How to Dispose of Cooking Oil the Right Way (Plus, How to Reuse It)
Keep your drains safe by using these Test Kitchen-approved methods for proper cooking oil disposal.
So you made a juicy batch of homemade fried chicken for dinner and are now to the dreaded task of cleaning up. Wiping down grease splatters is one thing, but you might be dreading what to do with the used cooking oil. If you're new to deep-frying at home, keep that used oil away from the drain! Sure, the garbage disposal (or any other drains, for that matter) might seem like the easiest option, but that is the least effective way to dispose of cooking oil. Why? Oils and fats become solid and can cause major damage and blockages to your pipes. It can also mess up your plumbing system, attract pests, and (eek!) pollute the waterways. Here are the best ways to dispose of cooking oil so you can keep your home's pipe system safe.
How to Dispose of Used Cooking Oil
After using oil, cool to room temperature and follow one of the three methods below suggested by our Test Kitchen for getting rid of used cooking oil:
- Transfer cooking oil to a disposable container with a lid. This can be a cooking oil bottle, plastic milk jug or carton, coffee can, or a purchased grease disposal container ($8, Amazon). Seal the container and place in your household garbage. Note: Our Test Kitchen does not recommend using plastic bags, as they can spring a leak.
- Live close to a restaurant? They might have a bin specifically for collecting cooking oil. Try contacting them about adding your oil to their collection bin if you have a large amount to dispose of such as if you plan on deep-frying a turkey.
- If you are using soy, corn, coconut, olive, or sunflower oil (which are 100% vegetable oil) you can add them to your compost pile in small (emphasis on the small here, as too much oil on the compost could become a fire hazard) amounts as earthworms will eat cooking oil. Make sure you're only doing this with veggie oil. Animal fat is a big no-no for your compost.
Test Kitchen Tip: You can mix used oil with cat litter, which will absorb the oil, making disposal easier.
How to Store Used Cooking Oil
If you're deep-frying french fries regularly, you can definitely help prevent food waste (and save a few bucks) by reusing your cooking oil. As long as the oil is clean and not full of food debris, you should be able to get another fry session or two out of the oil. Here's the best way to prepare and store used cooking oil for later:
- When you're finished frying, turn off the heat and cool the oil completely to room temperature.
- Strain out any food particles using a strainer ($11, Target) lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter.
- Store cooled, filtered cooking oil in a food-safe container or the bottle it came in. You can also streamline this process in one easy step by purchasing a grease keeper ($17, Amazon). Keep the used cooking oil in the fridge for up to one month.
Now that you know how to dispose of cooking oil properly, make sure you've got your frying basics covered. Use a deep-fry thermometer ($11, Walmart) to make sure your fried fish, pork chops, ice cream, or whatever else you want to deep-fry is at the right temp. Oh, and if you're reusing cooking oil, try to keep it in the same food category to keep the flavor profile the same. For example, you wouldn't want to make donuts in yesterday's fried chicken oil unless it's to eat them together.