Best Oats For Storage: Long Term Survival Food

Not all oats are created equal when it comes to shelf-life, but they are an awesome addition to your survival pantry if they are processed correctly.

Rolled oats are the best for storage because they have the longest shelf life. Also known as old-fashioned oats, they will store for 30 years in long-term storage if packaged in a sealed oxygen-free container such as a #10 can, Mylar bag, or a Food-grade pale with an oxygen absorber in the container.

Oats were a staple of Roman legions and Scottish Highlanders. A proven high-protein staple that is flexible and easy to prepare. Following is all the information I found researching oats for my long-term storage.

Oats come in different forms depending on how they are processed. Not all oats are created equal when it comes to long-term storage. Check out the list below to get an idea of storage times and types.

Oat Type
(Stabilized)
ProcessShelf-Life
Store Bought Packaging
Shelf-life
In Sealed Oxygen-free Container, #10 Can, Mylar, or Food-grade buckets
Oat Groats/Oat grain/ KernelWhole Oat kernel with the husk removed9 to 12 months, 2 years unopened10-15
Steel- Cut Oats/Irish/Pinhead/Coarse OatsGroats cut into pieces with a steel blade9 to 12 months,
2 years unopened
10 to 30
(This is controversial and depends on moisture and oil content of grain)
Rolled Oats/Old Fashioned/Whole Groats are steamed, rolled, flattened and dried into flakes9 to 12 months, 2 Years unopened30 Years if stabilized with steam and toasted
Instant/Quick OatsProcessed like rolled oats but for a longer period 9 to 12 months, 2 years unopened30 Years (if repackaged) Doesn’t include prepackaged instant oatmeal with flavoring(s)
Scottish Oats/ Scottish Porridge Oats/ Oat FlourGroats milled or ground into flour3 months5 Years
Flavored Instant/
Pre-packaged with spices and flavoring(s)
Prepackaged oats like Quaker cinnamon and Spice6 to 9 Months6 to 9 Months in store packaging
What differentiates the different types of oats is the amount of processing.

Stabilized Rolled Oats Have the Longest Shelf-life

If you plan on storing rolled oats as survival food, you want the maximum shelf life. To get the maximum shelf-life, make sure the rolled oats your purchase are stabilized with steam to remove and stabilize lipase fats that naturally occur in oats.

Natural unstabilized oats don’t have a longer shelf-life if stored in an oxygen-free container, the fats still go rancid, and the oats will only last about 3 months. Compare that to stabilized oats that will keep for 30 years.

Most commercially sold oats are stabilized. If you are purchasing oats in bulk, the spec sheet should be available to tell you how the oats were processed. If not, there should be mention of how they were processed. If in doubt, contact the seller.

Below, is description of a 50lb bag of oats for sale on the internet

Production: the raw groat is separated from its out hull by centrifugal acceleration and winnowing. It is then steamed in preparation for rolling into flakes of various thicknesses, and finally, kiln-dried…to reduce moisture levels to assure long shelf life.

Information compliments of Essential Organics

6 Forms of Oat With Pictures: Long-term Storage

Oats take approximately 60 days before they are mature enough to harvest.
Oat Groats are the entire kernel of the grain with the husk removed. When cooked, they are less mushy and are the consistency of cooked rice.
Steel cut oats are groats that have been cut into several pieces with steel blades. This is my favorite way to eat oats.
Groats are steamed, rolled flattened and dried into flakes. This type of oat has the longest shelf-life if stored in O2-free containers.
This is the same process used to make rolled oats, but quick oats are processed longer. To process, groats are steamed, rolled, flattened and dried into flakes.
Oats milled or ground into flour. When cooked, it eats like a porridge. This is the least favorable method for long-term storage. Avoid storing any grains, pre-milled or ground, as flour. It drastically reduces shelf-life.

Why Do Rolled Oats Store Longer?

Rolled and unflavored instant oats last the longest because of how they are processed. Steaming, rolling, and toasting remove the oils and moisture that lead to early spoilage.

When oats are stabilized (steamed and toasted) and stored in oxygen-free containers with oxygen absorbers, they have a 30+ year shelf-life. Also, bugs in all life stages, egg, pupae, and adult, will be killed within 2 weeks.

How long will Oat Groats Store in Long-term storage?

Oat groats are a great choice for long-term storage. I prefer eating the whole oat groat or steel-cut oats to rolled oats. There is so much more flavor and texture, but you won’t get the max-shelf life.

Oat Groats will store for 15 years in an oxygen-free container like a Mylar bag, food-grade pale, or a #10 can. The container is made oxygen-free by using an Oxygen absorber and sealing. If oat groats are stored in store-bought packaging, groats will last 9 to 12 months as long as bug eggs are not present.

Shelf Life of Steel-Cut Oats In Long-Term Storage

Steel-cut oats properly stored in an Oxygen-free container will last 10 to 15 years. You won’t get this kind of shelf-life from store-bought packaging, though. You are looking at a maximum of 9 to 12 months stored this way.

Repackaged into a hermetically sealed container like #10 can, Mylar bags, or a food-grade pale with an Oxygen absorber, the shelf-life is 10 to 15 years.

