Cooking Grease: Recycle This

Have you ever played the game of “favorites”? It’s a great ice breaker or dinner conversation. (Fans of the movie The Way We Were will remember this game!) The game goes like this, “Name your favorite X.” Simple, right? Of course it takes time and mastery to come up with really thought-provoking “favorites.”

So you ask your friend, “Name your favorite Sunday morning.” Hmmm…favorite Sunday morning. That’s a tough one. It’s hard to pinpoint just one, but we can tell you for sure that it would have included waking up to the lovely smell of some organic, free-range eggs and bacon cooking atop the range, or perhaps over an open fire while camping in the woods.

Mmmmmm…..bacon. (Vegetarians, please substitute “Mmmmm….tofu bacon.)

Now that we have your attention, let’s talk grease. That’s right, that yucky, quickly-hardening substance left behind after all of that good cookin! You might know it as the jar of “stuff” that sits next to the range, slowly filling up, announcing itself like the greasy elephant in the kitchen that no one is talking about.

What do people do with that jar?

DON’T put it down the garbage disposal. Fatty foods (oil, meat, butter drippings, mayonnaise, gravy, etc) should never be put down a drain unless you’re trying to find an excuse to get that cute Mr. Roto Rooter to come on over. Look again at that jar of grease. Solid, right? Yeah…it does the same thing in your pipes. In addition, overflows can pose health and environmental hazards to your community.

Separate oils from fat. Oils do not turn into solids the way fat does, and therefore should be handled separately. If you had a reason to use a large amount of oil (have you ever tried a deep fried turkey? We know…so bad, and yet soooo very good!) then oil can be saved and reused. Used kitchen oil is safe to reuse as long as it’s been strained (use an old tea strainer), refrigerated, and used within a few weeks. Small amounts of oil can be placed in tightly sealed, unbreakable containers in the trash. It is not recommended to dispose of large amounts in the trash since containers may leak, causing problems with garbage trucks and at solid waste facilities.

For the fats (grease drippings, melted butter, lard, etc) pour directly into a cannister used for this purpose. Be sure the canister has a lid (an old coffee cannister, the type you see with brands like Folgers, works well). Once the grease has solidified, it can be scraped out with a spoon. Wipe pots, pans and cookware “clean” with a disposable towel prior to washing. You can dispose of small amounts of fats, oil and grease in tightly sealed containers in the trash, or save it in a re-sealable container and bring it to a residential recycling center.

Many communities have residential cooking oil and grease drop-off locations. Registered transporters will pick up the cooking oil and grease so it can be recycled into livestock feed or into biodiesel, a cleaner-burning alternative fuel for diesel automobiles and trucks. Check Earth911 for a location near you.

Mmmmm…bacon.