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How to Render Bacon Fat

How to Render Bacon Fat


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A guide for how to render bacon fat for use in cooking.

Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

A Our Site reader recently asked in the comments, “Where do I get bacon fat?” Great question, especially considering that we use bacon fat (also called bacon grease) around here in many of the recipes.

I remember as a kid looking into the fridge and seeing a jar of solid white stuff and wondering what it was. When my mother told me it was bacon fat, well that somewhat grossed me out for a while, for decades actually.

It wasn’t until I got into cooking again in my 40s, that I gained a new appreciation for this readily available, highly flavorful cooking fat.

Just last week my mother used a little bacon grease to cook up some spring peas. I would have eaten every one of them if manners allowed.

How to render bacon fat

At risk of stating the obvious, you render bacon fat by first cooking bacon. The trick is to cook the bacon slowly, on medium low heat.

I do this on the stovetop in a cast iron pan, because cast iron retains heat and helps you cook bacon more evenly. Also the bacon fat will help season the cast iron pan. But any pan will do.

When you’re done cooking the bacon, remove it from the pan and pour the bacon fat into a jar. If you plan on storing the bacon fat for more than a few months, strain out the solids first before pouring it into a jar.

How to store bacon fat

If you use bacon fat regularly in your cooking, you can store it right on your kitchen counter for a week or two. Otherwise you’ll want to keep it stored in the refrigerator.

The enemies of all cooking fats are light and air. Exposure to sunlight and oxygen will accelerate a fat going rancid, which is why it’s best to store bacon fat in the refrigerator.

If you don’t filter out the solid bits, the fat can last a couple of months in the refrigerator before it starts to go rancid. If you do filter out the solid bits, the fat can last up to a year in the refrigerator.

You can also freeze bacon fat if you want to store it even longer.

What to cook with bacon fat

Bacon fat is such a flavorful fat to cook with. We use a generous amount when making Mexican refried pinto beans or black beans.

Bacon fat is fabulous for sautéing brussels sprouts.

You can also use bacon fat to brown rice for a rice pilaf or for making scrambled eggs.

Basically you can use bacon fat for frying anything that would benefit from having the bacon flavor!

When cooking with bacon fat, spoon it out from the jar. Usually half a teaspoon is all that is needed to give a flavor boost to what you are cooking.

Article updated, first published in 2007

How to Render Bacon Fat

If you make more bacon fat than you end up using, just throw out the whole jar and start a new one.

Never pour bacon fat down the drain! It will solidify as it cools and clog your drain. Either soak it up with paper towels and discard or pour the rendered bacon fat into a jar to save.

Ingredients

  • Strips of raw bacon

Method

1 Cook bacon on medium low heat: Heat a large skillet on medium-low heat. Lay out several strips of raw bacon. Let the strips cook for 10 or 15 minutes, turning them occasionally.

When the bacon strips are nicely browned and crispy, use tongs or a fork to lift them out of the pan and place them on paper towels (to absorb the excess fat) on a plate.

2 Pour remaining fat into a jar: Pour the remaining fat in the pan into a jar, and put the jar into your refrigerator. The bacon grease will solidify to a slightly off-color white. When you cook bacon again, pull out the jar and add more of the excess fat to it.

If you want, you can strain out the solid bacon bits before pouring the fat into a jar. I find that these bits have plenty of flavor, so I don't bother to strain them.

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How to Render and Use Bacon Grease

To render bacon grease means to “cook the fat” out and make it into a liquid form.

Sizzling Bacon in an Iron Skillet

How do you SAVE bacon grease?

Straining Bacon Grease

3 Ways of Storing Bacon Grease

Can Bacon GREASE Go Bad? The jury is out on how to exactly store bacon grease. So can bacon grease be stored at room temperature?

On the counter-

As I’ve already said, mine is sitting out on the counter by my stove as both mom and granny used to do. But I use mine often and it doesn’t last long once put into the glass jar. This is the important part, it isn’t out very long. The shelf life of non-refrigerated bacon grease is mush shorter than keeping it refrigerated.

