(Author’s note: Whoops, I accidentally published this article earlier before it was ready. I have edited it and now restoring the correct version.)
When first getting into food storage, the main things that come to mind are canned goods, staples such as flour, sugar and salt, meats etc. Most of the time, fats and oils are left out of the initial food storage effort. However, fat is an essential part of our diet, and a great source of calories at a time when a high calorie intake may be required, or if the diet consists of mostly grains and beans. Fat is also necessary in maintaining the taste and texture of food.
The main challenge in storing fats and oils is the relatively short shelf life. When stored for too long, fats get oxidized, which causes it to get rancid. Rancid fat not only tastes bad, it becomes toxic and blamed for many ills such as heart disease, inflammation, atherosclerosis and even cancer. Let’s look at commonly used fats:
Regular butter does not store well at all. You can store butter in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. I keep one bar in the refrigerator for everyday use, and keep the rest in the freezer. Frozen, butter will last for about nine months. Emergency Essentials has Butter Powder for long term food storage but I have not tested it. If you’ve tried it, please comment and let us know how it is.
The last time I went to the international market I saw several cans of “ghee,” but I did not know what it was at the time. I found out ghee is clarified butter, and is used in many cultures as oil. While not realizing it, we have all seen ghee: When you heat butter, you will see the clear oily part separating from the milky part. The clear part is ghee. Ghee comes in cans and can last for a year.
Shortening or lard
Shortening and lard are solid fats like Crisco or Armour lard as pictured above. Lard is made from pork fat, tallow is from beef fat. Solid animal fats have gotten a bad reputation in the past, and has been blamed for high cholesterol ; but now there are some studies that suggest it is not as bad as originally thought. These days, trans fats are the “bad guy” Trans fats can be found in shortening: hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils normally used for baked goods contain transfats. They increase the risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes etc.
Coconut oil is another oil that has gotten a bad reputation in previous years, thanks to lobbying and smear campaigns by other oil producers. Coconut oil contains saturated fat, however it has been recently found that it has many health benefits and not harmful as previously purported. The best type to use is cold pressed coconut oil, so it has not been previously exposed to heat that usually hastens the rancidity process. Like other oils, coconut oil will last for a year.
Olive Oil, Peanut Oil and Vegetable oils
I use a lot of olive oil myself so this is the oil I have in storage. I bought a five gallon can of olive and will be rotating the oil as I use the ones in the pantry. Peanut oil is flavorful and I like to use small amounts in stir fry dishes. Like other oils, an unopened olive or peanut oil container will last for a year. I am currently not using other oils such as soybean or canola but if you do, they are also known to last for one year.
Tips for storing oils:
- Store in a cool, dark place, no more than 70 degrees. Keep your stored unopened oil in a box for maximum darkness. Heat and light are the enemies of oil storage, as they are for food storage in general.
- The oil in cans last longer than the oils in plastic bottles. So if you have a choice, opt for the ones in the can.
- Once opened, store your oil in the refrigerator to extend its life. It may turn cloudy, but this will not affect the taste of the oil, and it does clear up once you leave it out on the counter.
- Rotate religiously. The only way you will keep the oil from getting rancid is by using it then replacing the item as you use it. Use the “first in, first out” principle when it comes to rotating your food storage.
- It might be worthwhile to learn how to render fats from pork or beef fat. I am going to try it out and will post about results when I do.
I was wondering what happened to the first blog, LOL. I figured you knew and it was a mistake. Glad to see the new post. Thanks!
Hey Clarissa, LOL sorry about that. That’s what I get for posting late at night! 🙂 Glad you came back and saw the right one.
Great post, thanks for the incite. Learned something new.
Hey Jarhead 03, thanks glad you liked the post.
Good article, tweeted it and now following you on twitter. Like to see how your rendering goes, let me know @isurvivalskills
isurvivalskills, Thanks for tweeting about this article! Appreciate the mention.
Butter powder is good in cooking and has a long shelf life in an unopened can. Only ok as a spread. Ghee is great once you get used to it. It tastes like butter and does not burn unless the pan is very hot. It is very oily – so you don’t need much. It has a very long shelf life in an unopened can. Both are expensive. Canned butter is another option and can be stored for years in an unopened can. It is even more expensive. All have shelf lives of 5 to 10 years depending on the source. I have used olive oil that is at least three years old and it was perfectly good. Much depends on the storage conditions. I store all oils in glass mason jars and toss the plastic containers. daaswampman
hi daaswampman, Good to know how these long term oils worked out for you. Thanks for sharing your experience!
To help with the going rancid of oils in food storage: it is said that the anti-oxidant BHT Butylated Hydroxy Toluene can be added (from Twinladb etc): 0.1 BHT in greans/ 5.3 in milligrams for 1fl oz of oil
I have not tried this yet though
Anne-Marie from South Africa, Thanks for the good info. I will do additional research on this.
Never rendered fat myself, but they say it smells TERRIBLE. Might want to try it outside the first time.
Hi TacSKS, You may be right about this, I will have to ask someone that has done it in their house–would not want to smell up the apartment! Thanks for bringing this up so I can take precautions.
