What Happens If You Refrigerate Cooking Oil?

It's number one on Food Network's list of essential ingredients for a well-stocked kitchen, along with vinegar, ketchup, mayonnaise, and soy sauce. And while we recognize the importance of cooking oil in all its forms (olive, canola, sunflower, sesame, etc.), few of us think about how to store our oils properly so they last longer, or at the very least, stop from going rancid. 

Once cooking oil bottles are opened, the oil gets exposed to the oxygen in the air. And according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, exposure can kickstart the oxidation process, which results in spoiled oil. However, the publication points out that the process is slow, and there is nothing to show that slow oxidation harms us or impacts the oils we use when cooking.

This doesn't mean we can keep our cooking oils anywhere we want. As celebrity chef Brian Malarkey tells Real Simple, "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."

Different oils respond differently to refrigeration

If you're wondering whether storing cooking oil in the refrigerator is an option, it depends. How oils react to refrigeration depends on what they contain. Delighted Cooking says oils that are best stored in the fridge have high polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat levels. Such oils include safflower, sunflower, canola, or olive oils. Other oils can be kept in cool, dark places. 

HelloFresh recipe developer Victoria Abdelhady tells Real Simple that "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." Another oil that thrives in the refrigerator with no solidification is sesame oil. And while coconut oil does become solid when exposed to cold temperatures, it will stay fresh for longer in cold environments. 

HuffPost warns that keeping oils in the fridge could make them cloudy and thick like coconut oil. However, these are cosmetic problems and should resolve themselves when the oils are brought to room temperature.