Crisco should be stockpiled in anyone’s pantry alongside buckets of wheat and dehydrated protein. Sure, you can cook, bake, and fry with Crisco, but the plethora of other uses this old-fashioned kitchen standard boasts is what makes it a prepping and homesteading all-star.
In 1911, crystallized cottonseed oil, or as we more commonly call it, Crisco, was created as a soapmaking substitute for lard. The Procter and Gamble company initially made Crisco from plant fats, fibers, and partially hydrogenated oils that had cottonseed oil as a base. Now, soybean is almost always used in the commercial manufacturing process of this valuable item.
Because the ingredients in the lard substitute liquify when exposed to room temperature and then return to their solid state after being placed in a cooler environment without going rancid, Crisco has a lengthy shelf life.
Crisco Shelf Life
According to the label, Crisco can last for about 24 months in an unopened container. But in my personal experience, it is still viable for far longer especially for many of the uses noted below.
Top 20 Crisco Uses
1. Dry Skin
Simply rub some Crisco onto dry skin or chapped lips to soothe the rough and torn area. Putting Crisco on chafed skin can also help prevent dust and debris from getting into the broken spaces between where healthy and solid skin had existed.
During a survival situation, even a simple little wound, like chapped skin, can become deadly if it gets infected and goes untreated.
2. Camo Make-Up
Combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of Crisco to make face paint. Used alone, this recipe will make white grease paint, but when mixed with food coloring, earth tones can be created to make camo paint to help obscure your face from view when in the woods or on night patrol.
3. DIY Candle
There is probably no simpler and quicker way to make a candle than by using a tub of Crisco. Simple place a store bought wick or a homemade one (twisted cotton makes a superb wick) down into solid Crisco. A large tub is capable of burning for approximately 45 hours.
4. Mechanical Lubricant
risco can also be used as a WD40 substitute. It can be slathered onto a stuck part or creaky hinge to lubricate the metal so it moves about freely and more quietly.
5. Preserving Eggs
There are many ways you can preserve eggs to make them more shelf stable. If you are a survival homesteader like me, you probably just leave the “bloom” left by the laying chicken or duck hen on the eggs and place them in a garage, basement, or similar cool space so they can keep for weeks to a few months at a time.
To preserve the eggs longer without refrigeration or electricity, Simply wash and gently dry the eggs and rub a thick coating of Crisco all over the entire egg. Store the eggs in a carton or container somewhere cool for up to nine months.
Rinse the Crisco away and put the eggs in a bowl of cool water to test them before eating. If they float, pitch them. If they sink, they should be good to eat. If the eggs are partially submerged with the pointy end poking above the water, they may still be good to eat but should be done so quickly.
6. Seasoning Cast Iron
Rub Crisco onto cast iron after wiping it after post cooking. Place the cast iron cookware or tool over a campfire, fireplace, on top of a wood stove, or in the oven to season.
Cast iron is almost impossible to destroy, but will rust fairly easily when not taken care of properly. Your cast iron will remain safe to use if you prevent rust from forming (or scouring it away) by seasoning after use.
7. Gum Removal
If you get gum, grease, or anything equally sticky stuck in your hair, simply lather Crisco around, over, and under the problem area to loosen up the goo so it can be pulled or washed out.
8. Diaper Rash
Crisco works just as well on a baby’s diaper rash as it does on chapped lips. Even if you do not have a little one in your care now, during a long-term disaster one might just happen along and need a soothing ointment when diaper rash occurs.
Remember, Crisco liquifies as quickly as coconut oil when it is exposed to heat – including body heat. Use no more than a quarter size amount when initially applying to diaper rash, and only add more if necessary to cover the entire reddened area.
9. Calorie Infusion
To boost the caloric intake of your survival meals during a long-term disaster, stir in a few teaspoons of Crisco to garner the benefit of its fat content. A 12 gram serving contains 6 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat.
10. DIY Lamp Oil
Stockpile Crisco to use as emergency lamp oil. Simply place a tub of Crisco in at least a room temperature environment so it will liquify, then pour it into the lamp oil holding portion of a hurricane lamp.
Remember, the oil will return to its solid state when cold – so keep the lamp in a warm place during the winter so it is always ready for immediate use. Because of its higher smoke point than some home cooking and carrier oils, it might be a far less flammable option if your dedicated lamp oil supply runs short during a blackout.
11. Bug Killer
Combine equal parts Borax and Crisco to make a relatively thick paste. Spread the past on a plastic lid, shallow aluminum pan, or piece of cardboard, and put in anywhere cockroaches and other bugs have been spotted.
They will avoid going near the natural pest remover or die from the Borax (not boric acid) ingestion if they are curious enough to taste it.
12. Fire Starting
Help get damp kindling or leaves going to start a fire by rubbing some Crisco onto them. The Crisco will ignite and not burn up too quickly, helping get a sustainable flame going even in inclement weather conditions.
13. Emergency Torch
Rub hard Crisco onto a clean rag, or soak the same rag in Crisco that has liquified to make an emergency survival torch. Simply wrap the soaked torch onto a sturdy stick of some type and walk carefully with it to light your path.
14. Survival Apothecary
Use liquified Crisco as a base in infusions and tinctures made with medicinal herbs and flowers. Because Crisco has such a long shelf life, it may keep your herbal infusions and tinctures shelf stable for an even longer amount of time.
15. Shoveling Aid
Coat a snow shovel with a thick layer of Crisco to enhance your snow and ice removal efforts. The coating will help prevent buildup of snow or sleet from forming on the shovel and causing it to cut less deeply into the path you are attempting to carve out of the cold ground.
16. Grease Fighter
Crisco is also a great grease fighter. To help remove grease and grime from your hands, lather and scrub them with the cooking aid before putting them under running water for rinsing.
17. Rodent Deterrent
Grease the storage tubs and caches where valuable items are stored with Crisco. The shortening grease will make the storage containers difficult to climb, and its texture will deter rodents and bugs from even trying.
18. Rust Fighter
Spread a layer of Crisco onto metal tools and blades to place a protective barrier between them and moisture to prevent rust from forming.
19. Headlight Cleaner
Rub Crisco on vehicle headlights to remove stuck on bugs and debris or to help prevent rain, snow, or ice from building up and obscuring the brightness of the lights.
20. Lock Cleaner
To remove the gunk that can build up on the inside of a lock and prevent a proper connection between it and the key, rub some Crisco onto the key before inserting it into the lock.
Wiggle the key around a big so the grime is disturbed and either comes back out with the key, or can be cleaned out with a toothpick and allow the lock to open.
Anytime someone unearths a multi-purpose shelf-stable survival item, especially one that is as affordable and readily available as Crisco, it’s a huge score.
Stockpiling prepper gear that will be there are waiting for use for off label purposes when other already task specific items have run out could vastly enhance your chances of survival.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.