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How Long Does Bacon Grease Last? Does It Go Bad?

Today we’ll cover the shelf life, storage, and spoilage of lard.

Bought a lard container or block a couple of weeks ago, and not sure if it’s still any good? Does lard ever go bad?

Or maybe you’ve just bought a fresh lard block and want to know how long it stays good for. How long does lard last?

If these questions ring a bell, you’re probably looking for a short primer on lard that will cover all your bases without going into too much detail. If that’s true, you’re in the right place.

Read on.

A Jar of Lard

Image used under Creative Commons from Josh Larios

Table of Contents

Does Lard Go Bad?

Lard lasts months even after opening but can go rancid if stored for long enough or in poor conditions. You’ll probably never see any mold on it, but if the smell or taste changes, it’s time to toss it.

Lard lasts a long time because it consists primarily of monosaturated and saturated fats. Those fatty acids are more stable than polyunsaturated fats, making lard a particularly long-lasting product.

(For the same reasons, ghee lasts a long time even without refrigeration, and so does bacon grease and Crisco.)

Knowing that, let’s cover the signs of spoilage in more detail and talk about what you should look for in particular.

How to Tell if Lard Is Bad?

Discard lard if:

  • It’s rancid. If your lard smells like chemicals (say putty-like or similar to old paint) or tastes bitter or harsh, it’s rancid. The altered smell isn’t always that easy to spot, but the flavor never lies.
  • There’s mold or any other nasty “stuff” on the surface. While mold growth is unlikely, if you’ve been using dirty spoons or double dipping and contaminated the lard, it might grow mold or some nasty “stuff.” And if that happens, it’s game over for the fat.
  • It smells off. Unless you know that your funny-smelling lard has picked up that smell from a nearby food, toss it.
  • You’ve used it a couple of times. You can reuse lard, but if you’ve used it more than a couple of times, heated it for long periods, or warmed it up to high temperatures, it’s time to toss it. Either of the three significantly speeds up the rancidification process.

Finally, if anything else about the fat doesn’t seem right, err on the side of caution and discard it.

That said, remember that not all lard smells and tastes the same. For instance, leaf lard has little pork flavor and works great for baking, while other types smell and taste a bit like pork.

Not sure how to use your leftover lard? It works great for sauteeing veggies, frying meats, or simply as a vegetable oil replacement. Just make sure you’re not using pork-tasting lard in a dish that needs a neutral oil.

Next, let’s talk about whether or not you need to refrigerate lard.

Does Lard Need to Be Refrigerated?

Refrigerating lard isn’t necessary, but it helps retain its quality for much longer. If you store lard on the counter, it’ll keep quality for 4 to 6 months, while it should last for up to a year when refrigerated.

In other words, if you don’t need your lard to last months, feel free to store it at room temperature, next to your olive oil and canola oil.

Furthermore, some brands even give different storage times depending on whether you refrigerate their product, reinforcing that refrigeration is optional.

So while that’s not a necessity, most sellers recommend storing lard in the fridge because it lasts longer and keeps quality better.

You can reuse lard. Make sure you filter the leftover fat before storage and let it cool to about room temperature before you place it in the fridge.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the shelf life of lard.

How Long Does Lard Last?

Lard typically lasts 4 to 6 months unrefrigerated and about a year in the fridge. Opening the paper wrap, plastic box, or glass jar doesn’t change anything shelf life-wise: lard still retains quality up to the printed date and often well beyond it.

Most brands place a use-by date on the label and ask you to use the product before that date, no matter when you open it up. That date is not an expiration date but rather a rough estimate of how long the lard should retain quality.

In other words, lard usually lasts way beyond the printed date, especially if you store it properly.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell how long past the printed date lard will last. It depends on the quality of the fat, how you store it, and how long the declared shelf life is.

Because of that, instead of relying on the printed date, check your “expired” lard for the mentioned spoilage signs, and if the fat doesn’t show any (i.e., it seems okay), continue using it.

That said, lard should be fine for at least a couple of months beyond its date.

All of the above pertains to regular lard. There are other lard-related products, such as lard with greaves, Griebenschmalz (German lard with pork skin), and others. For those products, follow the advice on the label, and expect that they probably won’t last as long as regular lard.

How to Store Lard

Store lard sealed tightly in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight.

When scooping, always use clean utensils and never double dip. This way, you won’t contaminate the fat, risking mold growth.

When it comes to whether you should refrigerate lard, it depends on your needs.

If you want it to last months, keep it in the fridge. But if you could use some space in the refrigerator, leaving it at room temperature is always okay. Just make sure it doesn’t sit on a sunny counter or near the stove where the temperature changes often.

Finally, if you’re reusing lard, store already-used and fresh lard separately, and regularly dispose of the latter so that it doesn’t stay in the fridge for who-knows-how-long and isn’t used a dozen times. A few uses is usually more than enough.

Besides leaving lard at room temperature or refrigerating it, there’s a third option: freezing it. Let’s talk about it.

Can You Freeze Lard?

Lard freezes well, but given that it has a very long storage time, you don’t need to freeze it in most cases. Freezing makes much more sense for lard-based products, such as greaves lard and other options that might not last nearly as long as pure lard.

Here’s how you freeze lard:

  1. Double wrap it. Start by wrapping the lard with the paper it comes in or sealing the container tightly. Then, place the fat in a freezer bag. That second layer helps protect the lard against freezer burn, especially in long-term freezing. If you’re going to freeze it for a short period, like a couple of weeks, you can omit it.
  2. Freeze it. Label the bag with the name and date if you like, and place it in the freezer.

As you can tell, freezing lard and lard-based products is as easy as it gets.

When you need some lard, you can use it straight from the freezer – cut or scoop as much as you need and replace the rest in the freezer.

And if you need the lard to be semi-soft, say for a pie crust, leave the required portion covered at room temperature for a couple of hours (or overnight), giving it time to soften.

Lard Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thanks for reading this primer on lard. Here are the takeaways:

  • Lard lasts months even if you don’t refrigerate it, but it eventually goes bad. The primary way it spoils is by going rancid, and you can tell your lard is rancid if it gives off a chemical smell or tastes bitter or harsh.
  • Lard retains quality for about 4 to 6 months at room temperature and about a year in the fridge. It typically stays safe for much longer, way beyond the printed date, provided that you keep it sealed tightly and away from sunlight.