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Sep 17, 2007 08:01 AM

When good olive oil goes bad (or, What is the shelf life of various pantry items?)

Cleaning out my pantry this morning and I was wondering how long I can keep oil after its been opened. Amateur that I am, I can't tell (without, perhaps, tasting) whether the grapeseed, canola and olive (with Sorrento PGI lemon) oils I have have turned on me.

I also have ...

Soy and (two) hoisin sauces that weren't refrigerated after opening (one hoisin said refrigerate after opening, the other did not; the soy definitely said refrigerate after opening)


sun-dried tomatoes that weren't packed in oil and now look (and feel) like dried mushrooms


brick-hard brown sugar, both light and dark (any suggestions on softening them up for future use?)

Christopher in New York

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  1. I find that olive oil goes bad fairly quickly (a couple of months). You can tell by the smell - rancid oil has that stale, old french fry smell. I now only buy really small bottles (Goya) to make sure I go through it before it goes bad. Keeping it in the fridge is an option, but as I'm sure you know it congeals and must be warmed up before using. Grapeseed also goes rancid easily - canola not as much.

    Don't know for sure about the soy and hoisin. The high sugar content of the hoisin could help it to keep from going bad as long as there is no visible mold, but I am not sure.

    I'd think the sun-dried tomatoes should be OK to use, as long as they were dried to begin with. Pop them in some warm water and let them sit for 20 minutes or so.

    Brown sugar - you could try putting it into a tupperware container with a slice of white bread. The bread will absorb the moisture and (might) make the sugar usable again.

    I must admit - nothing you've mentioned is particularly expensive - I'd toss the lot and start fresh.

    1. Personally, I prefer buying the smallest bottle of olive oil available, and thus having less chance of its spoilage. Keep in dark and cool place will also help - Never on the counter!

      1. Here's a good article on shelf life and storage of olive oil.

        All olive oil should have the press date on it, but very few have. I only buy it from retailers with a good turnover to make sure I am getting oil from the last harvest. It's easier to find online retailers who provide harvest date info. Since harvest times are different around the world, it would make sense to find a couple different oils you like that are harvested at different times of the year sothat if you needed oil at the harvest time of the one you like, you could buy the other fresher one instead of being forced to buy year old oil.

        1. in the chinese homes i know, we don't keep the soy sauce in the fridge. the hoisin yes, but the soy is in the cupboard with the oil. Not sure if it's because we use it fast enough, but never heard of soy sauce going bad.

          if the hoisin isn't moldy i'd just put it in the fridge and keep using.

          you can soften the sugars with a piece of bread in the bag/container.

          sundried tomatoes should be fine unless you can't hydrate them to an acceptable pliablility

          1. As to brown sugar, true you can just toss it, but if you want to attempt to rejuvinate it, I read that you can put it in the oven in an oven-proof dish, with an apple wedge, cover with foil and heat for awhile. I do not remember the suggested temperature. The apple gives off moisture and the sugar softens. I tried this awhile back and it does work, but it does take several minutes...

            Does anyone know how long sundried tomatoes in oil can stay, once opened and if not refrigerated?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Shayna Madel

              you can also buy these little pucks that look like terracotta made specifically for keeping your sugar soft - never tried it though.

              1. re: chocabot

                I find that terracotta hockey puck works great - soak it for about 20 minutes, dry off the excess, and put it and the sugar in a tupperware container. The sugar stays soft for ages, if it starts stiffening up just repeat the process. I bet a clean chunk of terracotta flowerpot would do the same.

                1. re: ns538bmk

                  I have these but sadly, I wasn't paying attention when I purchased the already hard sugar; might they revitalize them? (Can always scrap them, so if not, I'll live, I just hate to waste.)