Store it in the refrigerator-

Keep it in the Freezer-

Uses for Bacon Grease

6 Other Non-Cooking Uses for Bacon Grease:

1. Repair a Squeaky Hinge

Bacon grease is excellent for this. Simply dip a q-tip or toothpick into bacon grease and work it into the hinge. It will lubricate and the squeak will be no more.

2. Polish Leather

Did you know you can use bacon grease as a leather polish? Just dip a soft cloth into the grease and gently rub it into your leather. It will moisten and help your leather to last longer.

3. Remove Sticky Labels

Yep, remove labels. Peal the “color” part of the label off down the white sticky portion that is always left. With your finger, rub bacon grease into the white residue glue. Let it sit for a few minutes, take a scraper and easily remove the sticky label. Clean with soap and water.

4. Use as a Fire Starter

My granny always did this. Using a piece of cotton cloth or paper towel, dip it into the bacon grease. Roll it up and tie with a cotton string. Stick it under kindling and strike a match. You’ll have instant fire. My granny used to “dip” her kindling into a bucket of old bacon grease too.

5. Make Candles

Did you know you could make candles with bacon grease? MyRecipes.com has this great step by step tutorial, DIY Bacon Candles, Make Your Entire Life Smell Like Bacon. Can you imagine burning a candle that smells like bacon? Yum!

6. Feed the Birds – Make Suet Balls

The Farmers Almanac has this easy recipe: Bird Food Recipe: Suet. I’ll be doing this one.

Another easy way to feed the birds is by using pine cones. Tie a string at the top of a pine cone. Dip the pine cone into bacon grease and then role in bird seed. Hang it outside on a tree limb. The birds will love you!

So there you have it. As you can see, there are many other uses for bacon grease other than cooking. Of course, cooking with bacon grease is obviously my favorite.

Do you have ways of using bacon grease? Please comment and share.

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Dianne Hadorn is the owner of Hidden Springs Homestead nestled in the hills of East Tennessee. She is a Master Gardener and enjoys helping others learn how to grow and preserve their own food and sharing tips for living a more frugal lifestyle.

3 thoughts on &ldquoHow to Render and Use Bacon Grease&rdquo

Great post, Dianne! I had never thought of just using it for everyday cooking, and especially not for lighting a fire. I’m definitely going to have to try that!

Mmmm, I love using bacon grease! I have to admit though that I never thought to strain out the stray pieces of bacon that were left in it. Great tip!

I love it too! It’s tastes so good in so many different dishes. Yep, those little pieces are actual bits of bacon and they will spoil. The rendered grease will keep. I have 2 quarts in my freezer now that I will use to make the suet blocks for the birds this winter. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Feel free to share it.


How to render and store bacon fat

Not too long ago the average housewife would have been amazed at how wasteful we are, throwing out all that great bacon fat. After all it’s a rendered fat, just like lard or tallow, suitable for cooking and use in recipes.

I followed the lead of someone who’s done more research and started keeping mine. It’s really easy to keep, and much better than vegetable oil for frying.

All you need is a bowl and a paper towel next time you make bacon.

Pour the fat into the bowl while it’s still hot.

Lift the paper towel up by the corners and let the melted fat drain through. The hotter it is when you do this step, the faster it will drain.

The paper towel will catch all the solid bits, which is all we’re really trying for.

The finished product will be anywhere from light yellow to nearly brown, depending on how crispy you made the bacon and how hot you had the pan.

I leave this to cool for a while before transferring to a plastic container, which I then keep in the fridge.

I could go with glass or stoneware for storage, but I’d worry about shattering it by pouring hot fat into a cold vessel. You can see in the photo above that I’ve got three or four rounds of bacon fat in there. We like bacon more than we like frying, so we end up with a surplus. If you know some recipes that call for bacon fat, let me know.

In colder areas you can probably store this in the pantry, though you’d have to have a secure lid and make sure the outside is spotlessly clean or you’ll attract pests. In fact, just put it in the fridge. If you want it softer for a recipe take it out an hour or so ahead of time.

