How to Compost Cooked Food
Composting cooked food is often not recommended because of the difficulty involved in controlling vermin, bacteria and the proper ratios for materials. The benefits of using cooked food as compost material include reduction of overall waste and an increase in both available raw material and finished fertilizer. Using cooked food in compost leaves almost nothing in your daily food supply that cannot be switched from the trash to the garden.
Use the right size composter for your needs. A recommended size ranges from 3-foot long by 3-foot wide by 3-foot deep to 5-foot by 5-foot wide by 5-foot deep, according to the University of Illinois. The core temperature for compost needs to be between 140 and 160 degrees F.
Set up the compost bin on cinder blocks. Wrap chicken wire around the outside base of the bin. This will keep rodents and small animals from getting into the composter from underneath. Having the bin up on blocks will help prevent animals from jumping up onto the bin.
Fill the bottom of the bin with 6 inches of twigs and brown yard waste, such as old leaves. This will help the airflow around the underside of the compost material.
Chop up cooked food into small chunks. This allows the food to decompose faster. Use a blender to dice and chop larger chunks of food. Pour the chopped food, soups, rice and beans directly into the compost bin.
Add green waste such as garden waste and vegetables to the cooked food. Use a ratio of one part brown material to one part green material. For every pound of cooked food, add a pound of yard waste or vegetable waste. This will balance both moisture and temperature within the composter.
Check the temperature of the core. Move aside the top half of the compost material. Take a reading with the thermometer. Keep the pile above 140 degrees to kill off most pathogens. Move the bin into a sunny location if the temperature is continually falling below 140 degrees F.
Use the pitchfork to turn the composting material every three days. Break up clumps and aerate the compost by inserting the pitchfork from above and twisting the tines. Put the tines deep into the compost. If using an outdoor tumbler turn the tumbler multiple times every three days. This will continually mix the new material with the old material.
Harvest the compost as it becomes ready. Continue to fill the composter with fresh material as directed in Steps 4 and 5. Follow manufacturer's directions for proper maintenance of the composter.
- Cinder blocks
- Chicken wire
- Compost bin
- Yard waste