only does this expose the bottle to heat, but light speeds up the rancidity process, too."

"Speaking of light, our dark green bottles are intentional!" Mori adds. According to the olive oil pro, this hue, which is the color of many different olive oil bottles, helps filter out damaging UV rays. Still, even with a natural filter in place, Mori notes that you should never leave your olive oil bottle on the counter. "You can safely tuck it away in your kitchen cupboard to ensure the oil retains its peak flavor," she says.

Lastly, Mori points out that bottles of EVOO have a shelf life of approximately two years, but that lifespan changes when you crack it open. "Once you open your bottle of extra virgin olive oil, use it within 30 to 60 days," she says. "I always recommend buying the right size bottle based on your usage rate. If you use oil quickly, you can go for a bigger size, if you don't, stick with the smaller 500 mL size."

How to Store Coconut Oil

"Store coconut oil in a container with an air-tight cap (it can be the container you purchased it in, just make sure the lid closes tightly) in your coolest kitchen cupboard away from the light," says Kat Marris, a recipe developer at Green Chef. "Coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat, which makes it fairly stable as far as oils go, meaning it resists oxidation and rancidity well."

Marris adds that while you can refrigerate coconut oil to keep it fresh for a longer period of time, doing so will change its texture. "It will harden the coconut oil," she shares. "This is ideal if you are using it for no-bake applications, but can make it difficult to handle. As with any oil, air, light, and high temperatures speed up the degradative process, which is why I like to store my coconut oil in a dark, cool cupboard away from the light."

She continues, "Make sure to discard rancid or spoiled coconut oil. Easy markers to look for when evaluating your coconut oil are a yellowish tint, chunky texture, and a sour or bitter smell."

How to Store Sesame Oil

"I always store my sesame oil in the fridge to help extend the shelf life. Sesame oil is sensitive to heat, light, and oxygen exposure, but unlike olive oil, sesame oil will not fully solidify when stored in the fridge," says Sara Heilman, Culinary Development Manager at EveryPlate. "It does run the risk of becoming rancid if it's not stored properly, and it will taste bitter. I recommend storing sesame oil in the bottle it is purchased in."

Heilman adds, "Untoasted sesame oil, specifically, is great for sautéing and helps add a subtle depth of flavor. It's also great to use as a base for a homemade salad dressing. If you're looking for a more intense, nutty depth of flavor, look to toasted sesame oil to drizzle over the top of a finished dish, or simply use it in a marinade."

How to Store Safflower Oil and Other Vegetable Oils

"Safflower oil can be stored refrigerated for up to six months, or stored in a cool, dark place for up to two years. It has a high polyunsaturated fat content, which means that it will remain liquid while refrigerated," shares Victoria Abdelhady, a junior recipe developer at HelloFresh. "Neutral in flavor, safflower oil is great for dressings, baking, and cold applications. High-oleic safflower oil has a higher smoke point, which is great for deep frying. Safflower oil is so versatile, affordable, and a great alternative for those looking to be health conscious."

When it comes to other vegetable oils, the storage advice is similar. "All oils have similar ideals for storage. Oxidation can affect any oil type, like almond oil, avocado oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils. Typically, for the oils that have been refined, light has less of an impact, but time, temperature, and oxygen exposure still have a significant impact," says Mori. "This is why you tend to find vegetable oil in clear plastic bottles." Still, like olive oil, Mori notes that these oils shouldn't be kept next to the stove. Instead, they are best stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place.

How to Store Walnut Oil, Hazelnut Oil, and More

"Any fancy nut oils (like walnut, hazelnut, pistachio), truffle oil or other infused oils, are the most delicate and must be stored in the fridge," explains Malarkey. What makes these oils so delicate is their higher unsaturated fat content. "These oils are the most likely to be affected by oxidation, declining the quickest after opening, so keeping them cool and out of light is very important." You should aim to use these oils as quickly as possible.

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