Most food lovers are no stranger to the aftermath of a delicious fry-up; pots and pans filled with oil and fat from their bacon, chips or deep-fried delicacies. The warning not to throw this oil down the drain is often ignored for one simple reason – where else do we dispose of it?
This warning is not an urban myth, either. There are countless cases where plumbers have had to replace entire pipelines from kitchen sinks due to the liquid oil and fat solidifying as it runs down the cold pipes. This build-up of jellified fat inside pipes can lead to blockages and smells that will cost you a hefty sum to remedy.
So, back to the question; where do we dispose of oil after cooking?
- For fats that solidify (such as bacon fat), let them harden in the pan and then scrape into the bin. You can speed the process up by chilling the pan in the fridge after cooking. Bacon fat can also be stored and reused, and it makes a great flavour enhancer when frying onions. It can be stored in a fridge for a week or two, after which it can become rancid. Alternatively, you can freeze bacon fat for up to a year.
- For fats and oils that don’t solidify, pour them into a non-recyclable, resealable container (such as a glass jar) and throw the container in the bin. You could also pour the oil into a plastic shopping bag that has other waste in it, such as old paper towels, vegetable trimmings or cat litter. This waste will soak up some of the oil and prevent it from leaking. Tie the bag shut and throw it in the bin.
- Search for recycling companies in your area that may accept oils and fats. Golden Fry Oil in South Africa will collect your used oil and recycle it for use in the chemical and biofuel industry.
- Certain vegetable oils are safe for composting, but only in small quantities. It is also important to note that any oil used to cook meat or animal products is not safe for compost, and can attract rodents and unwanted pests to your garden. Similarly, large quantities of vegetable oil in your compost will reduce airflow and prevent necessary water from spreading.
- Oil can be reused – but make sure you label it properly when storing it, as you wouldn’t want to use oil from a deep fried fish meal in your next cake recipe. Simply strain the oil through a fine sieve, into a resealable plastic container, and note what it was last used for. Deep-frying oil (like the one used for chips) can be reused three or four times, which will save you money and the environment.
With these tips, you won’t have to worry about blocked drains, leaky bins or unwanted odours anymore. Keep cooking your delectable dishes and be confident that you are cleaning up in the correct way.