Not sure what to do with used cooking oil? Mom was right when she said to never pour it down the drain.

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There is no getting around it–the largest chapter in a catalog of "Favorite Southern Foods" would undoubtedly be Fried Foods. There is fried chicken, fried okra, fried catfish, fried pork chops, and the list goes on. If we choose not to fry it is usually for one of two reasons. One, we opt for a healthier cooking method, such as roasting a chicken instead of frying it, and two, we simply don't want to deal with the mess of cleaning up the cooking oil. Before you pour that hot oil in the trash or let it clog up your sink, read these tips on how to safely dispose of used cooking oil.

Never (Ever) Pour Oil Down the Drain

Grandmother told you, your mama told you, and now we are telling you: NEVER pour oil or grease of any kind down the drain. When hot oil cools down, it solidifies and sticks to the inside walls of your kitchen pipes. Over time, the solids will build up and eventually clog your pipes, leading to backups, flooding, huge plumbing bills, and lots of headaches.

How to Safely Dispose of Used Cooking Oil

Whether you have fried a batch of chicken in a Dutch oven or a few strips of bacon in a skillet, you have some hot oil and grease to take care of. You should first allow any oil to cool down after cooking (unless you keep your bacon grease when making cornbread or Lucy Buffet's Winter Gumbo, in which case allow it to cool slightly, then pour into a heat proof container for storage). After it is cooled completely, use a funnel, and pour the oil into a metal can or plastic container (empty milk carton, original oil bottle, etc.), secure the lid and put the container in the trash. Be sure the oil is room temperature before pouring it into a plastic container or any residual heat from the oil will melt the container.

Check with your local recycling center and ask if they accept used cooking oil. If so, use an empty gallon milk jug to collect oil and, once full, recycle it.

If you fry bacon and don't want to keep the grease, wait until it cools and solidifies. Using a spatula or paper towel, scrape the grease out of the pan into a plastic bag or any empty container (empty cereal boxes work great) and then toss in the trash.

How to Store and Reuse Cooking Oil

If you want to keep used frying oil for another use, you need to strain out any leftover food particles, such as those tasty bits of fried okra that linger in the bottom of the skillet. Once the oil has cooled, set a coffee filter or wire mesh strainer over a bowl, and slowly pour in the used oil. If the food particles are not removed, it can cause the oil to become rancid or accumulate mold.

Once the leftover food particles have been removed, keep the oil in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. You should only store used oil for up to 3 or 4 weeks, no longer. Oil absorbs the strong flavors of whatever you are cooking, something to keep in mind if you plan to reuse cooking oil.