For years, I avoided cooking bacon. Lest you mistakenly think me more principled than I really am, it was not because bacon is made from pig or because it clogs your arteries, it was just because I never knew what to do with all the fat that's inevitably left in the pan.
I knew It would be a bad idea to pour it down the drain since it congeals when it cools down, creating an unfortunate, pipe-clogging effect. So I would usually pour it all into a used sour cream or yogurt container, put a top on it and put it in the garbage. It was a decent solution but, nonetheless, it just never sat right with me...
But I had a flash of brilliance as I was facing a pan of bacon grease about a year ago - why not pour the fat into a glass jar, put a lid on it and put it in the fridge to cook with later???
Those of you who already know this trick are probably saying "No, duh!" and feeling rather disappointed in how long it took me to catch on. There's really no need for you to keep reading...
But for those of you to whom this is news, let me just say that it opens up a whole new world (to quote Ariel from the Little Mermaid) of culinary possibilities. In addition to being less wasteful, reusing the bacon grease for cooking also just makes things taste really good...
Here are a few of the uses I've found so far (I'm sure there are many more):
- Greasing a pan (I now use a spoonful of bacon fat in my cast iron skillet whenever I make corn bread and I just used some to grease the muffin tins for a batch of popovers this morning - so good!)
- Frying potatoes
- Cooking eggs
- Sautéeing onions and/or garlic
- Sautéeing greens like kale, chard or spinach
The bacon fat lends all of these things an irresistibly smokey bacon flavor. I've also found this little bit of extra flavor to be a helpful substitute in cases when I would actually like to include some bacon but don't have any on hand.
A few notes:
1. One thing to be aware of is that, unless you were to go the extra mile and actually strain the bacon grease (which I'm not going to do), there will be little particles of bacon left in it. They'll show up dark brown against the creamy white of the fat when it all cools down. Be warned that those little bits will burn when they get hot enough. That is why I would not recommend using the recycled fat for something like stir-frying where you really need an oil like peanut (or a pure rendered fat like lard) that has a high smoke point.
2. Also, wait for the pan to cool down before you pour the fat off - you don't want to burn yourself or risk cracking the jar due to a sudden change in temperature.
3. If you can't get bacon from a pig farm near you (which would be ideal), I think the best alternative is probably Applegate Farms organic Sunday bacon.
Please share any other suggested uses via comments. And don't forget to check out the other entries in the Greening Your Kitchen series.
You might also like: