Although the amounts may vary, almost every home cook will use cooking oil at some point– whether for some light sautéing or a heavy-duty deep fry. But what do you do with it when you’re done? It can be a challenge to figure out the best way to store oil, and whether and how to dispose of cooking oil at home. Here’s what you need to know about storing, reusing, and disposing of cooking oil.
What to Do With Used Cooking Oil
There are a few basics of storing cooking oil that home chefs need to know.
For new, unused cooking oil, your storage options are simple:
- Cooking oil should be stored in a cool, dry environment like a cupboard or pantry.
- Oils must be kept in sealed, airtight containers.
- Oil can be refrigerated, but it is not necessary to keep fresh unless you are purchasing a large quantity.
Many home cooks do not realize that cooking oil can be reused. If stored properly, used cooking oil can be used again safely. Don’t assume you have to throw it away. The key is knowing how to filter it.
Related Content: Cuisinart Deep Fryer Reviews
The first step to storing used cooking oil is to know how to clean cooking oil properly. You want to make sure that pieces of burnt food that are left behind in the oil after frying are removed before storing the oil. This can be done quickly with a cheesecloth or a paper towel lining a strainer or mesh sieve. You should avoid using a strainer by itself because the holes may allow tiny food particles to pass through.
This process can take several minutes but is the most thorough for cleaning/filtering oil.
After the oil is filtered, it should be transferred to an airtight container like a mason jar and stored in cool, dry storage or in the fridge. Oil that has gone bad will smell rancid and should be discarded.
One convenient all-in-one option is to use a bacon-grease container with a strainer. This will allow you to strain and store the oil using the same container.
How to Dispose of Cooking Oil at Home: What Not to Do!
Many home cooks do not recognize the importance of knowing how to dispose of cooking oil. If cooking oil is not disposed of correctly, the oil can clog your plumbing and cause expensive, time-consuming problems in your home.
The first thing you need to know about how to properly dispose of cooking oil is the ways you should NEVER dispose of cooking oil which include:
- Never pour cooking oil down a sink drain
- Never flush cooking oil down the toilet
- Never pour cooking oil directly into a garbage bag
- Never pour cooking oil outside
- Never compost cooking oil
The Problem With Drains & Pipes
Oil can solidify in drains and cause significant clogs and blockages that will create more buildup over time as you use the sink or toilet. Water will eventually stop draining and back up into the sink, causing a big mess. The longer the blockage has been building up in the pipes, the more rancid it will become. Sometimes, an unpleasant smell will come from the pipes before the water starts backing up. If you smell something nasty in your kitchen and cannot figure out where it is emanating from, chances are it is your sink pipes.
If oil is accidentally poured down the drain, you can do a few things to correct the situation. Enzyme-based drain cleaners will neutralize and break down the clogs and grease, so the blockages dissolve, and small particles can be flushed through the pipes. You can also try to plunge the toilet or sink to dislodge a clog.
Do you consider yourself handy? If so, and the blockage is in the pipes that are exposed under the sink, you may be able to take the pipes apart yourself and remove the clog. Just make sure to turn off the water first and have a bucket handy to collect spillage when taking apart the pipes. If these methods fail, you will need to call a plumber.
The Problem with Outdoors
Disposing of cooking oil outside or pouring it directly into a bag of garbage can result in the oil seeping into the ground and sewage systems through rain runoff from landfills or your backyard. Oils disposed of outside can also negatively affect wildlife. Getting on their fur or feathers and making flying difficult, attracting parasites and bugs, and other health issues for wildlife. There is also the added increase of fire when oil is dumped outside, which can have disastrous impacts on the ecosystem.
Steps for How To Properly Dispose of Cooking Oil
Step 1: Let the cooking oil cool entirely in the pan or fryer.
Step 2: Once the oil is cool, pour or scrape the oil into a container you are willing to throw away. Large empty bottles that can be sealed up make good choices.
Step 3: Put the container of oil in a plastic bag.
Step 4: Put the bag with the container of oil in the garbage.
Some municipalities have recycling centers that collect and recycle used cooking oil. If your city or town offers this service, it is best to take advantage of keeping your used oil and plastics out of the landfills. Oils that end up in landfills or in the ground can cause significant problems in the environment and even seep into our lakes, streams, rivers, and groundwater.
Recycling cooking oil at home by reusing the oil and then taking it to a municipal recycling center is the most environmentally friendly option for disposing of cooking oil. These centers often rely on anaerobic digestion to break down cooking oil and convert it into biodiesel and ethanol, which can be used in cars, water heaters and can even generate electricity.
Animal feed plants and processors can also use old cooking oil in making their products. See if there are plants near you that accept drop-offs of used cooking oil.
Key Facts About Cooking Oil
There are many different types of cooking oil, but not many people know what it is precisely or when they will need it. Cooking oil is a synthetic fat material made from plant matter and can come in a liquid or solid form. Oils with a higher content of saturated fats, such as palm oil or coconut oil, are often solid but still very soft.
There are a few ways that cooking oil is used. Some recipes, especially when baking, will include cooking oil to keep food moist. Others like olive oil are perfect for drizzles and making vinaigrettes. Oils like vegetable oil, peanut oil, and canola oil can also be used for sauteing, frying, and deep-frying.
The best oils for drizzles:
- Soybean oil
- Olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Hemp oil
- Sesame seed oil
- Sunflower oil
The best oils for frying or sauteing:
- Canola Oil
- Vegetable Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Corn Oil
- Soybean Oil
The best oils for baking:
- Vegetable oil
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
If you are unsure of the best oil to use for the food you are making, check a recipe as most will specific the best type of oil to use.
One of the best ways to learn and explore how to use cooking oil is to sign up for a cooking class in your town or check out a specialty store that sells olive oils and other cooking oils. These places often have new and inventive ways of using cooking oils that you may have never considered!
Once home cooks have experience cooking with many different types of oils, they usually discover a few they prefer for various cooking tasks. If you are just starting to experiment with different cooking oils in your kitchen, start with extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, and peanut oil in your pantry.
Safety Tips for Cooking Oil
There are also safety measures that home cooks need to follow to use cooking oil properly and keep everyone safe from oil burns.
Oil should always be heated slowly and never be left unattended.
Food should always be at room temperature when put into heated oil, so the temperatures do not react and cause popping or splattering.
Make sure to use tongs when adding food to heated oils and always keep the pan lid handy in case of a grease fire.
Lastly, every home kitchen should have a smoke detector installed, proper ventilation above the oven, and a fire extinguisher.
Knowing the proper ways to use and dispose of cooking oil will save your household a lot of time and expense in the future when it comes to your plumbing. And, it benefits the environment right in your own backyard.