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How to Get Rid of Cooking Grease and Oil

A woman pouring used cooking oil in a water bottle.
Marian Weyo/Shutterstock.com

You’ve probably been warned against pouring grease down the drain at some point in your life. But why is it so bad, and where should it go instead?

From tossing the cooled grease in the trash to saving used oil for future uses, there are several ways to safely get rid of cooking oil and grease.

Never Pour Oil or Grease Down the Drain

A sink covered in oil spots and a dirty drain catch.

Pouring grease down the drain can cause some significant damage to your home drain pipes, but it can also be destructive to sewer pipelines.

According to O’Connor Plumbing, hot liquid grease down the drain might seem harmless, but over time, the fat’s temperature cools and solidifies. The fat can accumulate and clog up your pipes, which can cause further plumbing issues (like blockages) in the home.

If you think about this minor household issue on a much grander scale, consider the damage it might do to underground sewer lines.

Once the fat hits the sewer, the grease begins to break down into fatty acids, then attach to calcium and turn into fatbergs. A fatberg is a big blob of soap-like compounds made up of domestic waste (like wet wipes) glued together by cooking fats thrown down the drain. Pretty gross, right?

Those big chunks can become massive issues for sewer systems, especially once those lines become entirely blocked. When sewer flow is interfered with by a blockage, all that waste has to go somewhere.

Sewer lines typically have emergency combined sewer overflows (CSOs) created to allow toxic waste to overflow into streams, rivers, and beaches, which is terrible for the environment. Not only is it harmful to underwater life, but it can contaminate and destroy the natural area.

So moving forward, keep the grease out of those drain pipes.

How to Get Rid of Grease

A dirty skillet filled with solidified bacon grease.
Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock.com

Grease is the rendered animal fat you find after cooking something like a burger patty or bacon. You know it’s grease because once it cools down and reaches room temperature, it turns into a solid.

Whether liquid or solid, grease can be used up or discarded in a few ways. You can choose to cook with excess bacon grease, pour it into a cup, then toss it, or scrape it into the trash once it has cooled.

Cook with It

Next time you plan on tossing leftover bacon grease out, don’t. It is a yummy ingredient for dishes you might have never considered.

Here are just three examples:

  • Make a bacon mac & cheese: After frying bacon, save the grease and combine it with flour to make a quick roux for a cheese sauce. You can add crispy fried bacon throughout the mac or on top before serving it. The flavor is out of this world.
  • Saute veggies: Add a pinch of flavor to your veggies by sauteing them in bacon grease. This works for blanched green beans, carrots, broccoli, and asparagus.
  • Fry eggs and home fries: No breakfast is complete without fried eggs and bacon. Try frying your eggs or home fries with bacon grease for flavor-intensified grub. You can even go as far as buttering your toast with it.

Bacon grease should be strained first, then scraped and stored in a small food container once it has cooled enough. Place in the fridge for up to three months and use when needed.

Scrape It and Wipe Clean

Sometimes whatever you’re cooking only accumulates a little grease, so getting rid of it should be no difficult task. Because no amount is safe for your drain pipes or sewer lines, there are two quick steps to trash that gunky leftover mess.

KitchenAid Classic Scraper

Scrape that leftover grease with ease.

Once it has cooled and solidified, use a rubber spatula scraper to work around the inside of your skillet and scrape the extra grease right into the trash. Then, use a wad of paper towels to wipe the inside clean. Throw those paper towels away, then wash your skillet with soap and water.

Use Aluminum Foil

You can also place small amounts of bacon or burger grease in a handcrafted aluminum foil cup. This trick originally comes from Beyond the Hem boutique but has gained thousands of views over the years.

Tear off a sheet of foil, then place it over your garbage disposal to form a small bowl or cup. Work carefully to ensure you don’t puncture any holes in the foil, and keep the entire drain covered, so no grease gets in.

Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil

Perfect for small amounts of grease.

Slowly pour your grease into the handmade bowl and wait for the fat to solidify. Then, roll it up into a ball and toss it in the trash. Use an old coffee cup instead if you don’t want to take up space in your sink for a few hours.

How to Get Rid of Cooking Oil

Someone pouring used cooking oil into a water bottle.
Fernando Avendano/Shutterstock.com

Cooking oils are typically made from plant sources like soy and corn and won’t ever solidify at room temperature. Many home cooks use vegetable, canola, or peanut oil to fry foods, but once dinner is made, that oil needs to go somewhere.

Whether you’d like to reuse it in the future or take it to a transfer station for recycling, it’s crucial to let your oil cool to room temperature. One way to ensure it has cooled enough is by letting it sit overnight and cleaning up the mess the following day.

Reuse It

Repurposing cooking oil is safe and can be done a few times before having to trash it. If you do plan to reuse the oil, be sure to keep a few things in mind.

Be sure to filter your oil before storing it. The food particles from whatever you fried last will burn if they aren’t removed, and your future meals won’t be nearly as tasty.

A simple oil storage filter can help finish the job in a flash. Once your oil cools, carefully pour it in, and watch as the fine mesh screen filters out the food pieces.

Cook N Home Oil Storage Strainer

Holds up to 1.5 quarts of oil.

Once the oil is filtered and cooled down, place a funnel over the opening of your oil container. Carefully work to pour the oil back into the original bottle. Once you’ve poured it all back in, wipe the inside of the cooking vessel with paper towels to remove any additional oil, then wash with soap and water.

KongNai Collapsible Funnel Set

Great for mess-free pouring.

When reusing oil, make sure to fry similar foods with it. If you fried fish and chips with that oil, we don’t recommend making paczkis anytime after. Unless you enjoy fish-flavored donuts, then, by all means, go for it.

Stash It and Trash It

One of the most straightforward ways to get rid of cooking oil is by throwing it away in the trashcan, and all you need for that is one or two plastic Ziploc bags and some paper towels.

Ziploc Slider Storage Gallon Bags

Great for stashing and trashing old oil.

Once the oil has cooled completely, grab a second person to help keep the bag open, or use a bag holder stand to help keep it open. Carefully pour the oil into the large Ziploc bag until it has filled about halfway up. If you still have a lot of oil, start pouring it into a second bag. Too much oil in one bag can cause it to burst.

Ruibo Baggy Rack

When you need an extra set of hands.

Finally, use a big wad of paper towels to sop up the remaining grease inside the pot. Wipe out as much as possible before taking your pot to the sink for proper cleaning.

Recycle It

Restaurants use so much cooking oil that they typically get paid by commercial oil recyclers for their used oil, as it can be refined and used in diesel engines.

You can recycle yours from home on a much smaller scale, too. Some communities offer curbside pickup options, while others provide drop-offs at local recycling facilities.

To make things a little easier, a massive online database can help point you to your nearest collection center. Plug in your information, and find your closest recycling location in a flash.

Every facility has storage methods, so call before and inform yourself of best practices. Generally, you’ll let your oil cool down, pour it into leftover plastic bottles, and send it off for recycling. Easy peasy.

Cooking oils and grease should always be disposed of properly, which means keeping them far from your drain pipes and out of the sink. Because everything from washing hands to prepping meals starts at your sink, keeping it clean is a must.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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