Does Shortening Go Bad?

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Like the other perishable foods used in baking, shortening does go bad.
Like the other perishable foods used in baking, shortening does go bad. (Image: Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

A frequent baker will probably never see a can of shortening spoil. Shortening is used in so many baked goods that bakers can easily go through a can well before its expiration date. Contrary to common belief, it does go bad. Shortening that goes bad usually has been sitting for an awfully long time or was improperly stored. Fortunately, these are problems that you can prevent.

Signs of Spoilage

Bad shortening is hard to miss, because the color, smell, texture and flavor all become "off" from their normal state. It darkens, going from a milky white to a yellowish color that gets darker as the shortening ages. The bad shortening also hardens and takes on a musky smell. It will also add a bad flavor to the baked goods it is used in.

How to Store the Shortening

The best way to prevent shortening spoilage is to store the shortening properly. The most ideal place is dark and cool, some place away from the heat of the stove or oven. It should be in an airtight container. The shortening container doesn't have to be placed in the refrigerator, but you can do so. Just remember to bring the shortening to room temperature by letting it sit out before use.

How Long to Store

Despite being derived from vegetables, shortening is capable of staying fresh for a very long time. If stored correctly, you can use the shortening from an open container for up to a year. An unopened, sealed shortening container can stay free of spoilage for up to two years before it begins to spoil.

Misconception

Because shortening is 100 percent fat, many people believe that it can never go bad. You can also go to many a kitchen to find the shortening stored on the stove or near it. Well, as you can see, shortening does go bad, and improper storage, such as storing it in an open container, or near a heat source, can cause it to go bad well before the "use by" date stamped on the container.

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