Does anything taste better than olive oil? It is silky and delicious in salad dressing or on its own as a dip for a piece of crusty bread, and it’s also incredibly healthy. It’s good for your heart as well as your taste buds, so smart cooks who are concerned about their family’s well-being always have a bottle of this golden liquid on their pantry shelf.
And while it lasts a long time when the bottle or can is sealed properly, it doesn’t last forever. Rancid olive oil tastes and smells yucky, so it’s important that you know what factors contribute to spoilage. Can you tell just by looking? Is it the odor that gives spoilage away? Or are there other factors that reveal that olive oil is rancid? And just as importantly, is rancid olive oil safe to consume or use in your frying pan?
In this article, we do a deep dive into what contributes to olive oil turning rancid, whether it’s safe for you to use, and how to prevent spoilage from occurring. Furthermore, we come to the rescue so that your bottle of rancid olive oil is once again the golden nectar you enjoy so much! Yes – you can save olive oil that’s starting to turn rancid so that you get to enjoy every drop of this fabulous liquid, but we do have some caveats. Read on to learn how to never waste even one ounce of the liquid many chefs call “the nectar of the gods!”
Does olive oil go bad?
In a word, yes indeed it does.
Olive oil (all oils, for that matter) can’t last on your pantry shelf indefinitely. It is a product that comes from harvesting olives grown on trees, so that means it has a finite lifespan. Once a bottle (or can) is open, air, heat, and light get at the oil, and all of them help turn olive oil rancid. Recognizing the smell and appearance of rancid olive oil is how you can quickly turn things around and save your oil. If you spent big bucks on a bottle of top-notch olive oil, you want to ensure it stays in peak form, right? Heat, air, and light all have an impact on the quality of olive oil, as well as its nutrients and taste. Therefore, storing your olive oil correctly is vital, so it makes your pasta and dips, and other foods taste their very best.
What is olive oil’s shelf life?
That depends on several factors, including the brand you bought and what type of olive oil it is. It also depends on how it was processed, how long it sat on the grocery store’s shelf, and when you first opened it. Regular olive oil, which is a mixture of virgin and refined olive oil, can last about two years if it’s still sealed, or six months to a year once you’ve opened it. Extra virgin olive oil lasts longer – anywhere from a year and a half to two years if you’re storing it correctly and haven’t opened it. Once you have, keep it on your shelf for about six months to a year, but no longer. Virgin olive oil lasts about the same time once it’s been opened.
Once you’ve opened oils of any type, they begin deteriorating because they come into contact with air. Therefore, no matter which type of olive oil you purchase – extra virgin, virgin, etc., – you should consume it within six to eight months.
How can you tell olive oil is rancid?
Olive oil goes off through a process called rancidity. That’s a big word for a simple process: oxygen hits the oil and it spoils, giving off a bad odor that happens because the oil starts decomposing. Rancidity makes the oil taste bad, too. And just as important is the loss of nutritional components like antioxidants, those powerful disease-fighting chemicals that olive oil is so famous for.
To tell if your olive oil is rancid, follow these quick steps:
Do the smell test
A big whiff of your olive oil will let you know immediately if it’s gone off. Rancid olive oil emits a truly icky aroma, a sweet smell that’s a bit like rotting fruit. There are those folks who say it’s a bit like Elmer’s Glue if you know what that smells like.
Do the taste test
Pour a little olive oil into a measuring cup and warm it with your hands, bringing it to room temperature. Take a little into your mouth from a tablespoon. Don’t swallow or exhale. Continue doing this – sip in some oil a bit at a time. Roll the oil around in your mouth. Does it have no flavor, no real taste? Is it dull and bland? If so, if it is without virtually any flavor, you can be sure your olive oil is rancid.
How to restore rancid olive oil?
You can indeed salvage your olive oil so it’s good enough to cook with, but honestly, its full, delicious flavor won’t come back completely. Nonetheless, if you want to restore it so you can cook with it – make a pan of French fries, for example – it can be done! Here’s how:
Be careful for cooking purposes
If there is only a small amount of the oil that smells off or tastes bad, skim it away from the rest of the batch and throw it out. It’s important to note that if any other indications of spoilage are evident, such as mold, you’ve got to toss the whole batch!