I think that besides powdered butter and olive oil you don’t need to store much else. So long as you rotate your oil (and keep it in the fridge when unopened) it will last for quite some time without going rancid. The powdered butter is for everything else where butter is called for.
Hi Milleniumfly, So far I just have the olive oil that I am rotating. Will budget for the powdered butter, I don’t think I will add any more oils as they may just get rancid if I have too much. Thanks!
I can’t speak to beef or pork fat, but I have rendered chicken fat and skin and used the resulting fat for cooking.
Basically, I dump the raw skins and fat into a deep cast iron pot over medium-low heat and stir occasionally with a slotted spoon. It takes a while (well over an hour for the last batch I did, but it was a big batch) and the skins and fat stick to the bottom (which is why I did a big batch, so I only had to scrub the pan once). When the skins are crispy, scoop them out with the slotted spoon and dry on paper towels. Let the liquid fat cool and then store it in jars in the fridge. You could strain out the solid particles, but I leave them in for flavor. The fat will solidify in the fridge, but it’s melty at room temp. I use it mostly for cooking rice or precooking vegetables to use in chicken soup.
I imagine rendering beef or pork fat would be similar. I’d like to try it out some day.
Hi SherryH, I had not even thought you can render fat from chicken skin! Now that you mention it, chicken skin does contain a lot of fat content which is why a lot of people discard them. I imagine the oil would be flavorful and will impart a chicken flavor. Thanks for the tip, I am going to try this as well.
Great article. I never thought about rendering chicken fat. I usually leave it on the meat as the fat makes the meat taste so much better. We eat alot of wild meat and you do get fat hungry. This may sound silly, but after living in bush Alaska my whole life I now understand why when you talk of hunting the question usually comes up, were they fat.
I store a variety of fats. Coconut oil, lots of olive oil, some grapeseed oil, frozen and canned butter, lard and a little vegtable oil, there are a couple of recipes that I use this in. In a situation where you are expanding huge amounts of energy it may be hard to meet your calorie needs, fat is a great addition. Just not so much for our average days now.
We rendered bear fat last year. We had a couple haunches and the fat was about six inches thick so as we cut the meat we saved the fat. We filled a huge cast iron roaster and put in the oven on warm. It melted, we skimed it. Added a little baking soda (helps whiten it) and then added water. When we where through we set it out side to cool, the lard seperated from the water and it was a clean white lard. We’ve used in cooking and it is great.
Performing this process isn’t economical in small amounts in my opinion. I would only do it if I were planning to end up with at least a quart of finished product.
Washing the fat is important to me. I don’ t know for sure, but I feel like the solid particulate can lead to premature spoilage. What I do is render the fat then let it separate. I throw it in the fridge to solidify the top layer. I return the solid block to a clean rendering pot with an equal amount of fresh water and boil for 5 or 10 minutes and then repeat the separation process. Discarding the water layer each time. The last step is to boil out all residual water, then you have a very pure product.
This isn’t based on any scientific evidence; it’s just what I do.
Hi Ross, I would think washing the fat is a good idea. It sounds like a long process that would only be worth it if you get a good amount of lard as a result. Thanks for the comment!
Hey countrygirl, Definitely a small amount of fat in meats make it taste better. I did not know about using a bit of baking soda to help whiten the fat. Thanks for some great information.
Hi, I render my own Goose, Duck and Lard on the farm, by next year will be able to start doing Tallow as well, I don’t find it smells bad at all, Fresh fat should smell fine to your nose, the only time the fat didn’t smell “good” when it was being rendered was my own fault I had waited a couple days after butcher as things were really busy and I ended up throwing it out, now I know, I start the rendering process at the same time as I start the butchering.
I do mine in my crock pots mainly, as it allows them to simmer for hours, I don’t add water at all, I put the skin/fat/tiny bits of meat that can cling, chill them well, and then put them though the grinder on course, you can cut the fat fine but the more fine it is, the faster it will go, then simmer till everything else is crisp, I take a slotted spoon and take out all floating bigger peices.. If you leave them in, it can burn and leave a after taste, then I put it though triple layer cheese cloth and back into the pot for a good long simmer till all extra water that was naturally in the fat simmers off, and then I strain one more time and jar.. My lard is very pure and white, and has no really taste of pork at all, I use it for my baking etc, I do find that the duck and goose is better for frying, no so much for baking, I perfer the lard for that, , As I make my own sauages from a number of the different farm critters, I also use the lard in those recipes as the added fats.
I have rendered bear fat and its excellent. I think you will be surprised at how easily you will find it once you try doing it.
Hey farmgal, Thanks for mentioning that grinding the fat makes it easier. Since I don’t own a grinder then I will ask the butcher to grind it up for me. I did know duck and goose can be rendered as well, but then chicken was a new one on me too. I am always amazed how much I learn from the Comments. You have given me a wealth of information!
I never thought of using a crockpot and will try this. The only fat I’ve rendered is the bear fat and one of the things we use it for is adding it to other lean meats that we grind.
countrygirl, If you try it, we would be interested in hearing about the results!