Picture this: it’s February and you plan to use the olive oil that’s been sitting in your warehouse for a week. You plug the pump into your drum and… nothing happens. You can’t actually GET to your oil to use it. It’s completely solid, like cold butter. Now what?
This is an all too real situation that happens to many a food manufacturer. Anyone who has a cool warehouse in the winter or is located in the northern half of the US can expect to experience this at some point.
As we head into November (and officially the colder months of the year) I want to make sure we talk about this today.
First, Your Olive Oil Solidifies
Sometimes, it will happen right after the oil arrives, after it’s been shipped across the country in zero degree temperatures. Or it may be after a few weeks, if your warehouse is particularly cold.
Once you discover solidified oil, the question becomes, what do I need to do to turn this oil back into a liquid so that I can use it? And how long is that going to take?
All of that depends on a number of factors, the primary ones being the heat of your warehouse and how air circulates around your space (or if you can make it circulate better by using a fan).
Here’s What To Do
If you need to defrost your oil, follow these step-by-step instructions.
Choose a room that is small enough to be reasonably heated. Ideally, you can either build a small encasing area, or you can use a small room that has the capability to be heated to 80-90˚ F.
Turn on a fan and point it at the packaging. As the space heats up and the drum or tote begins to defrost, the area closest to the packaging will stay cold, and the places near the heater will stay warm. Mix that air up by pointing a fan on it! It will speed up the process significantly.
If a heated room is unavailable, keep it where it’s at in the warehouse and plan for more time to allow the oil to slowly melt. If the warehouse is completely unheated and you live in a cool part of the country, then it will simply stay solid for longer.
If you use drum heaters for your coconut oil, you can also use them on solid olive oil.
If the oil container is small enough (like a 35 Lb. Container or 1 Gallon Jug), you can also put it in a hot water bath — fill the sink up with water, put the jug in, wait an hour, and presto!
How Long It Will Take?
The next thing you will want to know is if the oil will be able to be defrosted in time to use it in your next production run.
Air flow, size and material of the packaging, how frozen solid the oil is, how much circulation is in the room and how hot the room can be heated will all play a part in how long it will take to defrost.
Because of that, there are too many factors to be able to provide specific guidance, so this is all a rough estimation. But the following guidelines will give you a good idea to start with!
Plan for 1 day to defrost in a heated room, 2-3 days without any additional heat in an open warehouse.
Cardboard works as an insulation, so these totes take longer to melt. Expect 2-3 days in a heated room with a fan, 4-7 days in a warehouse.
1 day to defrost (sometimes less) in a heated room.
35 Lb. Container
In a warm room with a fan, plan for 1-3 days to defrost. The air between the container and the cardboard box stays cool and acts as insulation, so this packaging can take longer. The best thing to do to speed it up is to take the jug out of the cardboard box and put it into a hot water bath. This will speed the melting time to 1-2 hours.
The good news is that this freezing and solidifying process doesn’t affect the quality of the olive oil one bit. It will just turn back into the same olive oil when it liquifies again. In fact, freezing olive oil can help extend the shelf life of the oil by minimizing oxidation (by minimizing the amount of oil that is coming into contact with air over time).
If you have an Extra Virgin Olive Oil or an unfiltered oil, the microscopic olive particles floating in the oil can sometimes drop to the bottom of the container during the defrosting process.
Just be aware that if there’s any cloudiness at the bottom of your containers, this is what it is; a simple stir will re-incorporate those particles quite nicely.
Because of the issues with olive oil solidifying, it’s even more important to play far ahead in the wintertime when you’re buying your olive oils.
Use the timeframe guide above, and don’t forget that trucks are often delayed due to weather during this time too to always plan for extra time if you can. 3-4 weeks is a pretty good guideline.
Topics: Quality Control