What to Do With Leftover Bacon Grease?

Table of Contents

How to Use Bacon Fat in Everyday Cooking

Summary
Cooking with fat is part of the basics of cooking. Julia Child said, “with enough butter, anything is good.” Using bacon fat is not much different than cooking with butter or traditional cooking oil. Here’s everything we know on integrating delicious liquid gold (AKA bacon) fat into your everyday meals.

As a child ‘car camping’ or later backpacking, bacon was always an integral part of the journey. Mornings are crisp at the higher altitudes, so getting the fire going was the first project, and one of the first scents of the day. Follow that with coffee and the aroma therapy is going strong.

cooking bacon outdoors

You know the feeling of smelling breakfast cooking in combination with the great outdoors.

Then it was time to cook up breakfast in the cast iron skillet, whether over the open flame or on the camp stove. First item in was always the bacon and the air filled with that heavenly scent, the penultimate smell. Pull out the strips and pour half the grease into a metal cup. Pour in the pancake batter and sizzle up some cakes, add a little grease back and fry your eggs. Sometimes it was sliced potatoes of even bread made crispy in the bacon fat. It was part of the ritual and the visceral allure of a morning in the wild.

And it all transfers easily back to the home front. Keeping the rendered fat, of all kinds not just bacon, was necessary recycling in the days before mass production of oils. With bacon fat it offers a realm of options that brings the salty smoky flavor profile of bacon across a mountain of cooking techniques from

If you’re truly a bacon lover like we are, then you just might run into the problem (not really) of what to do with your leftover bacon grease. Yes, it can add up quickly. And there’s just no way I’d ever dispose of my bacon grease! So instead, I’m always on the lookout for great tasting ways to use it. Even if it isn’t always for me.

So below are a bunch of ideas I’ve come up with that I know are delicious. This way if you run into a jam, you’ll know exactly how to use all those bacon drippings.

Let’s start with the basics.

Basic Bacon Fat Conceptsbasics of bacon grease

The term render or rendering is the basic idea. The word simply means separating the fat from the flesh, applying heat which also cooks away other moisture. This the name for the process that happens automatically when you cook bacon.

Go into any commercial kitchen, if they have a large flat grill and an oven, they will almost always choose the oven to cook their bacon.  The consistent controlled heat lets you cook the bacon to your preferred doneness very precisely with minimal effort, and renders excellent quality bacon fat. Typically 20 minute at 375°F  in a parchment lined sheet pan will give you excellent results, although the time will vary depending on how thick the bacon is sliced.

This lower and slower approach will give you a better yield of higher quality oil without any scorching, and frankly, a better bacon product to enjoy on its own.

For making bacon bits and rendering the fat, bacon ends and pieces are a great way to go, and available in most groceries. They will throw a little more fat and cost about half the price of strips. Using a grill, oven or skillet, rendered bacon fat will have flecks of browned bacon throughout.

scrap left over bits

These will add flavor, though you can filter your oil through a fine strainer and remove most of the particulars for cleaner looking end result. Remember to use a heat proof container in which to pour the oil.

Storing Fresh Grease VS Store-Brought

storing bacon grease

The key to storing fats and oils is to keep air and light away from them because those are the primary agents for spoilage. Bacon fat will keep for as much as a couple weeks at room temperature, just be sure to use an opaque container that has a good seal. You can extend its lifetime to a couple months sealed and stored in a refrigerator.

Be cautious about pouring fresh oil into stored oil if you are approaching the end date of use, otherwise you may end up with all of it spoiled.

Once you see how many things can be done better with bacon fat you may have an issue. You have to cook bacon to get the fat. Eating bacon is really great too, but perhaps there is a such thing as too much bacon? In any case, consider looking at a commercially packaged bacon fat. This will offer a couple advantages, most notably a high degree of filtration. Those little flecks you yield from storing homemade grease are very tasty, but if you’re using high heat they can scorch and transfer unexpected burnt flavors. A commercially rendered and filtered product offers a little more versatility than what we can produce at home, and you have it available on demand. Now that we’ve nailed down the basics, lets look at practical uses.

Best Ways to Use Bacon Fat best uses for bacon fat

 

Bacon Fat + Butter, Yum

French toast does very well cooked in half bacon fat and half butter. The bacon flavor syncs up perfectly with the maple syrup, and butter is just good. This half and half approach will deliver an incredible grilled cheese experience, even just a plain piece of bread grilled in this mix is awesome.

Another camp favorite was to cut a hole in the slice of bread, toss it in the skillet with bacon fat and butter, then crack your egg into the hole in the bread. Don’t forget to add the cut-out piece in the pan to brown up as well. Cook the egg halfway to your preference then flip it over, let it finish and enjoy.

fried egg in bread

This mix also makes an awesome base to sauté virtually anything! From prawns and lightly floured fish to veggies ranging from zucchini to mushrooms, and steak bites to chicken strips; they’re all going to be better with half bacon fat and half butter.

