Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
31 Jul

How to Render Bacon Fat (plus a Fennel and Dill Omelet Recipe)

Hey-o, Worker Bee here. There’s been recent talk about how to render bacon fat, so with that in mind I’ve put together a how-to photo blog, as well as a follow-up recipe for how to put that leftover fat to good use.

Rendering bacon fat is as easy firing up a skillet and cooking bacon like you normally would. Place a few pieces of thick, nitrate-free, uncured strips on the surface of a cast-iron skillet and cook until crispy. Once bacon is done, remove it and place it aside.

If you’re not planning to eat the bacon by itself, though, and are just cooking it for its fat, there is a more strategic method. Freeze the strips for 10-15 minutes prior to cooking, then cut the bacon into small bits. While the pieces cook, the increased surface area helps to render the fat more fully (which just means less of the fat stays on the bacon itself), and the bacon pieces come out much leaner. (You can then add these crispy bits to salads or side dishes for a delicious flavor.)

Whatever you decide to do with the bacon, the drippings are what we’re after. Pour or spoon the fat from the skillet (carefully!) into a can, shallow bowl or wide-mouth glass jar, like the one pictured. If you don’t refrigerate the fat right away, it will be OK but will take longer to solidify.

As far as safety goes, grandmas the world over will tell you that they’ve kept their bacon fat in a coffee can next to their stove for extended periods of time without any ill effects, but I like to keep mine in the fridge. Even when I’ve filtered the fat and am sure there is no residual meat in the container that can easily go rancid I still hedge my bets and throw it in the fridge. Fats are pretty obvious about their expiration, so if it airs of badness, don’t hesitate to discard the batch and start over.

Speaking of grandmothers, I remember when mine use to scoop out a healthy amount to fry her eggs every Sunday morning. Those eggs were so good, and I promise, so is the omelet recipe I share below. It’s a step up from the same old hum-drum mushroom-spinach fusion we’re used to.

Fennel and Dill Omelet

I decided to attempt to utilize own of my favorite vegetables for this recipe: fennel. I was hoping to encourage more variety with this delicious vegetable than the obvious, which is to grill it or sauté it, and serve it on a platter (also delicious). Cooking fennel in bacon fat was another twist. The fat added a delicious savory taste that olive oil or even butter just can’t. Dill was a wonderful component too, which should be used liberally in this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 tsp bacon fat
½ fennel bulb, cut into chunks
2-4 teaspoons fresh dill
4 eggs
capers (optional)

Directions:
Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat and add a small scoop of (now cooled and solidified) bacon fat (about 1 tsp). When skillet surface is hot, add the sliced fennel and dill, and cover. Cook fennel and dill in bacon fat until fennel is soft, about 3-5 minutes.

In a small bowl, beat eggs until fluffy and pour into the skillet over the fennel, making sure to quickly spread the fennel throughout the egg before it becomes firm. Lift edges occasionally with a spatula to see when other side looks cooked. Flip, cook until at desired consistency (runny vs. not runny at all) and serve. Add capers and fresh dill for garnish. Makes one omelet big enough for two.

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Although perhaps less primal than cooking over cast iron, I really prefer cooking bacon in a microwave. I like the uniform crispness. The bacon seems to come out “drier” and rendering the fat is a cinch. Just pour it off. We use it to make gravy, which is a whole other issue…

    Greg at Live Fit wrote on July 31st, 2009
  2. I prefer cooking bacon in the broiler. That way the stove (any myself) don’t get splattered with spitting grease. I place the bacon strips on a cookie sheet and broil on high for about 5-6 minutes, turning bacon half-way through. After removing the cooked bacon, I tilt the cookie sheet (use an oven mitt on each hand for improved control) over a clean glass jar and then pop it in the fridge. Voila!

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on July 31st, 2009
  3. So… there’s no problem with the nitrites in the bacon and the fact that it’s so processed. Isn’t fat that comes from grass fed beef better? I’m jut not sure about all those chemicals in there, but please correct me if I’m wrong, because I like bacon!

    Dave, RN wrote on July 31st, 2009
    • She did say to buy nitrate-free bacon in the second paragraph.

      Though IMHO it isn’t really worth much effort to get worried about nitrates (I choose to care about how the pigs were treated and what they ate).

      One green salad with arugula or spinach has more nitrates than you’d find in 100 mass-market hot dogs. “Organic” meat preservative is made from powdered celery, which when added to meat turns into… nitrate/nitrite.

      Ross wrote on July 31st, 2009
    • Also, how is bacon “so processed”? It’s often smoked, which you can do yourself, but that’s about it.

