Oatmeal is a wonderful way to start your day. It’s easy to prepare and oats last a long time. But does oatmeal go bad?
If you don’t make oatmeal regularly, you might find yourself with a container of oats that’s sitting in the cupboard for months.
Can you use them, or should you rather throw them out? And if they’re safe to eat, will they be any good?
If you’re interested in learning about storing, shelf life, and signs of spoilage of both oats and cooked oatmeal, read on!
How To Store Oatmeal
Storing raw oatmeal (oats) is no rocket science.
You should keep it in a cool and dry area, just like you do with cereals. The pantry is a great choice, but a cupboard in the kitchen works as well.
After opening the package, consider transferring the oats into an airtight container. That makes sure moisture won’t get to them, and they won’t pick up any odors.
If you always keep some oats around, consider buying a dedicated container. Some cereal containers look great, and it’s much easier to pour oats from one of them than from a general-use container.
When it comes to leftover cooked oatmeal, it needs to be refrigerated. Before transferring the oatmeal into the fridge, make sure it has cooled down a bit.
You don’t want to put a piping hot oatmeal into the refrigerator. The hot temperature might affect nearby foods.
Leaving the oatmeal to cool down for longer than 2 hours is not a good idea either.
That’s because keeping cooked oatmeal at room temperature for too long gives bacteria time to develop and the risk of food-borne illness increases.
To cool down cooked oatmeal quickly, spread it out on a couple of plates. After 20 to 40 minutes, it should be cool enough to put it in the fridge safely.
How Long Does Oatmeal Last
Every package of oats comes with a “best by” or “use by” date on it. That’s how long the oats are supposed to retain quality.
The only thing to remember is that over time, oats may change slightly in terms of color, flavor, or nutritional value. That means they will be still safe to eat, but might not taste as great as they used to.
Oats with extra flavoring might not keep quality for as long as the classic varieties (steel-cut or rolled oats) do. The same is true for products such as granola (here’s how long granola lasts).
When it comes to cooked oatmeal, it lasts only about 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator. Sometimes it may stay fine for longer, but that’s usually pure luck.
If you eat oatmeal every weekday, you can cook it in bulk on a Sunday evening and enjoy it Monday to Friday.
|Uncooked oats||“Best by” + 1 year|
|Cooked oatmeal||4 – 6 days|
Please remember that the dates above are approximate.
How To Tell If Oatmeal Is Bad
You should easily be able to spot if there’s something wrong with you dry oats. Look for the following:
- oats being clumped together
- pantry pests in the container
If either is the case, throw the oats out and open a new bag.
If your oats smell foul or off, get rid of them too.
Oats that picked up smells from other food are most likely safe to eat, but you probably want to toss them out for quality reasons.
When it comes to cooked oatmeal, the most common sign of spoilage is the most obvious one: mold on the surface.
Besides mold, if there are any discolorations (like dark spots, etc.) or the smell is off, it’s time for it to go.
If the oatmeal isn’t clearly bad, but you’re not quite sure it’s fine either, discard it.
Last but not least, storage time.
If it sits in the fridge for more than a week, discard it. While it might be still safe to eat, it’s quite risky.
One great piece of advice related to food safety: it’s better to be safe than sorry.
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