Caramelizing onions, again low and slow, makes the perfect addition for recipes or to top your burger or steak. Pay a little attention to the heat, butter can scorch in the bacon grease if things get too hot.

onions with butter oil and Whisky

Caramelized onions made with bacon fat, butter and Whisky

Breakfast in a Skillet

The campfire pancakes are such a classic way to enjoy the flavor additions that come with using bacon grease. You can lay down a couple strips of bacon or a handful of bits and pour the batter right over the top. Using bacon fat warmed just enough to liquefy, you can use it as the oil in the batter to infuse the flavor even further. Not technically a skillet, you can do the same thing preparing your waffle batter, even going so far as to brush the waffle iron with the bacon fat.

mixing pancakes with fat

An egg that has been fried in bacon fat can be nirvana to a breakfast aficionado.  Or to really pull all the flavor out of the skillet, beat the eggs then scramble them in the bacon fat and toss in a handful of sharp cheese to finish them off. Along the same vein, bacon grease releases well so you can cook an omelet in it and easily flip it so you can add your favorite fillings.

Here’s a few other breakfast recipes we pulled if you’re feeling more of a structured idea:

breakfast skillet cooked in bacon grease

Sweet Potato Breakfast Skillet

Enjoy a hearty breakfast made with bacon grease, sweet potatoes, zucchini, onion, bell pepper and eggs. Perfect for those chilly climates.

Get the recipe here…

french toast

Caramelized Banana French Toast

First off, just the idea of caramelized bananas makes my mouth water. But then add French toast bathed in bacon grease and you’ve got one of my favorite breakfast meals.

Get the recipe here…

Bacon & Potatoes

This is such an incredible pairing that it requires its own section.

Right out of the gate, the old school restaurant cook will only use bacon grease to oil the outside of potatoes for baking. Poke a few holes in the skin, dust lightly with salt and pepper then bake on the rack at 400 degrees until tender. And have some bacon bits ready when you serve the spud.

crispy skin from bacon oil

A good twice baked potato is basically just loaded mashers put back in the skin and baked again. When you are creating the masher mix, substitute bacon fat for part or all of the butter to carry the flavor throughout.

Filling out your breakfast menu just fry your hash browns in bacon fat, if you have one, throw a grill press on top of them for quick and crispy cook.

For your picnic lunch potato salad, substitute some bacon grease for some of the mayonnaise, and of course add bacon bits.

For dinner place a small fanned out pile of thin sliced potatoes on top of a dollop of bacon grease on a parchment lined sheet pan. Make one portion for each person you’re serving, bake at 375°F until soft in the center and well browned, add salt pepper and serve.

Baking with bacon grease

Rendered bacon fat sets up just like shortening, for which it can be freely substituted.

When making a savory pie or quiche, cut bacon fat into the dough just like shortening and proceed with your recipe. Specifically Quiche Lorraine calls for the bacon bits too, but try adding your diced onion to the bacon bits when they are halfway cooked and let them simmer together, then drain and cool to finish building your dish.

making bread

An even more common baked item with shortening is the humble biscuit. Again, bacon fat will cut into the flour just like shortening does. If you are making any variation such as cheese and onion, or even bacon biscuits, this will take the flavor up a notch.

The real king of the oven here is cornbread. Classic recipes call for heating your pan, or preferably a cast iron skillet, in the oven then pouring the batter into the hot pan. Rather than using butter in the pan for this process use your bacon grease. While you are making the batter, substitute bacon fat for oil by warming it just until liquefied but not hot, then you can blend it right into the mix.

Soups and Sauces with Bacon Fat

By far the easiest way to introduce bacon flavor into your soups or sauces is through the roux.

Making roux is a technique to mix flour with hot oil over medium heat, in preparation for thickening sauces or soups.  It is also easier to make a large batch of roux at one time, especially if you don’t have any immediate plans to use the oil. It stores in the freezer very well. Classic roux calls for a 1:1 ratio of fat to flour.

making a fat based roux

A slightly drier roux can be easier to portion into your soup but will require more blending. The longer you keep roux on the heat the more toasty the flavor will become, and the darker the color. This increases the added flavors from the roux if desired. Be aware that the darker the roux, the less effective the thickening power so you will have to use more roux, nearly twice as much as a blonde roux.

White chowders, for example, often call for roux and will benefit from it being bacon grease based. You can make dairy free corn chowder very easily using bacon roux to tighten the soup to your desired thickness while never using cream. Creamy chicken soups, mushroom soup, or any traditional cream soups can have bacon fat roux used to add richness and depth of flavor that will compliment versus overpower the core flavor profile. If you’re making simple tomato soup to go with your grilled cheese, bacon roux is the way to go.

Country gravy is absolutely the best when you use a bacon fat roux.

