You’ve just fried up some bacon for breakfast. It’s delicious, you’re pleased. But once the meal is over, you’re left with the thankless task of cleaning up the leftover grease, which is, admittedly, a pain. It’s messy, the grease is hot, and chances are good that you’ll just want to pour it all down the drain. In the moment, it makes sense. The drain is where liquids go, and when it’s hot, bacon grease is a liquid. But don’t do it. Don’t throw leftover bacon grease down the drain, be that the kitchen sink or the toilet or any other drain you might have in your house, because that is definitively the wrong way to dispose of bacon grease.
Bacon grease, or any kind of meat grease and fat, will clog up your pipes, and that’s bad for you, your home, and even your city. In 2015, London suffered from the infamous fatberg—a 10-ton ball of grease that literally broke the sewer system, making it impossible for residents to flush their toilets. There was also a 15-ton ball of grease and oil discovered in the sewers of Kingston, a borough of London, in 2013. The cause? Folks throwing out cooking grease by pouring it down the drain.
New York City’s sewers are notoriously gross places, with rat kings, alleged adolescent mutant turtles, and even an alligator or two. But New York City doesn’t have its own fatberg, and officials at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection are looking to keep it that way. According to the DEP’s website, “Cooking oil and grease are wastes that the City’s sewer system cannot handle and should not be discarded down the drain. Dumping grease, fats, and oil can clog sewer lines, causing sewage back-ups and flooding.”
So if you want to get rid of grease properly, the NYC DEP recommends you let the grease cool down a little bit. Then, pour that cooled grease into a non-recyclable container, like those plastic ones you get with takeout food, and put the whole thing, grease and plastic and all, into the regular trash. You can also keep the plastic container in the fridge until trash day so that that fats solidify, and the whole thing is slightly less messy.
There are alternatives if the thought of pouring out bacon grease from a skillet into a plastic container gives you some anxiety. (And no, the alternative is not throwing bacon grease down the drain. If there’s one fact that you take away from this article, may it be that you should never throw grease down the drain. Don’t do it.)
You can cook bacon in the oven rather than in a pan for easier cleanup. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the strips of bacon on top. After everything’s cooked and the grease and pan have cooled, you can wrap up the leftover fat in the foil and throw the whole ball of gunk away in the trash, no pouring necessary.
You could also reuse your leftover bacon grease and forgo the stresses of getting rid of your grease entirely. From a bacon vinaigrette salad dressing to fat-washed bourbon, the possibilities for your bacon grease are pretty endless, and once you start doing research, it seems like leftover bacon grease can go anywhere. Except your drain, of course.