Unlike lard, this will add some flavor to whatever you’re cooking. But everything’s better with bacon.


Rendering bacon fat

Hi, I wanted to render the fat from some bacon to produce bacon grease.
The usual advice that you see on the internet is to simply fry whole strips of bacon at a low heat, for a longer period, and the fat will melt away from the meat proper. That normally works for me.

The other day I wanted to try someting different. I have previously rendered other fats in different ways. I've tried a 'wet render', by simmering at a very low temperature in water. That worked well for lamb fat. And I tried a 'dry render' by putting the fat in the oven at a lowish temperature (gas mark 3 = 160C), which worked well for chicken skin.

I tried these methods with some bacon fat, that I had cut off from the meat of back bacon strips. So it was just 16 white strips of cold fat. But they didn't work. With the wet render, no matter how long I simmered for, the water didn't get more than a tiny bit oily. The dry render behaved similarly, except that it did give a tiny bit of fat, but nearly all of the fat was still whole, the bits hadn't reduced in size at all after I baked for about 5 hours.

Why didn't it work? At first I thought the temperature might be too high, but it's not like the bits were getting blackened or anything. And surely a higher temperature would also show signs of rendering the fat, it wouldn't just arrest the entire process.


How (And Why) Do You Render Bacon?

If you’re perusing Food Republic, surely you’ve heard the term “rendered bacon.” Render means “cook the fat out of.” The bacon is a great thing to add to a world of recipes, and the rendered fat is a great thing for frying. Ever fried an egg in bacon fat? It’s breathtaking (and just not because of the cholesterol).

Rendering bacon is different from cooking bacon slices to be served with breakfast. The goal is to expose as much of the surface area as you can to get more fat out using lower heat, which prevents the bacon or fat from cooking too quickly and burning. A slow, low render will give you lean, smoky, salty bacon pieces, while cooking too quickly may result in remaining gristly pieces of fat.

Chop your bacon — slab if possible, but chopped thick-sliced bacon works too — into small dice, then fry slowly over medium-low heat in a heavy skillet (cast-iron is always best for bacon), shaking occasionally to keep the pieces from sticking. The bacon is done when it’s golden-brown and has shrunk about 50% in size and the pan has a nice thick layer of grease in it. Then remove the pieces using a slotted spoon and drain on a layer of paper towels until you’re ready to use it.

Why not render and use whole pieces? You could cook whole pieces and crumble them, but they’re much tastier in small, uniform chunks and break down more thoroughly than large pieces of cooked bacon (which won’t break down very much at all). The goal is to make the bacon part of your dish without any of it starring front and center — the smaller it is to begin with, the further it will break down. Try these recipes that need your render loving care:

You’ll be adding rendered bacon bits to everything. Ice cream? Go for it. Stamp of approval, right here.


How to Render and Cook With Bacon Grease, Your Kitchen's Liquid Gold

When it comes to adding flavor and richness to your cooking, there's little better than bacon fat. As a bonus, you are required to cook and eat bacon before getting to the grease a task we are more than happy to tackle. But before you start sizzling, there are a few things you need to know about rendering it right, storing it, and cooking with it.

We understand the desire to cook your bacon as quickly as possible (the quicker it cooks, the quicker you get to eat it!). But here's an instance where a little restraint will serve you well. Not only will high heat potentially burn your bacon, but it will also cause it to crisp up before you've rendered out all that lovely fat. This means you won't have any bacon grease to cook with, and the fat remaining on the bacon will be gummy and chewy. We call that a lose-lose.

Avoid this by cooking your bacon in a cast-iron pan or heavy skillet over very low heat—10 to 12 minutes may seem like a lot, but it's totally normal for a good rendering. You'll be amazed at how much fat you'll get if you go slowly. One standard grocery store package of bacon will yield anywhere from ½-⅔ cup of fat. Want even more bang for your bacon? Ask a butcher for bacon ends (just what they sound like), which are almost entirely fat. Any meat that cooks from them will be essentially bacon bits.

