A Secret Ingredient That Takes Food from OK to Out-of-This-World!
That secret ingredient is bacon grease. Way back when, our moms and grandmothers knew this and even had a special container to store it in.
This is what bacon fat looks like cold. Some folks like to strain out the bits of bacon before chilling. But we never do—the more bacony, the better for this house. But strained or not, you simply store it in an airtight container for up to a month. It won’t be around that long, though, because there are SO many things you can do with it. Just take a look:
VEGETABLES: Saute all your veggies in just a little bacon fat.
SOUP: Add a dab to any soup you’re cooking—whether on the stove top or in the crock pot.
MASHED OR RICED POTATOES: Add bacon fat instead of butter when mashing/ricing your potatoes. This is a professional chef’s trick that’s been around for a very long time.
ALFREDO SAUCE DELUXE: Mix bacon fat with cream cheese and you have an Alfredo sauce beyond delicious, and so easy to make.
WHITE SAUCE: Sure, butter is the standard ingredient when making your roux and white sauces. But can you imagine how much more alive that sauce would taste if made with bacon fat instead?
COOKIES: Try replacing up to half the fat in your cookie recipe with bacon grease and taste the magic! And notice how tender they are.
MEAT GARNISH: Saute thinly sliced apples in bacon grease to create an extraordinary garnish for your meat entrée.
MUFFINS AND BISCUITS: Add bacon fat to your muffin batter or biscuit dough for a flavor zing. In fact, I intend to add some bacon fat to my next batch of bread dough. I’ll report back on how it turns out.
PANCAKES, WAFFLES, FRENCH TOAST: Just heat your skillet, but instead of using oil or butter to coat the pan, add a dab of bacon grease. Then cook your pancakes as you normally would, flipping them when the batter begins to bubble.
If you’re cooking bacon first (which is strongly suggested), just remove the bacon from the pan, dispose of any excess grease and keep a dollop in the skillet. Then spoon your pancake batter right on the greased pan.
The result: Pancakes that are fluffy on the inside, crispy around the edges and taste amazing. Pile 'em high and drizzle with maple syrup. Waffles will have an extra flavor layer that is amazing. And French toast will also be extra crispy and divine. Oh my!
POPCORN: Always use bacon grease to pop your popcorn. WOW! is an understatement for this flavor enhancer.
Lastly, and closely related to popcorn, CARMEL CORN AND POPCORN BALLS: Toss popcorn in a peanutty, slightly spicy bacon fat-based caramel, then add the cooked bacon back in for the perfect sweet/savory mix.
This is such an inspiring idea that I’ll close with a recipe Aunt Annie used when making carmel corn. She explained that she was out of butter and turned to bacon fat out of desperation. She never went back to butter after that. Taste this and you’ll know why!
PEANUT AND BACON CARMEL CORN (Yield: 16 cups)
½ cup popping corn kernels (or use 16 cups pre-popped popcorn)
1½ tablespoons bacon fat (drippings)
1 pound sliced bacon
1 1/3 cups pure maple syrup
3 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Large (at least 4 quart) sauce pot with lid (if using pre-popped corn, you won't need this)
Large (at least 4 quart) heatproof mixing bowl
2 large baking sheets
Parchment paper or wax paper
1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Make popcorn:
In a large sauce pot, heat bacon fat oil over medium-low heat, then add popping corn kernels. Cover the pot, and shake to coat the kernels with fat. In about a minute, kernels will start to pop. Shake the pot, still over medium-low heat, occasionally. When the popping sound has slowed to less than 1 pop every 10 seconds, turn the heat off and uncover the pot. Pour popped corn out into the large, heatproof mixing bowl; look for and discard all unpopped kernels.
3. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook half the bacon until the fat has rendered out and the meat is crispy. Remove cooked bacon from skillet; let cool on a plate or cutting board, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the rest of the bacon to the skillet, and repeat. Set aside the cooked bacon, leaving the bacon fat in the skillet.
4. With the skillet still over medium heat, add the maple syrup, peanuts, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and kosher salt, stirring to combine. Heat the mixture for about a minute, until it starts to bubble, then remove from heat and set aside.
5. Once the bacon is cool enough to handle, cut it into large strips (about 1 inch long and ¼ inch wide). Add bacon to the popcorn in the large mixing bowl, then pour the maple syrup mixture on top. Mix with a heatproof spoon or spatula, until all the popcorn is evenly coated with the maple syrup mixture.
6. Spread the popcorn out over the two baking sheets, and bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Popcorn may feel slightly soggy but will crisp as it cools.
Let the popcorn cool completely on the baking sheets (placing it in airtight containers too early will make it soggy). Popcorn will keep for five to seven days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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