While many Americans are taking a hard pass on fried foods these days, that doesn’t mean we never indulge. Bacon remains a favorite, as well as other greasy foods. However, if you’re never sure what to do with leftover grease and oil after cooking, you’re not alone.
It’s easier to discuss what not to do with it — and every plumber will tell you to never pour it down the sink — even if you have a garbage disposal. Cooking oil or grease can accumulate on your pipes, leaving a residue that will trap other debris and cause clogs and foul odors.
Thinking outside the box can provide a few creative ways to dispose of leftover grease and oil without causing a plumbing emergency.
How to Reuse Frying Oil
Restaurant kitchens save and reuse frying oil and so can home cooks. When you consider how much oil is required for deep-frying, it just makes sense.
After the oil cools completely, strain it through a paper coffee filter to remove any debris. Then, store it in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage. This method allows you to reuse frying oil several times.
America’s Test Kitchen recommends using a combination of cornstarch and water for the best results. The cornstarch attracts and collects any particulate matter in the leftover oil. While this method is a bit time-consuming, it will leave you with clean oil you’ll be happy to reuse.
If you don’t deep-fry foods very often, you can still reuse it for cooking in other ways. Once strained and stored in the refrigerator, you can use it for light frying or sautéing as well.
Even after straining and cleaning, you should only reuse frying oil a limited number of times. If you’re frying meats, you can reuse it up to three or four times. For vegetables or dough, you can reuse it as many as six or eight times.
Recycling Cooking Oil
Recently, many companies specializing in oil recycling have made their debuts in communities across the country. Currently, the Atlantic County area only has services for professional kitchens, but residential collections services are an increasing trend. Hopefully, one that will reach our area soon.
How to Reuse Leftover Grease
Many experienced cooks swear by bacon grease (for example) as the perfect seasoning for many foods. And bacon is just one source. Tallow and lard both add umami goodness to your vegetables when used in moderation.
Fresh grease is critical for making the best gravy, as well as making the flakiest pie crusts.
You can save and reuse leftover grease in a similar fashion as saving cooking oil. Allow it to cool completely, but don’t wait so long that it hardens. Then, strain it to remove any bits of fried foods and store in a jar in the refrigerator.
If properly strained and stored, grease, tallow, and lard will keep for up to a year in the refrigerator and even longer in the freezer.
Recycling Leftover Grease
You may not think there’s any way to recycle used grease, but your local wildlife may feel differently. With winter on the way, leftover tallow, lard, and other animal fats are excellent cold-weather food for birds.
Making homemade suet treats for wild birds is also a fun and educational activity for kids. The instructions are easy:
Collect up to two cups of leftover grease
For best results, only use grease that is solid and firm at room temperature
Use muffin tins as a mold for your suet treats
Melt the grease in a pan on low heat until liquified
Strain several times to remove any burnt particles
Mix in other foods like bird seed, breadcrumbs, oats, wheat berries or other grains
Pour into molds and place in the freezer for two hours until solid
Remove from molds and hang the suet treats from a net bag or drill a hole in the treat for a hanging twine.
Families who keep backyard chickens find that rolled oats mixed with leftover grease makes a great cold-weather treat for their birds, too.
Disposing of Leftover Grease and Cooking Oil
Once you’ve reused your cooking oil several times, it may begin to absorb flavors or odors from the food you’ve cooked. It can also go rancid after a while.
Likewise, if you feel you’ve exhausted the possibilities of your leftover grease, which will eventually spoil, it’s time to dispose of it.
Atlantic County Utilities Authority recommends that residents double-bag and dispose of leftover cooking oil in their regular trash. You can do likewise with leftover grease.Never, ever flush it down the drain or toilet. However, if you forget or end up with a clogged drain anyway, make an appointment today with the plumbing professionals at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in Pleasantville. We can make short work of the most stubborn clogs.