What Is The Shelf-life of Oat Flour

The store oat flour in sealed containers used for long-term storage, and you will get a 5-year shelf-life as long as moisture is 10% or less and the oils have been baked out when the groats were processed.

How Long Will Oats Last In Storage?

Oats will last 9 to 12 months if left inside store packaging. Oats are stored in an oxygen-free container for long-term storage as survival food lasts much longer.

In an O2-free environment, rolled oats will store for up to 30 years, steel-cut oats will store for 10 to 15 years, and Scottish oats (really course flour) will store for up to five years.

3 Ideal Long-term storage containers for Oats: Maximum Shelf-life

Mylar bags, #10 cans, food-grade pales or ball jars with Oxygen absorbers.

Top Storage Environment For Oats

For maximum storage life of survival, foods make sure the storage environment is cool, dry, less than 75° F, and keep sunlight off of oats by using opaque packaging, or in the case of ball jars covering or placing in a dark cupboard.

How Long Does it Take to Cook Oats From Long-Term Storage

Oat TypeWater
Oat Groats/Oat grain/ KernelBoil 8 Cups of Water, 1 tsp of salt. Add 1 cup of oat groats, return to a boil and cook for
30 minutes, drain and serve
Steel- Cut Oats/Irish/Pinhead/Coarse Oats1 cup of steel-cut oats to 2/12 cup water, boil water with 1 tsp salt and steel cuts oats, reduce to a simmer, cook for 30 minutes
Rolled Oats/Old Fashioned/Whole 1 cup of rolled oats, 1 3/4 cup water, 1/8 tsp salt, bring water to boil, stir in oats, simmer 5 minutes
Instant/Quick Oats1 cup of rolled oats, 1 3/4 cup water, 1/8 tsp salt, bring water to boil, stir in oats, simmer 5 minutes
Scottish Oats/ Scottish Porridge Oats/ Oat Flour1 cup Scottish Oat Flour, 3 cups of water, 1/2 tsp salt, Bring Water to a boil, add oat flour, reduce heat to simmer, cook 10 minutes
Flavored Instant/
Pre-packaged with spices and flavoring(s)
Empty packet into a bowl, add 1/2 cup boiling water, let sit 1 minute, stir
What differentiates the different types of oats is the amount of processing.

How Can You Tell If Oats Have Gone South: Long-term Storage

Your oats should look, smell and taste like oats. When in doubt throw them out.

If you avoid moisture and the oats were processed properly for storage you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If in doubt look for these signs that your oats have gone bad.

  1. Discoloration: fresh oats should have a brown or cream-like color
  2. Lumping (a sign of moisture)
  3. Mold (a sign of moisture) mold on oats looks like fluffy white patches, black or gray powder.
  4. Off Odors-caused by moisture or fats going rancid from unstabilized oats.
  5. Black Specks from bug carcasses or feces. You should have this problem if Oxygen absorbers were used in an Oxygen-free container.
  6. Powder/Overly Powdery-Bug feces and carcasses or mold. You should not have this problem if Oxygen absorbers were used in an Oxygen-free container.
  7. Squirming Mass of crawlies. Your oats may be infested with weevils. But how, you might ask? Most grains have bug eggs when you get them. You should not have this problem if Oxygen absorbers were used in an Oxygen-free container.
  8. A hole in the oat bag or container might be from mice. Look for signs of excrement. If it’s just, physical damage moisture and bugs may have entered the bag.
  9. Unstabilized Oats: The oats you stored still have a high-fat content because they weren’t steamed, and the fat has gone rancid, or they weren’t toasted and had a high moisture content.

Warning: Never store Oats or any other dry good in an oxygen-free container when moisture levels are above 10%. This may lead to botulism. Botulism is rare, but you cannot see it, smell it or taste it.

Oats in Long-term Storage: Steel-cut VS. Rolled:

We’ve already covered shelf-life, but just as a reminder, steel-cut will only store 10 to 15 years because they aren’t stabilized like old-fashioned oats, which will store 30+ years if they are stabilized with steam and moisture is toasted out to 10% or less.

You may be wondering about nutrition and usefulness when comparing both types. When it comes to nutrition, steel-coat and old-fashioned oats are pretty much the same. In a survival scenario, there are other considerations.

CharacteristicSteel-Cut OatsRolled/Old Fashioned
Steamed and Toasted for Stabilization
Fiber ContentX
Shelf LifeX
FlavorX
FillingX
Cooking TimeX
Water Usage For PreparationX
Whole Grain For Sustained EnergyX
Overall Nutritional ValueX Similar but not quite as good as steel-cut

If you are shooting for shelf-life, rolled oats are the clear winner. That said, I prefer eating Irish steel-cut oats. They taste so much better. You can tell you are eating a whole grain.

If you are choosing between the two, go with rolled oats. If the shorter shelf-life is acceptable, I would also store the steel cut oats and rotate them.

Sources:

University of Harvard, T.H. Chan, School of Public Health, Oats

Oxygen Absorbers And Food Storage, Scott Foster, Ready Squirrel

Top 6 D.I.Y. Containers For Long-term Food Storage, Scott Foster, Ready Squirrel

Mylar Bags: Secret Weapon Of Food Storage, Scott Foster, Ready Squirrel

Food Stockpile: One Person For Three Months, Scott Foster, Ready Squirrel