How to Dispose of Cooking Oil

First things first: don’t pour it down the drain.

March 13, 2024

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French fries fry in hot bubbling oil in a frying pan


French fries fry in hot bubbling oil in a frying pan

Photo by: brazzo/Getty Images

brazzo/Getty Images

By Grace Elkus for Food Network Kitchen

Grace is a contributing writer at Food Network.

Between maintaining the oil temperature, minimizing splatters and rushing to serve all the freshly-fried food while it’s hot, deep-frying at home can feel like a major undertaking. So the last thing you need is to stress about the leftover frying oil. That’s why we’re breaking down everything you need to know, from how to safely dispose of it to saving it for future uses.

Preparing fried chicken


Preparing fried chicken

Photo by: moriyu/Getty Images

moriyu/Getty Images

How Do I Dispose of Cooking Oil?

Step 1: Cool the Oil

Regardless of whether you're keeping or tossing the oil, the first step is always to let it cool completely. Hot oil can be dangerous, and it's not worth risking a burn.

Step 2: Pour It Into a Sealable Container

If you’re disposing of the oil, pour it into a sealable container (such as a plastic take-out container, the bottle the oil came in or an empty milk jug).

Step 3: Discard It In the Trash or at a Collection Site

Discard it in your food waste bin. Some cities also offer collection sites for recycling used oil; check out this website to find one near you. What you don't want to do is pour the oil down the drain, as it can clog up your kitchen pipes as well as the local sewage system. Even small amounts will build up in the pipes overtime. You should also never dump used frying oil outside, since it will eventually find its way to the sewer system and can also create issues for wildlife.

Chicken frying in a pan


Chicken frying in a pan

Photo by: yokeetod


Can You Reuse Oil After Frying?

Yes! Saving and reusing frying oil is a great way to minimize waste. After allowing the oil to cool, strain it through a fine mesh sieve lined with a few layers of cheesecloth (or a coffee filter) to rid it of any leftover food particles. Depending on the type of food you fried, you may need to strain the oil multiple times.

Once clean, store the oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Remember that the oil will have taken on the flavor of whatever was fried in it, so it's a good idea to label the container with the date and what it was used for. That way, you won't accidentally fry donuts in fried chicken oil.

How Long Can You Keep Used Frying Oil?

The lifespan of leftover frying oil depends on what it's been used for — and how many times. Breaded or floured foods, for example, introduce more particles than battered or bare foods (like French fries), meaning the oil will break down more quickly.

Since there's no hard and fast rule, it's better to just take a look at the oil: if the color has changed, there's foam on the surface or it has an off-putting smell, it's time to throw it out. Because the smoke point of the oil decreases with each use, spent oil may also begin smoking before it reaches frying temperature.

Of course, you can always do a test run: heat a little bit of oil and fry a small piece of bread. If it has a strong flavor, discard the oil using the directions above. And in general, go ahead and discard any that's been in the fridge for more than one month.

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