Is it OK to use expired cooking spray?

Using expired cooking spray is a common dilemma many home cooks face. You reach for that trusty can of Pam or olive oil spray only to find it’s past its “best by” date. Should you toss it or can you still use it safely? Here’s a look at whether using expired cooking spray is OK, plus tips on how to tell if it has gone bad.

Can you use cooking spray after the expiration date?

In most cases, you can safely use cooking spray even after the printed expiration date on the can. This date is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. Manufacturers put expiration dates on canned foods like cooking sprays for freshness, not safety.

Cooking sprays have a very long shelf life because they contain no water. Water is what allows microbes like bacteria and mold to grow. With no water activity, cooking sprays are less perishable. Properly stored unopened cooking spray will stay fresh for 9 months to 2 years past its printed date.

Once opened, the shelf life shortens to about a year for aerosol spray cans and up to 2 years for pump spray bottles stored at room temperature. The latter lasts longer because each use doesn’t expose the remaining product to air like with aerosols. As long as the spray smells and looks normal, it should be fine to use.

How to tell if cooking spray has gone bad

Although cooking sprays stay fresh a long time past their dates, they can eventually degrade in quality and become unsafe. Here are signs your spray has expired and should be discarded:

  • Smell – Rancid cooking spray will have a stale, unpleasant smell.
  • Color – The spray may change from clear to yellow or brown.
  • Texture – Oil separation can cause clumps or an uneven spray.
  • Performance – The spray may sputter instead of dispensing an even mist.
  • Can rust – Rust spots indicate the seal has been compromised.
  • Mold – Fuzzy mold growth means it’s definitely time to toss it.

Tips for storing cooking spray

To maximize the shelf life of cooking spray:

  • Store cans and bottles away from heat and light, which can accelerate oil degradation.
  • Keep air out once opened by tightly closing pump bottles or flipping aerosol cans upside down.
  • Write the date you opened it on the can so you know when it was first used.
  • Refrigerate oil-based sprays like canola or olive oil after opening.

Is it dangerous to ingest expired cooking spray?

Consuming small amounts of expired cooking spray is very unlikely to cause foodborne illness or other harm. The main risk is quality. Spray that has gone rancid will simply taste bad.

However, you shouldn’t knowingly ingest large quantities of rancid oil if you can avoid it. Oxidized oils can contain free radicals that may have negative health effects over time. The quantity you’d get from occasional use of old spray is negligible, but best practice is to discard cooking spray that smells or looks off.

Can you get sick from cooking with expired spray?

As with ingesting expired spray, getting sick is very unlikely but degradation can affect taste and quality. The small amount of oil that remains on cooked foods from the spray is harmless. Any bacteria or mold that grew in the can due to long storage won’t survive being heated through cooking.

Avoid using visibly moldy spray, as mold spores could spread in the air when sprayed and contaminate your food or counters. For optimal quality and performance, stick to fresher spray. But in a pinch, an expired can won’t make you sick.

Does cooking spray really expire?

Cooking sprays don’t truly “expire” in the sense of becoming inedibly rotten or growing dangerous bacteria like perishable foods can. Due to their very long shelf life, expiration dates are more general guidelines.

That said, cooking spray does slowly degrade in quality if stored for too long. Oxidation happens faster once exposed to air, heat, and light. The oil can start to smell and taste off. Performance also declines over time.

While not a safety issue, for the best flavor and experience cooking with it, stick to spray within a year or two of the printed date. Properly stored spray lasts much longer, but will eventually go downhill.

Can old cooking spray make you sick?

No, using expired cooking spray is very unlikely to directly cause foodborne illness or other sickness. The main risks are lower quality flavor and performance.

Potential dangers of using very old spray include:

  • Rancid taste – Oxidized spray simply won’t taste very good.
  • Uneven coating – Old spray may not spread evenly and stick to food well.
  • Inhaling mold – Don’t breathe in mold spores if visible fuzzy patches have grown.
  • Free radicals – Large amounts of oxidized oil may have minor health effects over time.

These risks mainly apply to spray that is well past its prime. Within a few years of the printed date, most spray is still perfectly safe and functional.

Can old spray make food taste bad?

Yes, cooking with expired spray that has taken on a rancid odor or taste can negatively impact your food’s flavor. Rancid oil contains oxidation products that give it a stale, unappealing taste and smell.

The small amount of oil that remains on food from the cooking spray can transfer off-flavors. This is especially true for dishes where the spray is lightly coating the food and not getting cooked off at high heat, like salads.

If you notice your food tasting a little “off” after cooking with spray, the can may need replacing. Stick to fresher cans and properly store opened bottles for the best-tasting results.

Is it dangerous to cook with clogged spray?

No, it is not dangerous to cook with a clogged cooking spray can that sputters instead of spraying properly. The main issues are inconvenience and potentially uneven oil coating on your cookware or food.