      Which other chemicals (besides the already-discussed nitrates) are in “all those chemicals” in bacon?

      Even the “normal” bacon is just smoked, nitrated, sliced, and packaged. That’s a pretty small amount of processing by how I measure food processing.

      Ross wrote on July 31st, 2009
  4. This looks like a great recipe! I will definitely try it. And, it prompted me to check on the living conditions and feeding of the pigs who supply my favorite bacon (Beeler’s Pepper Garlic). I already knew it was nitrate-free, and now I’m happy to find out the pigs are raised humanely and ‘naturally.’

    crunchysue wrote on July 31st, 2009
  5. Looks great – need to try out some fennel.

    Where do you get nitrate free, uncured bacon from? I usually just buy pork belly at the farmers market but it doesn’t quite cook up like bacon does.

    kaveman wrote on July 31st, 2009
    • You can get it at trader joe’s. I prefer applewood smoked uncured bacon. It’s the best tasting bacon I have ever eaten!

      Joshua Tenner wrote on August 26th, 2011
  6. I’m lucky enough to live in Portland, OR, which has excellent bacon in the stores. If you’re not so lucky, and need an Internet source for bacon, I’d recommend http://bacn.com/. I’m not affiliated with them, but I do know them and they’re good guys who LOVE bacon.

    crunchysue wrote on July 31st, 2009
    • Hi,
      I’m in PDX as well. Where do you find the best source for bacon and other meats? I have been frequenting Trader Joes and my Fred Myers has an OK organic section. I was disappointed to find that the New Seasons beef was corn and feed fed the last 3 months or so before slaughter. I am in search for a good source of grass fed meat and cruelty free bacon in the area. Any suggestions would be great and thanks,
      vj

      vj wrote on August 2nd, 2009
      • I had some lamb from New Seasons yesterday, and it’s totally grass-fed. Here’s a link: http://www.newseasonsmarket.com/dynamicContent.aspx?loc=974&subloc=1&menuId=258&mc=9741

        New Seasons is also where I get my Beeler’s Garlic Pepper bacon – it’s cruelty-free.

        Let me know if you find any fully grass-fed beef in PDX!

        crunchysue wrote on August 3rd, 2009
        • I wonder how long I have to be here before my posts with links skip the moderation phase? Having a blog of my own, of course I understand why they do that.

          crunchysue wrote on August 3rd, 2009
        • I found some 100% Grass fed beef at trader joe’s last night. Just ask someone at the store for help.

          Joshua Tenner wrote on August 26th, 2011
      • OK, I’m back again, with another link. I found this through Googling. It’s a farm in Yamhill, OR that sells grass-fed beef, lamb, chicken, etc. Looks great, and may be worth a trip out there.

        http://www.kookoolanfarms.com/Sustainability_Practices.html

        crunchysue wrote on August 4th, 2009
  7. You can usually find uncured nitrate-bacon in the organic meat section–I’m told that you can even get it at Wal-Mart (I’ll take their word for that since I will not set foot in any outpost of the Evil Empire). There’s a national brand called Applegate Farms which specializes in stuff like bacon and lunch meat that are miles better for you than the regular stuff.

    Trish wrote on July 31st, 2009
  8. Great job Worker Bee! Bacon fat has been my go-to oil for a while now… I kind of eat a lot of bacon and don’t like to waste.

    I’m a huge fan of red onions and find that I love the way they taste in bacon fat. Good idea on capers though!

    Berto at Discount Supplements wrote on July 31st, 2009
  9. nitrites in digestion convert to nitrosamines which seem to be carcinogenic (in large quantities, in rats, etc). I’ve read about making bacon pretty easily from a big piece of pork belly and sea salt but havent tried it yet… anyway as much lard as I use I have just started rendering it from pork belly, rather than from bacon. the taste is less porky so you can use it in more stuff, and dont have to worry about the additives.

    I used to keep bacon grease in an old coffee cup by the stove, and one day found a well preserved cockroach at the bottom. so be advised to use a cover!

    Mark – I have been wondering, what is the difference between becoming rancid and fermenting into an unusual flavor, like fish sauce or cheese?

    jon w wrote on July 31st, 2009
    • Fats go rancid through a chemical reaction along the fatty acid molecules they’re made of. Saturated fats (like the bacon grease, or cocoanut oils) go rancid more slowly than unsaturated fats (like most vegetable oils). The chemicals formed when fats go rancid change its flavour and texture, as well as its cooking properties, but are generally not toxic. However, these chemicals can dramatically reduce the nutrient levels in the fat, so fresher is better.

