Save your bacon fat for a next-level cooking WIN

April 1 | Guest post by Dootsie Bug
Stoneware Grease Keeper in black and white
Stoneware Grease Keeper in black and white

Of the many little pieces of culture shock my Connecticut-raised boyfriend experienced when he moved to Kentucky (the pronunciation of "aunt," "iron," and bibbed overalls among them), Southern cooking has been a bit of a revelation for him. Biscuits and gravy? Pecan pie? BACON FAT?

It was a real shock to me to learn that some of y’all aren’t saving your bacon grease for later use. Why not? For all intents and purposes, bacon fat is extremely flavourful lard. Anywhere you use it, it will impart a smoky, meaty goodness that will take your food to the next level of awesome. If you love bacon, you’re going to love bacon fat–which you’re already probably struggling to dispose of, anyway.

How to do it:

  1. Gather a bacon fat receptacle. It needs to be reasonably heatproof (I recommend strongly against plastic) and something you can later cover. Mason or jelly jars work perfectly. My boyfriend and aunt swear by mugs covered with plastic wrap and a rubber band. [Editor's note: You can also buy "grease keepers."]
  2. Make PORK bacon. Skillet, griddle or in the oven preparations will all make perfectly usable bacon fat. Don’t add anything to your bacon–additional oil, fat, sugar or spices will make the final product weird.
  3. Let the bacon grease cool. You can wait for it to solidify, but scraping it out can be annoying.
  4. Pour (or scrape) the fat into your container.
  5. Let cool further, then refrigerate.

TIPS:

• Refrigerated and covered, this can last up to a year. Watch out for mold in the jar or a rancid smell. When in doubt, throw it out.
• Don’t save bacon fat if you burned your bacon. It tastes poopy.
• If you don’t like little bacon crispy bits in your grease, strain it with a mesh sieve when you’re pouring it into the jar.
• You can pour new bacon fat onto old in your jar. I advise taking the container out of the fridge and letting it warm up a bit before adding hot/warm bacon fat. Extreme hot + extreme cold can cause the jar to crack or shatter.
• BE SAFE! Don’t burn yourself. Do it for Dootsie.

Some ideas on how to use it:

• Replace lard in a biscuit recipe
• Grease a skillet for fry/skillet breads (pancakes, hoecakes, cornbread, etc.)
• Lube up a grilled cheese or other pan-toasted sandwich
• Fried chicken (I usually just add some bacon grease to shortening)
• Add to cooking greens or green beans
• Replace oil when making popcorn
• Replace HALF the butter in a cookie recipe

Who else saves their pig juices? What do YOU do with it?

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  1. loving this post! I grew up in California, but my mom is from Texas originally, so I was taught to save bacon fat (in empty coffee cans) at a very young age. Now that I live in Kentucky, I fit right in with the cooking habits of the locals. Also side note, it made me happy to learn that you live here too Dootsie, like +10 points for the Bluegrass state. (lastly I may start using the phrase "Do it for Dootsie" in everyday life…)

    7 agree
  2. I save my bacon grease! I use it every morning to grease the skillet for my scrambled eggs. Hadn't thought of using it in biscuits.

    3 agree
  3. I too grew up Southern, which heavily influenced my cooking. I use leftover bacon fat for fried potatoes and onions, greasing the pan for cornbread, and many other dishes. It's extremely versatile. 🙂

    2 agree
  4. My mom used to save all her bacon fat for cooking. She did it as a way to save on butter and cooking oil costs. I remember she would rub it on chicken before roasting it. It made the skin so crispy and so tasty. I've been a vegetarian since 1998 and can still taste that bacony roast chicken.

    She also used to it season all her cast iron pans and to grease muffin pans.

    3 agree
      • I rubbed our thanksgiving turkey down with bacon fat this year and last and probably will forever more, smokey crisp skin of heaven….

