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Why the mugful of bacon grease in my fridge is pure magic

Cooking pro tip: Why you should keep your bacon fat

Bacon grease, bacon fat, magical flavor balm from the gods — they all mean exactly the same thing. If you’re from the south, chances are you already have a container of some sort in your fridge that houses this thing of pure beauty. If you aren’t from the south, or a family member of mine, you may need a bit more explanation.

When I was a single 20-something living in San Francisco, I’d recently moved in with a few other girls I’d met through a Craigslist ad. True to roommate custom, we all had a shelf in the refrigerator to call our own. It didn’t take long for my mug-o-bacon-fat to make an appearance on my shelf. A day or two after it did, I opened the fridge to find a post-it-note from one of my new roommates, stuck directly on top of my bacon fat mug. It simply read, “Lindsay…what the hell?” After a pretty big laugh, I explained my magic mug to my skeptical roommate. I can proudly tell you that that girl and I are still friends, and she now has a magic mug of her own. I like to think of it as God’s work I’m doing.

Bacon of the Month Club
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is bacon grease good for?

So many glorious old-fashioned southern recipes call for bacon grease, from cornbread to collard greens to popcorn. And if the recipe is old enough and clever enough to actually call for bacon grease, you’d better snatch that one up quick, because it’s likely a fantastic one. While most of these recipes are in out-of-print, vintage cookbooks, you can still find them in thrift stores and on the shelves of your nearest mother or grandmother. So get hunting!

The good news, though, is even without a recipe, you can substitute bacon grease in nearly any recipe that calls for a fat. It’s the flavorfully fatty answer to any number of culinary conundrums. Boring sauteed vegetables? Bacon fat. Flapjacks falling flat? Fry them in bacon fat. Lacking a brilliant start to your biscuit gravy? Do we need to even say it?

Bacon is popular because it’s delicious, so of course, its hot sizzly drippings are going to be nothing short of liquid gold. Cooking with bacon fat adds beautifully savory, flirtatiously and subtly meaty, salty and heavenly notes to your dishes. We’re not overselling this.

Is bacon fat a healthy fat?

Alright look, if we tried to sell you on the idea that bacon fat is right up there with avocados and almonds in the world of healthy fats, you’d (hopefully) know we were lying. But, while bacon fat isn’t exactly what we’d classify as a health food, it is lower in saturated fat than butter. Shockingly, it’s also lower in sodium than salted butter. We’ll go ahead and call that a win. We’ll take what we can get, okay?

Image used with permission by copyright holder

How long does bacon grease last?

While some people keep their bacon grease at room temperature, this is a food safety no-no. It could attract pests (who can blame them?) or go rancid without you realizing it. It’s best to store your bacon grease in the refrigerator. Properly covered, it will stay good for up to six months. If you want to freeze it, it will keep in the freezer for about a year.

What is the best container to store bacon grease?

This might be a touchy subject for those who love this ingredient as much as I do. For in the (few) houses I’ve visited that share this peculiar refrigerator tenant, the bacon fat container is sacrosanct. For me, it’s an old Les Miserables mug, humble and holy. I’ve come across coffee cans and pickle jars. I’ve seen Cool Whip containers, and even an ice cube tray.

But from a food safety perspective, experts recommend storing bacon grease in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Do be sure to strain out any bacon solids from your grease before storing. You can do this by putting a small strainer or sieve over your storage container and pouring the fat right through.

If you aren’t going to save your bacon grease (how dare you), do at least be sure to dispose of it properly. Of course, never pour bacon grease down the sink as it will clog your pipes. It’s best to wait for it to cool, then dispose of it in the trash. But dear god, please don’t.

Bacon fat potatoes recipe

Image used with permission by copyright holder

This recipe is for potatoes, but will work for almost any vegetable you can imagine. If your bacon fat is cool and solid, melting it in a small saucepan before mixing it with the potatoes is the easiest way to go about it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons bacon fat
  • 2 pounds potatoes, skins on, cubed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. In a large pot filled with salted water, bring potatoes to a boil, then simmer until fork-tender.
  3. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Mix with onions, salt, and bacon fat until potatoes and onions are evenly coated.
  4. Spread potato and onion mixture onto baking sheet in a single layer.
  5. Cook potatoes for 20-25 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through their cooking time.

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Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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