      You can reduce the rate at which fats go rancid by eliminating all the water in it (part of the rendering process is heating the fat to, among other things, drive off the water) and storing it protected from oxygen. If you use the coffee-can storage technique, just put the lid back on the can after it’s cooled; that helps a great deal.

      Look up “rancidification” for more information.

      umuhk wrote on July 31st, 2009
  10. How great that you did a bacon fat article! My son is allergic to coconut, so I have been trying to find some other healthy fat alternatives for our household. We don’t seem to do as well on the modern diet so I’ve been looking toward more traditional, pre-industialized foods. We are also high-fat burners and seem to need more fat than most.

    Tracee wrote on August 1st, 2009
  11. I have been buying fresh side from the slaughter house that is close to me! Fry it up with just a little sea salt!! Yummy! Of course it isn’t smoked but I love it. I keep the fat from it just like I have always done with bacon. Very good!

    Pam wrote on August 1st, 2009
  12. I recently bought myself a little stainless steel oil pot on eBay — just like Mom used to have. A jar works perfectly well, of course, but the purpose-made pot comes with its own little strainer to keep bacon bits from sullying your precious drippings.

    Flossie wrote on August 1st, 2009
  13. When I started saving off the fat (now that I have been un-brainwashed and realize the fat is healthful), I broke a glass jar from the hot fat. I found a couple of small stainless steel storage containers with lids. That and a nice mesh sieve spoon makes for an easy way to save off the fat, strain it and pop it back in the refrigerator.

    I think it is probably ok to keep it on the counter in winter but summer is a bit warm for that.

    Mary wrote on August 1st, 2009
  14. I used to render my own beef tallow and I never had it go rancid. The trick with any saturated fat is to heat it high enough to drive out any water but not hot enough to break it down; I usually kept the temp around 180F, allowing the temp to drop to about 150F as the water left. Stored in an airtight container, it will keep for a very long time. If stored in a refrigerator, occasionally condensation will collect on top of the cold fat. Just wipe it dry.

    Back in the days before refrigeration, people would store meats during the winter in the basement by covering the cooked meat in hot fat and allowing to cool. The meat and fat, if kept dry, would last all winter.

    Note: when rendering be careful about allowing any meat bits to get too brown. If the meat burns, the fat will taste like burned meat.

    James H wrote on August 2nd, 2009
  15. I use a fine sieve and strain out the tiny bits of bacon in the fat while I’m pouring into a mason jar.

    LittleMissGrok wrote on August 5th, 2009
  16. what about mixing drippings together? Say fat from ground beef and bacon fat?

    Is this ok? Do these fats play well together?

    Nathan wrote on August 6th, 2009
  17. Ummm…for tomorrow morning!!!

    iisierra wrote on December 13th, 2009
  18. Can’t find the nitrate-free bacon in the UK, even from the local organic farms. Will have to settle for butter I suppose! How can you resist sprinkling a little raw cheese over top of that omelet?

    Aaron at Healthy Foods wrote on April 4th, 2010
  19. Metal does work best for hot fats but if you put a metal spoon in the glass jar and make sure you pour the hot fat so it touches the metal, I’ve found that keeps the glass from breaking.

    Or, you can wait about 5-10 minutes for the fat to cool some before decanting it.

    I love to render my own lard. Haven’t found a source of pork fat here in Memphis, yet, but soon we’ll be going to a real meat market. Hopefully they’ll have plenty. I also render chicken fat and skin and make fried chicken skins. Even better than pork cracklings!

    Erica wrote on November 30th, 2011
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  21. Oscar Mayer has started making smoked uncured nitrate/nitrite free bacon which should be available in most regular grocery stores. If you live in a small town that doesn’t have Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or organic meat markets, finding good meat can be very difficult. This Oscar Mayer bacon tastes great and has really helped me to stick with the diet because my breakfasts are so good, and leave me feeling full through the day!

    Alex wrote on June 13th, 2012
  22. Thanks for all the great recipes! I Put bacon on a broiler pan and bake it in the convection oven with the fan on. I turn it 2-3 times to get even cooking then pour the oil off from the bottom pan. There were not a lot of solids in the oil with this method but I think I’ll strain it next time based on some of the comments above. It had cooled enough to put it in a glass jar but you’ve got to be careful! Next to my crockpot, my delongi convection oven is turning out to be one of the handiest cooking tools for going paleo! No one is paying me to say that!

    Melanie Bagby wrote on August 31st, 2012

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