Turkey gravy will be taken to the next level, as will sauce from your pot roast drippings if you thicken it with bacon roux.  Scratch mac and cheese is often made with a béchamel sauce base…you guessed it, use bacon fat roux here too. Classic sauce making abounds with roux of various types and you can freely substitute bacon roux for this book of products.

Beans and Bacon Grease

Beans are another match made heavenly when you bring in the bacon fat and a group that warrants a standalone section. The very first thing that comes to mind are refried beans. They already call for lard, so this is a no brainer substitution. Whether you are using Pinto, Peruano, Ayocote or any bean variety, re-frying them in bacon fat and seasonings will be a hit, you’ll want to just eat a bowl of them.

sauteing onions for refried beans

Sautéing onions in fat before adding beans in for re-frying.

Any recipe that calls for salt pork will work with bacon fat substituted. The only thing you might lose are the remaining globules of salt pork that float around in the finished beans. Throw some bacon bits in and no one will ever notice.

Back at the campsite, save some of breakfast’s bacon fat, mix it with a couple cans of unflavored beans of your favorite variety, some barbecue sauce and a diced onion for an easy dish to simmer near the fire for an hour or so.

Bean soups use a lot of bacon bits, as they should. The beans will also absorb fats and liquids as they cook so you can judiciously stir in some bacon fat while they simmer. If your soup is too thin fall back on your bacon fat roux. Split pea and lentil soups often call for this kind of thickening as well.

Meats, Meet Bacon Fat

We mentioned pot roast earlier. Many braised meat recipes like this call for a searing of the meat before the slow cooking process. To get the tastes moving in the right direction out of the gate, do this process in bacon fat heated just below the smoking point. Any kind of shank – lamb, veal, or pork – will have better flavor when this method is used to prepare them for a long slow cooking process.

cooking pork loin in cast iron

Roasted fowl calls for oiling the skins to help it crisp up during the roasting process. You can accomplish that goal and add some layers of flavor by using bacon grease to oil them up. Southern pan fried chicken is a glorious dish, and if you keep the heat constant around 350 degrees you can safely use bacon fat mixed with your choice of vegetable oil to fry in.

Going back to skillet work, any hamburger will be improved if fried in bacon grease. The same will hold true of a steak, although you will want to do this on a thicker cut as bacon fat gets a little smoky when you drive up the temperature to get a good sear on a thinner cut. Try using bacon fat for the oil when making your Philly cheese steak sandwich filling.

reheating sandwich meat

Anytime you are warming up sliced meats for a hot sandwich, bacon fat makes a good oil of choice.

Bacon Cubes

No, we aren’t talking about a lardon, also called lardoon or larding. Those cubes are different than the ones I am talking about here. Here, we freeze our grease in an ice cube try or something similar. Throw them in the freezer and they’ll last (almost) forever. Okay, but at least a year, yes, really a year. But here’s the trick to make these cubes extra special…

making ice cubes of fat

First, warm your grease in a deep pan. Then add Rosemary, Sage, a little fresh ground pepper and some sea salt. Warm it just enough to let the flavors go through a bit. Like 5 minutes.

Then let cool enough to pour into the ice tray. Cover with food film. This is so odors in the freezer do not get absorbed into our bacon cubes. Then freeze. What’s great is that while these are frozen, the flavors are permeating throughout our cubes. And they are really convenient, just pop one out and add it to anything you want to kick the flavor of into high gear. Great for us busy people tired of eating the same boring meals.

Use It To Season Cookware

Bacon grease is awesome for seasoning cookware. It’s a lot better than oil, actually gives flavor, and has a decent flash point. So use it on your cast iron skillets, or even for that bbq grill or smoker outback. It’s the perfect oil for seasoning.

You should now have a general understanding of how to incorporate bacon fat into your everyday cooking. This is a broad brush approach so that you can go out and experiment with the things that you are regularly cooking and see how they can be improved using bacon grease. Enjoy!

Bacon Bonus Content

Brainstorm Wordplay

Here are a few words to grease the wheels of cooking creativity to come up with your own favorite combo for mixing in bacon fat.

  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Asian stir fry
  • Fried rice
  • Cabbage, garlic and bacon (Asian style dish)
  • Chicken, spinach and prosciutto (think Chicken Saltimbocca)
  • Green beans and bacon (staple down south)
  • Veggies: Cauliflower, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, asparagus, peas, etc (great way to work kids into eating their veggies)
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Caramelized onions
  • Refried beans
  • Spaghetti (sauté your veggies in oil and bacon fat before adding in tomatoes and sauce)
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Use as a base for a rub for chicken, turkey, baked potatoes

Cool Fact

Remember the movie “Grease”? Yes, I am showing my age here. But let’s face it, Travolta looked pretty cool with his slicked back duck ass hair cut.

And how do you think he kept his hair looking so greasy and slicked back? Bacon grease baby!

 

In fact, the name of the movie was a code name for “Bacon Grease”. (okay, not really…nor would I put it in my hair, but it does make you think of the possibilities).

 

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