Facts are facts; baked chicken can be great, but there is nothing like crunchy golden-brown fried chicken.
The extra work and mess are always worth it, but what do you do with the left-over frying oil?
Can you reuse oil after frying chicken? You can usually reuse oil after frying chicken, or anything for that matter. Make sure to strain the oil to remove food debris once it cools and then store it properly. Under the right circumstances, you can reuse oil up to 8-10 times.
Frying chicken is often messy, sometimes difficult, but always delicious. The real issue faced by most home cooks is the cost of the oil (especially if you used peanut oil). Don’t worry, there are a few ways to get the most out of your oil.
Read on to learn tips and tricks for prolonging the shelf life of your oil as well as other useful information, like how to tell when it has gone bad and how to dispose of it properly.
Reusing Oil After Frying Chicken
Crispy, delicious, golden-brown fried chicken is an American classic, a staple comfort food in all regions of the country.
The recipe may change from region to region, but the enjoyment of taking a bite into a juicy, tender piece of chicken with its crunchy skin is the same everywhere.
These days, most of us tend to order fried chicken from restaurants, not just to skip out on some of the work and cleanup, but mostly to avoid spending money on the oil just to throw it away.
It takes a significant amount of oil to deep fry a piece of chicken and depending on the oil you use; it could cost you a pretty penny.
But here’s the good news: oil can be reused several times after frying. You just have to know a few things about the process.
Planning ahead of time to preserve your oil after frying gives you several opportunities to take steps that will help you get the most out of your oil.
Picking the right oil and controlling your temperature during the cooking phase is a great place to start.
Afterwards, you can clean and strain your oil before storing it safely, allowing you to reuse it several times.
As a rule of thumb, oil used to fry battered items will usually last 3-4 uses. Oil used for non-battered items can be reused anywhere from 8-10 times, sometimes more.
How Long Can You Keep Oil After Frying Chicken?
The length of time you can keep using frying oil can be measured in two ways, either by the actual amount of time the used oil will last, or by the number of times you can reuse the oil.
Like we mentioned earlier, what you fry and how you fry will play a big role in determining the shelf life of used oil. The type of oil is also important, as is the process you use to clean and store the oil.
If stored properly, and not reused at all after the initial fry, used oil can last between 1-2 months. No matter what you do, it will eventually go bad.
Over time, the oil will break down and go rancid. This process is sped up by the frequency of use.
Each time you heat the oil and use it to fry something, or even just for a cooking method other than frying, the chemical composition of the oil is being altered.
Eventually, it will no longer be useful and must be thrown away. We will discuss the right way to dispose of oil later.
What Do You Do With Oil After Frying Chicken?
The most effective way to preserve your oil after frying chicken is by following these steps.
First, remove any large particles of food from the oil. It is best to do this while the oil is still hot so that those items do not continue to break down in the oil. Just be careful.
Next, after allowing the oil to cool for a little (but not all the way), you will want to strain your oil through a fine mesh sieve. The finer the better.
This is removing any remaining food particles, especially little pieces of batter that came off during the cooking process.
We recommend straining your oil while it is still warm because once the oil cools, the fats congeal and it will become more viscous, making it more likely that some food particles will not be removed by the strainer.
Since the oil may still be too hot for its final storage container, we recommend keeping an old aluminum can around. Aluminum is easy to clean and will not be impacted by the hot oil; it will actually help it cool down faster.
We would actually recommend keeping a few aluminum cans around – a larger one for the straining process and a few more for the disposal process.
Once the strained oil has cooled, you can move onto the next step, which is transferring it to a storage container. We recommend using a well-made plastic container with a tight-fitting lid (more details to follow).
How Many Times Can You Reuse Frying Oil?
If you have taken the right steps to properly clean and store your used oil, you can expect to use it at least another 3-4 times if you are frying things that are battered or coated.
If you are frying things without batter, you may be able to get up to 10 more uses from your oil.
Just because you used your oil to fry chicken the first time does not mean you have to use it for fried chicken every time.
You may not want to fry a lighter fish in the oil due to conflicting flavors, but otherwise, you can use this oil for anything involving oil. For the best oils for fish, we have another article waiting for you.
Even if it’s just taking a spoonful of the oil to stir fry, oil that’s been fried with chicken will retain some flavor from the spices and meat it was cooked with. This subtle flavor will transfer to the dish you cook with it.
Try to remember that you have stored oil when it comes time to cook, especially if you are using a small amount. In that case, the flavor of the oil will not matter at all.
How Should You Store Used Frying Oil?
In order to get the longest shelf life from used oil, you will need to store it in an airtight container and keep that container in a cool, dark place.
Heat and light will continue to degrade the oil and air can allow moisture in, which will cause your oil to go rancid quicker.
Our recommendation is to use a clear container, either plastic or glass, and to keep it in the fridge. The cooler the better, but do not freeze the oil as it will not freeze properly and may degrade quicker when removed from the freezer.
However, you can freeze fresh vegetable oil.
What Other Factors Can Prolong the Shelf Life of Used Oil?
In addition to using proper cleaning, straining, and storage methods, you can also prolong the shelf life of your oil by choosing the best oils for frying chicken and by controlling the temperature when you fry.
Oils with higher flashpoints (the temperature that they will start to smoke and eventually burn) are best for frying. The best oils for frying tend to be soy, peanut, and vegetable.
Even when using oils with high flashpoints, you still want to be mindful of the temperature your oil reaches.
This is not just about preserving the oil; it also has to do with safety, and most importantly, the quality of the food you are preparing.
The best way to monitor your oil temperature is to use an oil thermometer that is designed for oil and often comes with a clip that allows it to be secured on the edge of the vessel you are cooking in. There are also digital options.
The best temperature for frying is between 300-375°F.
How Do You Know Frying Oil Went Bad?
This is the easiest part of the whole process. For starters, you will notice the oil has changed colors or even separated. If you are still unsure, rest assured because the smell will be an instant indicator.
If your used oil has any kind of scent that smells off-putting, it’s time to toss it. Trust us, you’ll know. This is where those other aluminum cans come into play.
How Do Dispose of Used Frying Oil?
Some people toss their oil out in their yard. We do not recommend this for several reasons. In some cases, it’s illegal, but more often it will destroy the grass or other plant life in the area it comes into contact with.
It may even start to smell and could attract unwanted wildlife. We also do not recommend pouring it down the drain, even if you run hot water or pour boiling water down after it.
Depending on how old your pipes are, this could turn into a major plumbing issue once the oil cools and thickens.
The best way to dispose of used oil is to put it in an old aluminum can or another container you do not mind parting with.
Place it in the freezer to harden it a little and then place the container in a small garbage bag or disposable plastic bag from a store. You can even use pet waste bags.
Depending on where you live, you can also use the most environmentally friendly oil disposal method and bring it to a place that specializes in disposing of, or even recycling, used oil.
Sometimes you may even be able to make a few cents from your used oil.