Maple bacon is tasty (although we prefer to lacquer our own with quality syrup, rather than buy the pre-flavored packaged stuff). But when you're cooking a batch of bacon with the rendered grease in mind, it's better to stick with regular old plain bacon. You can use bacon grease in everything from cornbread to sautéed vegetables, and you won't always want a hint of sweetness or other added flavors. Flavored bacon does produce a comparable amount of grease, so if you like maple-scented broccoli, don't let us stand in your way.

Once you've cooked and eaten your delicious bacon, you can attend to all of that liquid fat you worked so hard to cook out. Strain the fat through a fine mesh sieve into your storage vessel. Don't use plastic—if the fat is still hot, it could melt the container. I like to use a pint-sized glass jar with a wide mouth. It's sturdy, won't impart plasticy flavors into the grease, and the wide opening is convenient for spooning out dollops of fat. As the bacon cooks, it will inevitably leave behind bits and pieces of meat. You don't want those in your bacon grease when you cook with it later, they'll burn and impart a bitter flavor to your food. As a bonus, removing the solids means it'll last for just about forever in your fridge.

It gets better: You get bacon grease after polishing off these sandwiches. Photo: Instagram/dawnkperry

Because bacon grease is solid at room temperature, keep that in mind and be smart in how you use it. It's ideal for sautéing or roasting vegetables heat it first to re-liquify it. Then coat your veg with it a generous tablespoon will be enough for a sheet pan of veggies. Or, rub it on a chicken before popping the bird in the oven. It doesn't perform in the same way that liquid-at-room-temperature fats, like oils, do. In other words? No vinaigrettes. There is one exception for fats that congeal at room temperature (bacon grease, coconut oil, etc.): If you're going to dress the greens with a hot vinaigrette and eat it immediately, as in the case of a classic spinach salad with warm bacon dressing, you're in the clear.

Bacon is salty by necessity—it's part of the curing process. So when cooking with the fat, adjust the amount of salt you add accordingly. You can always put more in if it needs more, but it's hard to fix an oversalted dish.


HOW TO RENDER FAT AND WHY

Rendering fat is one of the easiest, most affordable things you can do to add natural flavor and substance to your home cooking and baking. Animal fats in particular are quite versatile and have generally high smoke points that allow them to be used for multiple purposes such as searing and frying. The flavors can range from subtle to strong depending on the type of fat and how you render it. Pork fat is generally more flavor neutral than beef, but if you've never had beef fat fried potatoes, you're missing out! Rendered fat can also be used for a variety of other products ranging from candles to soap to skincare products. Before the invention of vegetable oils and what I like to call "food type substances", animal fat was a precious commodity.

Rendering fat means we are taking raw fat (beef and pork in this recipe) and making it shelf stable by evaporating the moisture (water) which would otherwise limit the shelf life. Water is one of the components that bacteria needs to survive and multiply, so by removing the water, we are making it safer to store. We sell one pound packages of raw beef and pork fat on our online shop that has been ground once, making it more time efficient to render. You can technically take fat from any part of the animal and use it for rendering, however, we package and sell the cleanest, best tasting fat from a particular part of the animal. For pork this is known as the leaf fat and for beef this is suet. Once it's rendered, it becomes pork lard and beef tallow and will easily last for several months.

Wait, aren't saturated animal fats bad for our health? Shouldn't I stick to "heart healthy" vegetable oils and crisco?? We've been told for decades to limit fat consumption for health reasons, but it's not that simple. Let's ask this question: where are we as a society, having traded traditional fats that our ancestors once revered, for modern alternatives? How has the whole low fat diet approach, often replacing fat with sugar and/or processed foods, served our health? Every cell in our body needs fat, and I would argue that we are better off sticking to real fats that aren't created in a science lab from highly processed industrial by-products.


How to Properly Render Bacon Fat

There is a world of difference between the blackened grease left in the pan and the pure white fat of properly rendered bacon.