Once you skim the rancid olive oil off the rest and pitch it, pour the remainder into a clean, clear jar. Mix in some fresh olive oil, using three parts of the new olive oil to one part of the old. Mix them together slowly and the flavour and silkiness will begin to return. Put the jar on a dark shelf and allow the reconditioned olive oil to sit, undisturbed, for at least one week. Allowing it to rest for that length of time means the new oil can really “work on” the old and bring back most of the original flavor.
Once the renewed olive oil has had a chance to sit for a week or longer, do the taste and smell tests again. If it still smells or tastes unpleasant, you may have to toss it in spite of your efforts. However, if you think it tastes and smells okay, you can use it for cooking.
Remember: your family’s health and safety are at stake, so if you have any concerns that the olive oil is rancid, don’t keep it! If you do feel confident that it’s okay, by all means, use it for cooking certain foods – like the French fries we mentioned earlier. Don’t eat it directly, by dipping a piece of crusty bread in it to have with a bowl of soup or stew. It won’t taste quite right, and using fresh olive oil for direct consumption is better for your health and nutrition. But cooking with it at high heat, like at 475 degrees, for example, helps cover up the slightly underwhelming taste of reconditioned olive oil. Trust your own judgment and use this renewed oil only if you feel certain it’s fine to cook with!
You may be surprised to learn that rancid olive oil is not necessarily something you need to toss out into the garbage. There are other ways to use it, ways that are far outside the kitchen. Did you know that rancid olive oil can be used in your garden? It can! And that’s just one of several creative ways you can use it.
As an insecticide
Do spider mites and other insects drive you crazy in your garden, but chemical sprays aren’t an answer because of possible harm to the environment or your children and pets? Well, you can use rancid olive oil to help control these pests. Mixed with a few simple ingredients – hot sauce, dish soap, water, and lemon juice – then put through a cheesecloth strainer, this solution, when wiped onto plant foliage, controls all kinds of garden pests. Using it twice or three times each week will keep your plants looking good and staying healthy.
Power your mower with biodiesel fuel
Okay, so maybe you aren’t willing to make this bio-diesel fuel recipe to put in your car. But other machines – like lawnmowers and tractors – operate well on this improvised product. People everywhere score rancid olive oil from restaurants and diners to make their own homemade fuel.
Makes a great polisher for stainless steel appliances
Did you know that stainless steel appliances benefit greatly from olive oil? Don’t spend money on polishing products at the store! Rubbing down your stainless steel pots, pans, and appliances with a dab of olive oil on a microfiber cloth helps keep them shiny and spotless. Clean these items with a little baking soda and vinegar. Then polish everything with a little olive oil. Voila! Everything in the kitchen sparkles and shines like they’re brand new.
How to prevent your olive oil from turning rancid?
Preventing olive oil from going rancid involves proper storage and handling to minimize exposure to light, air, and heat. Here are some useful tips to help keep your olive oil fresh and avoid rancidity:
Store it somewhere cool and dark
As we mentioned earlier, light, air, and heat are the culprits in the rancidity battle! Keep these away as much as you can and your olive oil will last a very long time. Consider a dark shelf in the pantry or kitchen cupboard – any place that gets no light and as little heat as possible.
Store in dark containers or jars
Dark glass bottles or stainless steel containers are ideal for preserving olive oil. As long as the jar keeps out the light, the olive oil will be well preserved.
Make sure the lid is airtight
Always double-check that you’ve sealed the lid as tightly as possible after using your olive oil. The tighter the cap, the less chance there is that air will seep in and cause oxidation.
Purchase small amounts when you shop
It’s tempting to buy a big bottle of olive oil because that’s usually more economical, but resist! If you buy a small bottle each time, chances are you’ll use it up before the olive oil has a chance to go rancid.
Check the expiry date
It’s easy to forget that olive oil, like other fresh products, comes with an expiry date. However, checking your expiry date of olive oil before using is important! The further away this date is, the better!
If you’re hoping to use rancid olive oil until every drop is gone, follow our tips and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to revive it. If it’s right on the edge of rancid, use your olive oil instead in one of the ways we’ve mentioned here. By all means, enjoy olive oil in your favorite recipes, but don’t limit yourself! Olive oil is delicious but it’s also useful in almost every room in the house, and even outdoors in your garden. Just remember to store olive oil correctly, and no doubt you will run out long before the expiry date comes around!