You've been storing peanut butter wrong your entire life

If you're still living that elementary school cafeteria lunch life with your jars of Skippy and Jif in the cabinet solely because natural peanut butter is such a pain to deal with, we've got good news for you: Natural peanut butter doesn't have to be such a pain — it just turns out that you've been storing it wrong your whole life.

And you're not the only one. Search "natural peanut butter" on Twitter and you'll see that there's a legion of natural peanut butter haters, all lamenting its rock-hard consistency. "No thank you all natural peanut butter. I like to eat my PB out of the jar with a spoon, versus with a pickaxe & covered in 2 inches of oil," one user complained. Another bemoaned, "I'm sorry I was three hours late for work, but I had to stir a jar of natural peanut butter," which is probably not much of an exaggeration. They're obviously not storing their jars the right way, either.

But there's only one way to store a jar of natural peanut butter, you say, and that's in the refrigerator next to the jam and the ketchup, where, even though you think you've thoroughly stirred it upon opening, it will separate into two distinct layers of oil and nut butter, and harden into a consistency that can only be described as peanutty cement. Good luck trying to mix it up once it's chilled — natural peanut butter has been known to break more than one stirring utensil in its day, and even if you are semi-successful in your stirring endeavors, you're bound to end up with a counter full of peanut oil.

So what's the trick? It's so simple, you'll kick yourself for not doing it sooner: Store that jar of natural peanut butter upside down, and keep it in the pantry. By storing the jar upside down, the oil will work its way from the top (which is now the bottom), and end up at the jar's bottom (which is now the top). Basically, when you're ready to make a sammie — be it peanut butter and jelly, or peanut butter and mayo (yes, really) — flipping the jar right-side up means you'll have mixed, spreadable peanut butter at the ready because the oil has been making its way to the opposite end. As Lifehacker points out, though, the key to this hack's success is using the peanut butter often. If you don't keep the oil on the move, you'll still end up with distinct layers of oil and butter whether it's upside-down or not, so each time the oil settles on one end, flip it back to restart its journey. 

If you just plumb forgot to turn your jar upside down and find yourself in dire need of a PB&J, one seasoned natural peanut butter eater has a smart tip: "The trick is to cut the peanut butter instead of stirring it. I can adequately mix a jar of peanut butter in less than 30 seconds without much effort and no mess this way. Using a butter knife, cut # shapes in the peanut butter over and over again. The idea is that gravity will naturally take the oil down if you just give it a little room. As you cut and stab at the solid chunks of peanut butter, the oil naturally mixes. At the very end you can do a couple quick stirring motions, but by now the oil and peanut butter should be mostly mixed," they shared.

There is one caveat here when it comes to refrigeration, though: If you're not going to polish off that jar of natural peanut butter within a month, it needs to be stored in the fridge to prevent it from going rancid. In the fridge, it will last for about six months. 

As for those jars of Skippy and Jif you're hanging on to in case the natural peanut butter storage hack doesn't actually work? You might think you can leave them hanging in your pantry for years on end, but we've got bad news for you on that front. Conventional peanut butter doesn't last forever, either. You may not need to store it upside down, but once it's opened, you've really only got about four months to finish it before the quality starts to degrade. And if you see a jar of conventional peanut butter start to separate, that's a surefire way to tell it's on its way out.