To achieve the creamy buttery type of bacon fat, the key is to cook it slow and low on the stovetop:

  1. Arrange bacon in a single layer in a cast iron pan.
  2. Turn heat to low or medium low. Reduce heat if bacon starts to sizzle and pop.
  3. After a few minutes, flip each piece.
  4. When most of the fat has liquefied and the bacon is browned, remove bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess grease.
  5. Allow fat in the pan to cool somewhat before pouring it into a container. Use a fine mesh screen or cheesecloth to remove little bits of bacon from the finished fat.

When chilled in the fridge, bacon fat transforms from transparent grease into a pristine white butter imbued with a smoky flavor.

Store it in the refrigerator and it will keep for at least one month. For a much longer shelf life, pour bacon fat into ice cube trays or muffin molds and freeze for quick and easy individual portions.

Read Next: How To Properly Render Lard On The Stove


How to Render Bacon Fat - Recipes

Now this, my friends, is a true staple of the southern kitchen in my little ole humble opinion and it is a rare southern household that doesn't have a Mason jar or grease pot full of this hanging around the stove or in the fridge.

Course lots of times we cook with bacon, so we use both the bacon and the rendered fat from the bacon. Yum - nothing like bacon. Bacon fat just adds so much flavor to cooking it is impossible to match with any other fat, even butter, and y'all know I love butter.

First, while we're here on fats. as far as the butter versus margarine argument, I just flat out don't believe in using margarine. Period. I know there are arguments on both sides of the issue and mostly people use margarine for health reasons, but even still, I question that, because I believe that butter is the better choice when there is a health reason, when it is used it in moderation.

Here are my arguments. For one, butter is all natural. Butter is made from churning the cream that rises to the top of milk - that's it - so I know that butter is natural and my body immediately recognizes it for what it is. Butter is a great source of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and contains natural fatty acids our bodies need.

Margarine has its start from very low quality, chemically extracted refined vegetable oils to begin with. It often contains trans-fatty acids and toxic residues resulting from the process of turning that poor quality oil into a solid substance. These residues in excess can cause lung cancer, kidney disease, depression and contribute to diseases such as arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and malignancies. Margarine also contains artificial coloring agents to make it look like butter. Butter does not contain those trans-fatty acids or toxic metals or artificial colors.

Yes, margarine is cheaper, but considering that it is completely nutritionally bankrupt in comparison to the purity of butter, is that really a bargain? I choose to pick my budget battles and pinch my pennies in other areas to pay a little more for things like real vanilla and pure butter.

So, for me, butter wins hands down. Now. of course, I'm not gonna call you out as wrong for what you choose to use - I would never do that! Whatever you use is right for you and who am I to try and tell you otherwise?! I'm just sharing why I choose to use butter. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it! )

But. we're here to talk about bacon fat right now!

Except for the strainer that is built into my grease pot, I don't worry too much over straining it well,except for in some cases when I am about to use it, most often with a dark roux since I don't want the solid bits of bacon in there to burn my roux. Then I just warm it and strain it before using it. But as far as storing the rendered bacon fat, when I cook bacon, I just pour the drippings into my little grease pot or a mason jar and I keep it stored in the refrigerator. I know that some folks keep their bacon fat right on the stove or the counter. I don't know if they are straining it well first or not, but the idea of pieces of pork possibly being in that fat and going rancid and growing bacteria is disturbing to me, so I just play it safe and keep my jar in the fridge. When you pull it out to use it, just draw your spoon down to the bottom to turn the drippings and scoop from there, that way you're always circulating the older fat to the top.

If you want to strain it, while it's still pretty warm and liquid, just place a coffee filter or a paper towel over a spouted container of some sort like a glass Pyrex measuring cup and pour the bacon fat through the filter. This will remove the solid bits that are left behind from cooking the bacon. Discard the filter and transfer the strained fat into your Mason jar or some other glass container - don't use plastic - and stick that in the fridge.

What do you use it for? Well, I'll be the first to tell you that I use heart healthy oils like olive oil wherever I can. But sometimes getting a little boost of flavor from bacon drippings can really make a difference in flavor. Just about any place where you would generally use butter or oil to saute or flavor a dish, or oil to fry, you can use bacon fat.

