How to Dispose of Cooking Oil, Grease, and Fats
Keep cooking oil where it belongs—out of your drain! Even the smallest amount of grease can have a big impact on your home’s plumbing system and the environment. We have advice on how to dispose of cooking oil, use it responsibly, and how to recycle any leftovers.
How to use cooking oil responsibly
There are multiple cooking methods to try that reduce overall vegetable oil usage. If you use less oil, there’s less to worry about discarding!
In many cases, recipes call for more fat than what is needed. If you’re deep-frying something, consider using a shallow pan with a lid instead of a deep pot. Not only will you need less oil, but this method also traps moisture which allows the food to cook more quickly and taste better.
While fried foods are certainly delicious, there are other techniques that don’t require a lot of grease. If meat is on the menu, consider roasting, broiling, or slow cooking it (bonus points: choose a leaner cut, so the meat itself has less fat). Basting the meat keeps it moist and flavourful. If you love churros, doughnuts, or cannolis, try baking them instead of frying them. You’ll use a lot less oil and your treats will still be delectable.
Air fryers are one of the hottest appliances on the market right now, and act as a countertop mini convection oven, circulating hot air to crisp up food. Using an air fryer is a great way to reduce the amount of oil used in your kitchen.
How to re-use cooking oil
If you find yourself with leftover cooking oil, there are many ways to re-use it. One of the tastiest ways is to use it when preparing other foods. For example, bacon fat is an incredible addition to many dishes. Try roasting vegetables with it, frying a grilled cheese sandwich, incorporating it into baked beans, or as a butter substitute for corn on the cob. It won’t be the healthiest option, but it will be so tasty.
To store leftover oil, let it cool in the pan you cooked in. Once it has fully cooled (and likely solidified a bit), you can transfer it into a container. We recommend a glass jar or other glass vessel. Seal it tightly and stick it in the fridge. Be sure to store different types of cooking oil separately. For example, if you have bacon fat, don’t mix it with grease from potato chips. Let each grease have its own container.
That oil won’t keep forever. Be sure to use it before it goes rancid. A quick sniff test will tell you if something is off. You can use the oil multiple times, too! All cooking oil is different, but a good rule of thumb is if it is a clearer oil and you used it for something like potato chips, it’s safe to reuse about eight times. If the oil is darker and was used for frying something like chicken or fish, or something else breaded, it’s safe to use around three times. If in doubt, (responsibly) throw it out.
You can also re-use cooking oil for purposes other than cooking. As has been done for centuries, leftover oil can be used in soap, balms, or candles. You can also make your own non-toxic insecticide by mixing one tablespoon of dish soap with one cup of oil. Once that is mixed, apply it to the leaves of plants to kill unwanted bugs.
How to dispose of cooking oil environmentally
You should never, ever pour cooking oil down a sink drain or toilet. When the grease cools, it solidifies and sticks to the sides of the pipes, which creates a clog or even a sewer backup. If you continue to dispose of it this way, you will have a big problem on your hands. If this has been your method so far, give us a call so we can assess the status of your pipes.
Avoid putting grease on the ground, as well. This might be especially tempting if you’re camping and have whipped up a big breakfast with bacon and the works. If you pour leftover cooking oil on the ground, you are tempting wildlife to taste it. Some oil is toxic to plants and animals. That oil could also find its way into nearby water systems and cause even greater damage.
Don’t put leftover cooking oil into the garbage can, either. It can attract mice, rats, raccoons, or other unwelcome critters.
In Edmonton, residents can pour small amounts of fats, oils, and grease into covered, labelled plastic containers and put them out for garbage collection. Call 311 to find out your collection day. If you have more than one litre of used oil to dispose of, you must take it to an Eco Station.
How to compost using cooking oil
Composting is a great option for some leftover cooking oils. If you’re using 100% vegetable oil, like olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, or corn oil, it is safe to put into the compost pile. These are all-natural products that will break down. The exception, however, is if you cooked meat or added animal fat while cooking. Not only could leftover animal fats attract small animals, but they also won’t break down like other compost materials.
Fun fact: Earthworms love cooking oil. By adding it to your compost pile, you’re providing a tasty treat for those crawlers. You want to avoid adding too much, though. If you have more oil than moisture in your mix, you may wind up with an ecosystem where the grease is blocking airflow in the compost. Add a little oil at a time, and find alternative ways to use any remnants.
There are many options for safely getting rid of cooking oil. If you’re curious about waste and recycling other items in the City of Edmonton, we recommend checking out the garbage disposal guide. If you’ve been pouring grease down the drain and need an expert, judgment-free opinion on the status of your home plumbing system, we’re here to help. Please give us a call!