Leftover Oils, Fats & Drippings

Depending on your level of frugality, cooking habits, culture, and lifestyle, this might not necessarily be as odd as one might think – saving bits of things like oil or drippings to use the leftover in something else.

Ina Garten’s Brussels Sprouts – photo from the FoodNetwork

Even food celebrities do this, sometimes in a rather “upscale” fashion:

  • Ina Garten reuses Olive Oil (which, because of the garlic must taste wonderful) from her Fried Baby Artichokes.
  • Alton Brown strains and freezes his frying oil.

Make sure your oil has not overheated and degraded – one of the most unhealthy foods that can be eaten! Read a bit about smoke points and hooey on Alton’s There Will be Oil transcript.

Even constant dieters might want to consider such a thing, although it might initially raise alarm. Let’s say that you’ve splurged and had a BLT. Then someone requests Navy Bean Soup with Bacon that relies on the Bacon taste. In a case like this, you can be frugal and cut some of the fat from the second meal by simply using a bit of the bacon drippings to saute the vegetables instead of using actual bacon in the recipe. Yeah, olive oil would be healthier, but a partial improvement is made by eliminated the actual bacon in the second recipe.

Of course many on Paleo diets don’t bat an eye at the fat in foods and some experts are beginning to believe the dietary cholesterol isn’t related to the cholesterol that forms in the arteries: arteriesothers. It seems that at most, dietary cholesterol is responsible for about 15% of our cholesterol numbers. We’re in our infancy when it comes to nutritional science, with much to learn.

Which is all to say, no judgment here! Here are some suggestions on what to do with those fats and oils, with no policing on my part!


  • If you’ve used clarified butter as a dipping sauce for something like artichoke hearts or crab, consider whether you can use the leftover when sauteing or cooking something else. Refrigerate this. What you’ve dipped it in, will of course flavor the butter, which could be very nice depending on what you’re making.
  • If your butter is messy and you’re kind of afraid to use it, clarify it!
  • Fold up your butter wrappers and put in your freezer door to use when you need to butter a pan for a cake or casserole.
Keep butter wrappers in freezer to oil pans

Keep butter wrappers in freezer to oil pans

Drippings and Fat

  • Bacon DrippingsI use bacon drippings to fry my vegetables for bean or pea soup and to fry my meat for Beef Burgundy or Chili Verde. Not something I do all the time for health reasons, but these are a just a few of dishes that benefit from bacon as a flavoring.
  • Chicken or Poultry Fat – “Schmaltz” is used in some Jewish and German Cuisines.  Spread on a dark bread, served as a condiment; used for hearty fried dishes (latkes); include in pates, or use to preserve meats, like a confit. Some cooks incorporate into dumplings. If you’re not making a gravy after cooking your chicken, save the drippings in the fridge for the next time you want a bit.  The little brown bits left from rendering are used as a snack.
  • Meat Drippings – Can be used or saved for gravies, may be defatted and added to soup stocks.
  • Hamburger Drippings –  The drippings from hamburger taste murky and I don’t bother with them. Dispose of easily by putting in an old can and refrigerating to a solid state, then discarding in the garbage. If I don’t have a can, I’ll put them in a glass and pop out the solid fat by running quickly under hot water and prying out with a fork.
Bacon Drippings

Bacon Drippings

Oil or Shortening

  • If you’ve deep-fried something and want to save the oil, strain and transfer back into the original can or bottle and freeze; it will stay fresh for other uses. If you’re living in a hot climate or not reusing soon, refrigerate or freeze.
  • Alternatively, you can generally still use that oil for sauteeing vegetables, etc.  Use your good judgment as to whether or not it is use while to do this; perhaps if you’ve been frying something strong tasting it may transfer those flavors.
  • You can clarify somewhat by frying up a couple of slices of bread and then straining twice through cheesecloth or a paper towel.
  • My daughter told me her friend keeps her used shortening in the freezer – I’d never heard of this, then realized she lived in Georgia, where it may be more difficult to keep because of the heat. Then, I saw Alton Brown do the same thing.  He’s from GA, too!

My grandmother (born in 1896, I think) told me that when she was a child, she’d help her mother out by making sandwiches for the men and boys in the family to take with them on the Railroad. Bread spread with whatever drippings or lard they had on hand. They’d smear a bit on it on paper to wrap the sandwiches in to keep them fresh.

Paper was another product that was carefully saved and used every possible way.

So what are your frugal ways concerning these items? Any discussion welcome, here!

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