Reusing frying oil is a great money-saving way to better utilise the resource as well as reduce wastage. However, it is important to do take into account the safety of cooking food as well as maintaining the quality, in order to prevent health risks.
Given how the price of edible oils have seen a meteoric rise over the last couple of years, utilising it optimally becomes of utmost importance while operating a home kitchen on a budget. Cooking oil – when used for purposes other than tempering, in large quantities is most often needed for pan-frying or deep-frying food. Specific types of oils allow themselves to be reused as a result of their high smoking point or cooking foods that are neutral in flavour, in them.
Reusing frying oil, while efficient, also requires a certain level of mindfulness, in order to avoid any harmful effects on the body, once food has been consumed. Moreover, the shelf life of used oil is finite, which means that it must be used up within a limited period of time to avoid throwing it away. Taking into account a few handy guidelines can ensure that the taste or nutritional value of your meals aren’t compromised; more importantly, not leading to various lifestyle disorders.
Strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth after use, to remove any food particles or debris – thereby helping in extending the oil's lifespan. Store the oil in a cool, dark place to prevent it from going rancid. Alternately, you can also make space in your refrigerator shelf to prolong its usage over multiple cooking sprees.
Check the oil’s colour, smell and taste before each use. If the appearance is of a darker liquid than what it started off as, has a foul odour or off-putting taste, chances are that it is time to discard it. Good quality frying oil should be relatively clear and have a neutral aroma and flavour. Reuse the same type of frying oil for cooking dishes where the oils will be needed – for example, using vegetable oil for tadka, as mixing different oils can affect the flavour of your food.
Maintaining Optimum Temperature
When reusing oil, overheating causes break down of the oil, producing harmful compounds. Using frying oil with a lower heat application or even frying food first at the recommended temperature for the specific type of oil you're using, can help retain some of its nutritional value and flavour.
Pick The Right Oil
Some oils, like olive oil or avocado oil, have lower smoke points and can degrade faster compared to rice bran or vegetable oils. If you happen to use oils with a lower smoking point for frying food, it is best to discard it after a couple of uses instead of saving it for other culinary applications. Besides, oils with higher smoking points that have had foods like onions or meat fried in them must also be disposed instead of being saved for use.
Maintain Storage Hygiene
Store used oils in a clean, air-tight container to prevent cross contamination. Making sure the container is dry and free of any leftover food particles, among other things is necessary for frying oils to continue remaining edible after using it for the first time. Refrain from mixing used oil with a fresh batch of oil unless the entirety will be discarded after usage.
While it's possible to reuse frying oil, it's best to limit the number of times it is used for cooking. It is common knowledge that the more you use a batch of oil, the more its quality deteriorates, becoming less suitable for frying. Limit the reuse to 2-3 times if deep-frying foods in it, before correctly disposing it off by transferring it into a bag instead of pouring it down the drain.