Clogs happen when contents of the can start to separate. The propellant can’t fully mix with the thickened oil. Vigorously shaking an older can may temporarily improve spray performance.

For safety, it’s best to avoid using sprays that feel very pressurized or sound abnormal when shaken. Discard any swollen or heavily rusted cans. Otherwise, quality is the only concern with a clogged nozzle.

How long do different types of cooking sprays last?

Different kinds of cooking spray generally last:

  • Aerosol vegetable oil spray – 9-12 months unopened, 1 year opened if stored properly.
  • Olive oil spray – 9 months unopened, 1 year opened.
  • Butter-flavored spray – 9 months unopened, 1 year opened.
  • Pump sprays – 1-2 years unopened, 2 years opened.
  • Non-stick sprays – 1-2 years unopened, 2 years opened.
  • Flavored sprays – 9-12 months unopened, 1 year opened.

Pump styles last longer than aerosols since less air enters the bottle with each use. Refrigerating after opening can further prolong shelf life. But all types last upwards of a year past printed dates if stored properly.

Does cooking spray expire if never opened?

Unopened cooking spray cans have a longer shelf life, but they can still technically expire eventually. Though the oil doesn’t go bad in the sealed can, its quality and performance will slowly decline over time.

Properly stored unopened aerosol spray will stay fresh for 9 months to 2 years past its printed date before significantly declining in quality. Pump spray bottles may last even a few years.

For best results, try to use cooking spray within 2 years of purchase. Very old unopened cans that have been stored for 5+ years will have lower performance and flavor.

Can expired spray make you sick if inhaled?

Inhaling small amounts of expired cooking spray is not dangerous or likely to make you sick. The lung irritant in these products is the propellant itself, not the oxidized oil.

Aerosol cooking sprays use hydrocarbon propellants like propane, n-butane, and isobutane. Inhaling large quantities of these pressurized gases could potentially cause dizziness or breathing problems due to displaced oxygen.

However, the minor amount dispersed from normal use of cooking spray, even if expired, is harmless if inhaled. Unless the can is very old and pressurized, there are no safety concerns.

Can you get food poisoning from using expired spray?

You cannot get food poisoning or any other illness solely from using expired cooking spray. Rancid oil degrades in quality but does not grow dangerous bacteria.

The low moisture content and lack of water activity in these products make it impossible for pathogenic bacteria like salmonella or E. coli to survive and multiply. They need moisture to proliferate.

Even if bacteria managed to enter the can through an imperfect seal, they would die off from lack of moisture. Cooking would further kill any remaining microbes.

Whileexpired spray may not taste great or function optimally, it cannot directly cause foodborne illness or poisoning when used for cooking.

Does light or heat affect cooking spray’s shelf life?

Yes, exposure to light and heat can accelerate the degradation process in cooking sprays, shortening their shelf life. It’s best to store them in a cool, dark place.

Heat above room temperature causes the oils in spray to oxidize faster. Excess warmth breaks down the chemical bonds in the fat molecules, creating free radicals and rancid compounds.

Light, especially direct sunlight, also damages cooking spray over time. Rays across the visible light spectrum initiate oxidation reactions.

For longest lasting quality, keep unused spray cans away from heat sources like appliances or windows. Don’t leave opened bottles sitting on sunny countertops. Refrigeration further protects the oils from heat and light.

Does the can design affect how long spray lasts?

The packaging and can design can impact cooking spray’s shelf life. Aerosol cans inherently have a shorter life after opening compared to pump bottles.

Pump spray bottles keep out oxygen better after each use, since the nozzle doesn’t allow much air back in. The contained air space is smaller.

Aerosol cans must be sealed very well to prevent air entry as contents are dispensed. Some allow more oxygen in over time as the propellants push out the oil.

Well-designed aerosol cans using higher barrier materials like aluminum can come close to pump sprays. But in general, pump cooking sprays last up to twice as long after opening.

Do different oil types affect spray expiration?

The type of oil used in a cooking spray can influence how long it stays fresh and stable.

Saturated fats like coconut oil have better shelf life than unsaturated vegetable oils. Their chemical structure makes them more resistant to oxidation and rancidity.

Olive oil also degrades faster than more stable oils like canola or soybean. The compounds that give olive oil flavor and aroma also make it quicker to go rancid.

Butter-flavored sprays combine vegetable oil with butter extractives to impart richer taste. The base oil’s stability determines overall shelf life.

In general, coconut and palm oil sprays last the longest, followed by canola and soybean. Olive oil and butter have shorter shelf lives. All still last about a year opened.


Expired cooking spray won’t make you sick, but for best results you should try to use opened cans within a year and unopened sprays within 1-2 years. Store cooking spray properly by keeping away from heat and light and refrigerating after opening to prolong its shelf life. Avoid spray that smells rancid or looks abnormal, as quality declines over time. With proper storage, cooking spray lasts well past its “best by” date while still performing and tasting good.

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