On the occasion when I decide I want a dirty fried egg, I always cook a strip or two of bacon and cook my eggs right in the bacon drippings. I like my whites cooked and my yolks runny, so if I have made two strips, I'll crumble up one of them and sprinkle it right on top of my eggs just before I dig in. I've made my fried eggs that way forever and I love them. I'd eat them every day if I could get away with it. I do my Birds in a Nest in bacon drippings too.

I use bacon drippings a lot for my skillet cornbread, not only to coat the skillet to produce that wonderful crunchy crust we all love, but then after I swirl it around, I pour it right into the batter as my fat. I just love the flavor it adds to cornbread, and sometimes I'll even add in some crumbled bacon. It's great for old fashioned skillet biscuit bread too. It's even good with chex mix, though I still lean toward butter for that snack myself.

When I am making a light roux or gravy, bacon drippings add wonderful flavor to chicken gravy, or peppered milk gravy for chicken fried steak. I use bacon drippings in combination with butter for my loaded baked potato soup.

I use either bacon fat or bacon in combination with the drippings for many dishes I do, like when I make fried cabbage, collards or turnip greens, skillet potatoes, southern style green beans as well as my sweet and sour green beans. I use it for cream corn, drizzle it over crispy smashed potatoes, creamed squash and fried corn, but it's even great to use for a quick pan saute of fresh spinach or fresh greens too, both of which I love even though the Cajun won't touch either. I even use some bacon drippings in my skillet fried apples!

It's great for shallow frying meats, or even for browning grilled sandwiches, or even tater cakes. I use bacon with the drippings for pot roasted chicken and the fat even makes a great salad dressing. It's great for okra and tomatoes, or even just for sauteing okra in before adding it to a gumbo.

How long are stored bacon drippings good for? That's subjective I reckon! Depends on how often you use it and how you store it. The food police will tell you to use it up from the fridge within about 6 months, but I hesitate to say how long I've had my jar going. I just top the jar off with the new strained drippings, and take a spoon to turn it over so that the older drippings come up on top each time that I take it out of the fridge. Frozen, it keeps for a little bit longer.

You see? Cooked bacon and the residual drippings really are quite versatile! Just search my site using that search bar in the upper right hand corner with terms like bacon fat or bacon drippings, and I'm sure there are many things that will motivate your imagination, but start saving your bacon fat, and don't forget . use it!


How do I Render the Fat?

First step, cook up some bacon.

We use our cast iron skillet to cook bacon! The bacon grease actually helps season the cast iron.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, cook the bacon. As it cooks, the fat will render (cook off into the pan). Remove the bacon and place on paper towel to soak up the excess fat.

The remaining drippings in the pan are then strained (we use a coffee filter as shown below), poured into a jar and sealed tightly. Filtering out the bacon bits allows the fat to keep fresh in the fridge longer.

Filtered grease will keep in the refrigerator for up to a year where as unfiltered grease can go bad within weeks. The fat will last even longer in the freezer.


How to Render Bacon Fat

If you make more bacon fat than you end up using, just throw out the whole jar and start a new one.

Never pour bacon fat down the drain! It will solidify as it cools and clog your drain. Either soak it up with paper towels and discard or pour the rendered bacon fat into a jar to save.

Ingredients

Method

1 Cook bacon on medium low heat: Heat a large skillet on medium-low heat. Lay out several strips of raw bacon. Let the strips cook for 10 or 15 minutes, turning them occasionally.

When the bacon strips are nicely browned and crispy, use tongs or a fork to lift them out of the pan and place them on paper towels (to absorb the excess fat) on a plate.

2 Pour remaining fat into a jar: Pour the remaining fat in the pan into a jar, and put the jar into your refrigerator. The bacon grease will solidify to a slightly off-color white. When you cook bacon again, pull out the jar and add more of the excess fat to it.

If you want, you can strain out the solid bacon bits before pouring the fat into a jar. I find that these bits have plenty of flavor, so I don&rsquot bother to strain them.



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