Ever since it became widely marketed as a superfood and praised for its numerous health benefits, coconut oil has increased in popularity and many more households are starting to implement it on a daily basis.
Coconut oil has numerous different uses. From cooking to skin care, dental health and more, coconut oil can be quite versatile and useful. It has great taste, offers many health benefits and is easily available and easy to use.
Who wouldn’t you want to take advantage of those benefits?
However, if you choose to implement coconut oil in your daily life, whether that’s through food, hair or skin care, dental care or other uses, you also need to be mindful of how you store and use the oil, so you can avoid any potential side effects of using spoiled coconut oil.
How Long Does Coconut Oil Last?
Although coconut oil has the highest shelf life among other cooking oils, it too expires.
However, due to its chemical structure, coconut oil can sit at room temperature for months at a time without spoiling. Once pressed, it can be used for months or even years without going bad. The reason for this is that its oxidation rate is low and it therefore lasts longer than other types of oils.
As long as no contaminants get in the jar of coconut oil, and you don’t see any obvious signs that it’s expired it should be fine to use for longer periods of time.
While usually the “best by” date can be helpful in determining whether the oil has gone bad or is expired, since those dates are just a rough estimate, there are other signs you can look for to determine whether or not your coconut oil is safe to use.
Let’s take a look at what those are.
How to Tell If Coconut Oil Has Gone Bad – 4 Signs of Spoiled Coconut Oil
There is a big difference between coconut oil being expired or rancid. Since expiration dates are not safety dates and they are used as more of a guideline than strict instructions, they can only indicate the date until the product will be of best flavor or quality, not when it will become unusable.
Note that even if the product isn’t past its expiration date, the oil may still turn bad as the date shows when the coconut oil was packaged, not when the coconuts were harvested and the oil extracted. That’s why sometimes coconut oil can turn sour even before the expiry date.
Setting the “sell-by” and “best-by” dates behind, here are a few simple and easy ways to determine whether your coconut oil is usable or it’s gone bad.
Time, light, heat and oxygen can all affect the quality of the coconut oil and over time it can turn sour due to longer exposure to these elements.
Here are the four main signs you can use to determine whether your coconut oil has gone bad or not.
1. Check Its Color
No matter what type of coconut oil you’re using, both refined and virgin coconut oil should be crystal clear when liquid and milky-white when solid. If the oil starts to look yellowish when in solid form, or doesn’t have a transparent color when melted, that can be taken as a sign that it has started to go bad.
2. Check Its Texture
Once it goes bad, coconut oil usually becomes lumpy and no longer has a smooth consistency.
3. Smell or Taste
If the sweet and pleasant smell of coconut oil becomes foul, this is a good indication that the oil has gone bad. When they’ve become bad, most oils, including coconut oil can start to smell bad or become bitter.
4. Appearance (Dark Spots)
Although coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that can help protect against harmful microorganisms, dark spots of bacteria and mold can appear when the oil is rancid.
If you see some or all of these signs on your batch of coconut oil make sure you dispose of it properly and not use it, even if it’s not past its expiry date.
Note: No matter what type of oil you use never pour grease down the drain after use or pour out an entire jar if it’s gone bad. This can damage your plumbing, cause clogs and compromise the quality of the local water supply. This is why it’s best to set up a proper waste management system for your kitchen so you don’t throw out oil and grease down the drain ever again.
Refined Versus Virgin Coconut Oil
There are two type of coconut oil you can purchase, both of which can be used for cooking, skincare and in many other instances. Both oils have their own advantages and disadvantages so let’s see what the main differences between these types of coconut oils are so you can determine which one fits your needs best.
Refined coconut oil is produced by cleaning and blanching the coconut meat before the drying process. Once the coconut meat is dry, the oil is then separated to deliver a product with neutral scent and flavor. The main advantages of using refined coconut oil include the fact that it is less expensive and that it can be used for cooking at high temperatures since it has a smoke point of 450°F (232°C).
Virgin coconut oil requires less handling and processing; therefore, it contains more valuable properties than refined coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts, not from dried coconut meat. The coconut meat is mechanically crushed and the oil is isolated. Since this process of extraction preserves the qualities of the oil much better, this means that it has a higher nutritional value, as well as a nice coconut flavor and scent. Since it is cold pressed, virgin coconut oil has a lower smoke point of 350°F (176°C).
How to Store Coconut Oil So It Doesn’t Spoil
Store your coconut oil in a glass or BPA-free plastic container to prevent chemical leaching.
Make sure it is placed in a sealed, ideally airtight container so you can limit its exposure to oxygen and keep it from breaking down the oil.
Keep the container of oil away from light and heat exposure. While coconut oil can be safely stored at room temperature, some choose to store it in their fridge. This makes it harder to use since the cold turns it rock-solid, but as long as you take it out a few minutes before use and let it sit at room temperature, it should soften up a bit so you can scoop it out easily.
Coconut oil can also be frozen, which is great for long-term storage. The only thing you need to be mindful of is placing it in a freezer-safe container.
While storage is important so your coconut oil can last longer, it is certainly not the only thing you should be mindful of. Other important steps in keeping your coconut oil from spoiling fast, include:
- Avoid putting coconut oil in dirty utensils or containers
- Avoid double dipping with the same utensil
- Use clean fingers (or better yet a spoon) if you’re using coconut oil as a skin moisturizer so you don’t contaminate the batch
Now that you’re more familiar with how to properly store and use coconut oil, here are a few extra tips on how to choose the right coconut oil for you.
What to Look For When Buying Coconut Oil
The type of coconut oil you choose will depend mostly on the purpose of the use as well as your budget and needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the right product:
- Virgin vs Refined
We’ve already covered most of this topic above, but if you’re not sure which type will work best for you, consider your budget and the purpose of your use. If you’re planning on using coconut oil for cooking, especially high-heat cooking, then you should stick to refined coconut oil because it has a higher smoke point. When selecting a refined coconut oil, look for oils that have been produced using “chemical-free” methods.
If you’re planning on using the coconut oil for low- or no-heat cooking and other purposes, and you wouldn’t mind paying a bit extra, then unrefined, virgin coconut oil would work best.
- Is It Food-Grade?
If you’re planning on using the coconut oil for cooking or raw consumption, the first thing you need to make sure is to determine whether or not it is food-grade coconut oil. If it isn’t then make sure to use it externally only.
- Look Out for These Terms on The Label
Look for terms such as “unrefined”, “cold pressed”, “virgin”, or “extra virgin,” when buying virgin coconut oil and avoid terms such as “deodorized” or “RBD”, which stands for “refined, bleached, and deodorized”, unless you’re buying refined coconut oil and aren’t looking for the healthiest option out there.
While virgin coconut oil is healthier, refined coconut oil still has its place in the kitchen. Some refined oils, especially organic ones, are extracted using the steam method, and are free of chemicals, which is an added benefit, especially if you’re looking for healthier options.
These are some of the main things you need to be mindful of when buying, using and storing coconut oil, so you can make the most out of it and benefit from all of its useful properties.