After you've finished deep frying your turkey this Thanksgiving, please don't dispose of the cooking oil by flushing it down your toilet. That's part of the message the Department of Environmental Protection wants to get out in a new program, Cease The Grease, to educate New Yorkers about proper cooking oil disposal. The city began handing out special flyers [pdf] that outline proper grease disposal, including tips like not pouring oil or grease down the drain, wiping oil and grease off dishes before washing them and pouring cooled cooking oil into non-recyclable containers and disposing of them with your normal trash.
"The grease problems will cause backages, backups in the sewers that will cause blockages. That can impact the way the sewer works," Deputy Commissioner of the DEP Jim Roberts explained to NY1. "In worst case conditions, it can sometimes lead to backups in homes." Once you've smelled rancid oil wafting up from your kitchen sink you'll think twice about dumping that bacon grease down the drain. Removing the oil gunking up the sewers and sinks also comes at a hefty price to the city, which spends millions of dollars each year removing built up grease. "It costs about $20 a gallon for the degreasing agent that we use," Roberts revealed. "And we use sometimes as much as 20 or 30 gallons."
Besides the aforementioned disposal technique, home cooks also have the option of reusing some oils and fats in other applications, which not only cuts down on oil waste but also enhances other foods. For example: if you're making bacon for breakfast, consider using the rendered bacon fat to cook potatoes for home fries or even use it to fry up eggs. Rendered chicken fat (aka schmaltz) can be reused to fry up latkes for your Thanksgivukkah table or lubrication when you're making chicken cutlets. If you're not using the rendered animal fats immediately, refrigerate the them in a tightly-sealed glass container and use within a few days.
Reusing plant-based oils can be tricky, as cooked oils can develop free radicals, which can have harmful effects on your cells. To prevent this, make sure your oil does not exceed its smokepoint during the cooking process. You'll also want to remove any food particles left over after use; use a mesh colander lined with cheesecloth to strain out any bits then store as you would animal fats.