        1 agrees
  5. Wow. I can confidently say I've never heard of anyone in Australia doing this. To be honest though, the trainee dietician in me is horrified, though I am sure this is something my great grandmother, who only died this year aged 96, would have strongly approved of.

    3 agree
    • Bacon fat definitely falls in the "use sparingly" category.
      It's high in sodium, saturated fat and fat. (Interestingly, it's slightly lower in saturated fat than good ol' butter, but higher in poly- and monoun- saturated fats. The more you know!)

      1 agrees
  6. My mom used to use bacon grease in refried beans. Once she started cooking healthier and nixing the bacon grease, and even buying bacon very often, the beans were never as good.

    3 agree
  7. I only accept pancakes cooked in bacon grease. No substitutions permitted. Seriously life changing.

    3 agree
    • And honestly, a little crumbled bacon in the batter is okay, too.
      And add a little into the syrup, just because.
      And make compound butter with some bacon bits…

      I'm a big fan of bacon and pancakes, okay?

      6 agree
    • There is NOTHING better than a pancake fried in bacon grease. Those crispy, crunchy edges. Yumyumyum!!

    • They're like pancakes, but made with cornmeal (or half cornmeal, half flour). I think they're also called Johnny cakes, but I'm used to seeing some differences in the two (size, ingredients. Hoecakes seem to tend to be smaller and more likely made with a really savoury fat while Johnny cakes seem to lean towards being more like a traditional pancake. Your regional variety will almost certainly vary.)
      If you've never tried them, take a moment to strike the memory of a pancake from your mind. The cornmeal makes it a little more savoury–bacon fat doubles that effect–and the texture is different. You can eat them with syrup and butter or as a flat bread with your breakfast protein.

  8. Grease keeper? NEED. I grew up with a can of bacon grease on the back of the stove & have always done this myself (thank the gods my once vegetarian boyfriend became my bacon-loving husband; it really is the gateway drug ;-). Eggs, veggies, meats, sauces, anything can benefit with a little bacon grease! YUM.

    2 agree
  9. String or lima beans cooked with bits of bacon and in bacon fat………..YUMMY!. I normally hate lima beans but love them cooked like this.

    1 agrees
    • Honestly, there is nothing I love more than working up a mess of green beans then throwing in some fatty bacon and letting them cook. Windows open, cicadas singing. Insta-nostalgia.

      1 agrees
  10. One night, while cooking dinner, I had a skillet with some leftover bacon grease from breakfast. I decided to pan fry the big bag of frozen green beans I had planned on steaming in the microwave in the grease instead. Not the healthiest choice, but we do get plenty of veggies…
    My step-daughter's reaction was hilarious! "I know you said they are green beans, but are they REAL green beans? They are SO delicious!"

    6 agree
  11. I'm a northerner (don't know of any family history further south than Delaware, and most everyone is in Canada by now), but I've always saved bacon grease. I keep it in a jar in the freezer, and chip out bits when I want to use it. Uses include biscuits, refried beans, corn bread (seriously. Cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet liberally greased with bacon grease, and with bacon grease used as the fat in the cornbread, is the best cornbread), and anything else where I need some fat and want to add some delicious bacon-y flavour.

    1 agrees
  12. I save my bacon grease for use, especially at the holidays for gravy and browning onions as a start for savory casseroles. Lately the Amish stand at our local farmers market started selling tubs of bacon grease for $1 and it is soooo convenient to keep in the fridge for occasional use

    1 agrees
    • Whaaaattt?! I wish the Amish folks at my local market sold bacon grease since I never cook bacon on account of laziness, cooking for myself, and not being very good at it. It would be amazing to have a little tub to jazz up some things.

      • Have you asked? They might render off just enough fat to do their usual cooking, but they might be willing to save you a little if you tell them when you'll see them next. They also might be willing to sell you a chunk of smoked pig fat that you'll have to render yourself–don't be scared, just trim off any meat, then put it in a crock pot on low for a few hours 'til it's melted, or stick it in a saucepan with a lid on low heat on the stovetop and stir occasionally.

