If you’ve been following my recipes for a while, you’ll know I have a special place in my heart for deep-frying. Fried chicken, crispy prawn cutlets, wontons, fishcakes… you can’t beat it. With that in mind, one of the most popular questions that gets asked on my various social channels is, ‘Can I reuse my oil after deep frying?’ And also, when you’re done with it, what’s the best way to get rid of cooking oil? Read on as I tackle these hot topics in turn.
What to do with used cooking oil
Deep-frying: totally love it as a cooking method, but what about all that oil? Here’s how to reuse – and safely dispose – it.
Cleaning your cooking oil
First off, decide whether the oil you’ve just used is good to go again. And you’ve got to use a bit of common sense with this. For one thing, I always think about the flavour or the smell of the oil I’ve just used. So if I’ve been deep-frying something that’s particularly fragrant, maybe fish or something that’s coated with a strong marinade, I probably wouldn’t re-use it. But if I’ve been lightly frying some coated chicken or something vegetarian or tempura, then I’ll probably use the oil again.
Start off with just a large bowl or a pot, that I place a strainer on top of. Next, line the strainer with some kitchen paper – it will slow down how much of that oil gets drained through. The idea is that we want to remove all of the little bits and pieces in the oil, because that residue is what’s going to turn your oil rancid.
Now you want to do this pretty soon after you’ve been cooking, as you don’t want those bits and pieces to sit in the oil for too long. So wait until the oil is cooled down enough so it’s just warm and not dangerous. Then, using a ladle, scoop off the oil from the top that’s pretty clean – the particles from your frying should have settled on to the bottom of the pan. Once you get to the part of the oil where a lot of the particles are, stop.
Storing your oil
It’s a helpful idea to check the colour of your oil that’s drained through – it can be a good deciding factor whether you should keep it or not. Again, use your common sense. If it’s quite a light colour, you could probably use it a couple more times for similar recipes. But, if it looks very dark or it has a rancid or strong smell, then it’s time to throw that in the bin.
Now you’ve got your clean oil, pour it into a container, then put a label on it so you know what it is, as well as the current date. The best place to keep your reserved oil is in the fridge. I generally try to use it up within a couple of weeks.
There comes a time when you need to chuck your cooking oil. But you should always be mindful of how you dispose of it.
First off, check online for any local facilities that recycle oil cooking oil. It’s becoming increasingly popular and accessible, so is a great first place to start. Cooking oils can actually be filtered and recycled into lots of other useful products, plus ensures it doesn’t lead to plumbing or environmental problems. In Australia, recyclingnearyou.com.au is a fantastic resource when it comes to responsibly getting rid of all manner of items from your household, while over in the US, the government suggests checking earth911.com.
To recycle old or used cooking oil, collect it in a sealable, non-breakable container and drop it off at a recycler that accepts oil. You can keep saving it in one large container to make the process more efficient!
Disposing of oil
If you don’t have recycling options near you, you could try calling your local fire department to see if used oil is accepted. If you’re out of luck, don’t throw used oil down the drain or toilet as it will cause all kinds of issues. Instead, seal your cooking oil container and dispose of it in the garbage.