Let’s be honest, deep-fried foods hit a spot few others can. Be it chicken or French fries, fried delicacies seem to have an extra oomph to them.
But with them come several health concerns, one of which is whether it’s healthy to reuse the oil used to cook them. Since they usually require a lot of cooking oil to prepare, pouring all of it away seems like a waste to many of us.
So, can we reuse this cooking oil? And if so, how many times can we reuse it?
If these are the questions that plague you, you have come to the right place – we have the answers to these and many more questions.
Can you reuse oil after frying?
So the next time you have some oil left over after frying, follow these steps:
- Let the oil cool.
- Use a spoon to remove any large food pieces from the oil.
- Choose a clean container for your oil – ensure it’s tightly capped. You can use a glass jar, an opaque stainless steel bottle, or any other dark-colored container. Don’t use other metals like copper and brass though – they can react with your oil.
- Use a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer to remove residue and small food particles. Place the strainer on top of the container you plan to store the oil in – don’t mix the used oil with any other oil. Fill the container until there is little air space left then close it tightly.
- Label the container with the date you used the oil and what you used it to cook. Since oils usually retain the flavor of the food they were used to cook, you need to be careful. Otherwise, you may end up in disasters like using fish-smelling oil to make donuts.
- Store the oil in a dark cool dry place like your pantry or refrigerator until you need to use it. Keep it away from light and heat – these will speed up oxidation. Don’t let it stay for more than 1-2 months before using it though.
Also, if you know that you’re planning to reuse cooking oil, here are a few tips that will help you maintain its integrity as you fry:
- Use fresh oil to fry neutral-tasting food then you can reuse it to fry foods with stronger flavors later on.
- Ensure your oil reaches the right temperature before adding your food to it and avoid burning. Consider getting a thermometer to help you with this.
- Keep water away from your oil while frying – this will prevent your food from getting crisp. So keep your eye out for ice particles in food and avoid using a lid when frying – the resulting condensation will just drip into the oil.
How many times can oil be reused for frying?
Each type of oil has a different smoking point – the temperature at which it begins to break down and smoke.
No matter what you do though, don’t use olive oil. It has a strong flavor and low smoking point yet is still quite expensive – all bad qualities to have in a frying oil anyway.
Also, keep in mind that even if you use oils with a high smoking point, they will eventually break down and decompose.
This is backed up by an experiment run by America’s Test Kitchen which involved reusing canola oil to fry chicken and potato chips separately.
The experiment found that you should only reuse this oil 3-4 times if you’re making fried chicken or any other breaded/battered food.
If you’re cooking clean-cut foods like potato chips, you can reuse the oil at least 8 times.
Is it unhealthy to reuse cooking oil?
Reusing cooking oil comes with some serious health concerns, especially if the oil has already turned dark and smoky. For one, it can increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your body, increasing your risk of strokes, chest pain, and heart disease.
Beyond that, there is research linking toxins in reused oil to cancer. And to make matters worse, reused oil can contribute to acidity, inflammation, obesity, and diabetes.
Ultimately, it is best to avoid reusing oil frequently.
And before cooking with reused oil confirm it doesn’t show signs of decomposition. Some of the signs to look out for include:
- The oil has darkened or changed its color.
- The oil has become heavier – this happens when heat changes the molecular structure of oil.
- Particles gather at the top or bottom of the oil.
- A rancid or off-putting smell.
- Smoke on the oil’s surface, especially before the temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
What happens when oil is heated repeatedly?
When oil is heated repeatedly, its quality degrades and oxidative products like aldehydes and hydroperoxide are released. This process also depletes the natural antioxidant content of oil.
That’s why the more times oil is reheated, the less nutritiously valuable it is and the more detrimental to your health it becomes.
What can you do with leftover oil after deep frying? Can I reuse it somehow?
The easiest way to reuse frying oil is by cooking with it.
Remember though, this oil is not good for marinades and dressings.
However, you can reuse cooking oil to make soap bars or put it in a spray bottle and use it as a non-toxic pesticide.
And when you finally run out of things to do with this oil, you can take it to a recycling facility or donate it to biofuel companies.
Alternatively, you could just add this to your compost pile. But this is only a good idea if you’re trying to get rid of a small amount of vegetable oil that was used to fry plant-based food.
Reuse and recycle!
When it comes to dealing with used frying oil, your best option is to reuse it as much as you can before dropping it off at a recycling facility.
No matter what happens though, don’t pour it down your sink drain – this is bad for both your plumbing and the environment!