  13. "Replace oil when making popcorn" *mind blown*

    Sadly, I hardly ever make bacon at home (like not even once a month), so bacon grease stores are at an all time low in my house.

    2 agree
  14. Dude. I'm from NZ (parents from England) and I've always saved all kinds of grease/oil. My Mum always had a "deep frying jar" that she'd use vegetable oil for deep frying, then strain it and return it to the jar for use again next time. The first time I did it in my relationship, my husband was like "wtf???". Anyway, SO FLAVOURFUL. I do it with the duck fat that we use for frying chips. Best. Ever.

    1 agrees
  15. Oh also, I use a paper towel for straining. Line a funnel with a paper towel, or fold it into quarters then open it out so the point faces down into the jar, and pour in your still liquid grease. Bam.

    3 agree
  16. I don't eat meat, but my husband loves bacon and always keeps a jar of bacon grease in the fridge. He uses it on grilled cheese, eggs, hashbrowns, pan-cooked chicken, and other stuff. He doesn't bake much but I might just have to suggest to him that he try some of those baking substitutions.

    1 agrees
  17. My DHs grandma fries her chickens in bacon fat and lard, and it is the best chicken ever. To those who shudder at the saturated fat content, I can tell you that her husband lived to 97 and she herself just celebrated her 101st birthday in Feb.

    1 agrees
  18. I am also from KY and the first thing I did when I moved out on my own, was start my own drippings container. 😀 Nothing beats bacon grease for cornbread or green beans 😀

    • I love "settling into home" rituals. I'm not at home until I start saving plastic bags and used jars. And guess what one of those jars gets used for? Haha

      1 agrees
  19. About six months back, I started saving bacon grease to sub out for butter when frying eggs. Around the holidays, I make caramel candies and sauce for friends and this last year, my girlfriend suggested I sub some of the butter in the caramels out with bacon grease and they turned out mind-blowingly awesome. Everybody told me I should start selling them . 🙂
    Also, if you don't want to strain the grease right away, you can place the jar in a pan of hot water. Once it liquefies completely, remove it from the water and let it cool. All the bits and such will have sunk to the bottom and the grease from different batches will have mixed together.

  20. Ok but have you tried a teaspoon or two of it mixed into Kraft Dinner?
    Because we had bacon last month, and now every box of KD we've had since then (I won't say how many because it's kinda terrible how often we eat orange food-like substances) has had bacon fat mixed in with the margarine. I might cry when I run out. I don't even need to add extra cheese any more.

    Also, a normal sized bacon pack got us basically an entire cup of fat. I don't remember it ever being so much! Should I be offended that there was more fat and less bacon in my pack? Cause I'm totally not.

    1 agrees
  21. My mom has kept one of these for a long time. I did for awhile but let my jar get moldy. Nowadays bacon is so stinking expensive and I don't buy it. It might be worth buying a pound or two just to save the grease and keep that flavor around for much longer. Also kentucky represent! I'm in lexington bracing ourselves for the potential madness that will follow tonight's final four game.

    1 agrees
  22. Oh heck yes! We use ours for sautéing and frying up grilled cheese sandwiches, among other things. It's also wonderful to save the top layer of fat (schmaltz) from bone broth or stock (after cooling) for the same reason- it's seasoned, wonderful lard that can be used for a variety of cooking and baking needs.

    1 agrees
  23. Someone at work was talking about she hated spinach and wondering how she could make it taste better. I piped up with "well, fry up some bacon, use the grease from the bacon to brown some garlic and then wilt your spinach in the bacon grease. Top it with the crumbled bacon". They were HORRIFIED. Pity. They don't know what they're missing.
    We keep bacon grease in the fridge (big container) and a smaller container of grease on the stove. It goes in eggs , on chicken, to saute veggies, ummm.. a whole slew of things. OH! Ever made baconaise?! It isn't quite a spreadable right from the fridge but MAN does it make a killer sandwich!

    1 agrees

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