I tell myself that I don’t fry foods very often. But I really don’t know what “often” means. I’ve never seen any national statistics on the average frequency of frying foods in the average American household.
This is what I do know. When I figured out I could reuse frying oil, I wasn’t as hesitant to fry foods. (So maybe don’t read this, if you don’t want any encouragement to fry stuff.) Oil is pretty expensive. And I didn’t want to open a brand new container of oil, fry one meal with it, then toss it.
First off, it is a pain to throw oil away. Especially in any sort of quantity. You can’t dispose of it like you would any other food scraps.You definitely can’t pour it down the drain! (Not that I have learned that the hard way.) I used to wait for it to cool, then poured it into a container or ziploc bag to throw it away. Secondly, it seems wrong to throw away your cooking medium. It would be like throwing away your casserole dish after cooking in it. (And not the 99 cent aluminum foil dishes that are meant for tossing, I’m talking your Rachel Ray best.)
So because I try to save some money here and there and because I have to go through many of these steps to throw the stuff away, I have come up with a system to re-use my frying oil. And as an added bonus, old wisdom (that is actually backed up by science) says that used frying oil is actually better at giving a crisp, well-browned and less oily end product.
Now, there are bound to be questions about how many times you can re-use your oil and how to best preserve it.
First, there is no hard and fast rule about how many times oil can be reused. If it has gone rancid, you will know. It will smell yucky. Then it is time to toss it out. I have had oil last up to six months.
A couple of thoughts on extending the life of your oil.
1. Your oil will last longer if it is stored in a cool place out of direct sunlight.
2. If you get your oil too hot, past its smoke point, it will break down much quicker. Different oils have different smoke points (the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and subsequently turn all carcinogenic and break down-eek.) Choosing a frying oil that has a high smoke point will make your oil last longer. (Peanut oil has a high smoke point, and extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoke point. Canola oil is somewhere in between.) My Kitchen Resource Guide has info about frying temperatures
3. What you fry will also determine the life of the oil. If you are frying fish, you are probably not going to want to fry dessert rosettes in the same oil. Sorry, but this is a fact of life. Less stinky stuff, will make your oil last longer.
4. Lastly, the more bits of food that remain in the oil, the more quickly it will go bad. That takes us to the lesson of the day.
Here is used oil that is full of burned flecks. These are bits of the coating or the food itself that came off during frying. We don’t like these burned bits.
We want to clean those bits out, so we have nice clean oil to fry with in the future and to make our oil last longer.
Here is the method I use. Good news, most of you have this stuff lying around your kitchen.
You will need:
Your used oil
A container to put the oil into (I use a mason jar)
A paper towel (and maybe a couple to cover your work space)
A medium size strainer
Place the strainer inside the funnel (your strainer should be small enough to fit inside the funnel opening.) This will filter out the large chunks, but if we want to really clean the oil, we need a finer filter.
Tuck the paper towel into the strainer. This will really filter out the fine particles.
Now pour your cooled oil into the paper towel (you may need some extra hands to hold the funnel steady as you pour.) Then wait. It will take some time for the oil to filter through the paper towel. You may need to do this in stages, adding more oil when there is space in the paper towel/strainer/funnel. And yes, you will lose some of the oil, as some of it will soak into the paper towel, but in my opinion, it’s better to lose a couple tablespoons of oil to save a couple cups.
When you are finished you will end up with something like this.
Now put a good lid on your container and store it in a cool dark place and feel good about saving the world, I mean some oil (and some moolah!)
Lather, rinse, repeat and have a great day!