Bacon grease is the unsung hero when it comes to cooking fats and oils.
Despite being a go-to ingredient of chefs of yester-year, it isn’t as widely used today. This is mostly because people don’t know how to best make it, let alone store it!
But even if you’re in the habit of saving your bacon grease, you may be wondering about it’s shelf-life.
A lot of people assume that because it is an unprocessed animal-based product, it only lasts a day or two. This, however, could not be further from the truth.
So, how long can bacon grease last? At room temperature, bacon grease can last between 2-4 weeks, while if kept in the refrigerator, it will last up to a year, maybe even longer. Properly frozen bacon grease can last for years.
In this article, we will have a look at everything bacon grease! From what it is, how to make it, how it is used, but most importantly, how to store it and how long you have to make delicious use of it.
What Is Bacon Grease?
Bacon grease, or bacon fat as many people know it, is the fat that is released from bacon when it is cooked in a specific way.
This method is called rendering and is the process of cooking fat to help it release fatty liquids and create a more useful and usable ingredient.
When bacon grease is heated, it is a semi-clear (almost cloudy or milky) fatty liquid. When its temperature lowers, the liquid solidifies, producing a semi-hard, solid white mass of fat. Bacon grease acts very similar to coconut oil in this way.
Because of the way bacon grease is produced and mostly because of the source (cured or smoked pork meat), the flavor of bacon grease is incomparable.
People often say that olive oil tastes better than canola, and butter tastes better than margarine – well, this is how we feel about bacon grease!
This fat not only acts as a lubricant for your food but simultaneously adds a ton of flavor. The best way to describe it would be a combination of perfectly balanced umami notes, with obvious saltiness and smoky hues coming through.
It will literally make any old bland dish taste new and unique – even plain old fried eggs!
Bacon grease has very similar cooking characteristics as lard (another fat obtained from rendering pork meat). It has a smoke point of around 374°F (190°C). This isn’t very high, and we would definitely not recommend deep-frying food in it, but it is also not low.
This smoking point means you can easily cook, shallow fry, and sauté virtually any dish without the risk of it starting to smoke. It does however have a higher chance of burning before starting to smoke.
Where Do You Get Bacon Grease?
This is a question that we get very often. Bacon grease is mostly made at home when you make bacon, however, recently we have seen more and more stores stock up on this product.
As always, we highly recommend making your own, and with bacon grease, you already are every time you cook bacon; it is simply a matter of pouring it into a jar and saving it for later use!
We also love the fact that bacon grease is an unprocessed fat making it much more natural (and healthy) compared to processed fats and oils like margarine and seed oil blends.
There are a couple of ways to cook the bacon for the best results. When you are cooking the bacon on very high heat, the fat released often burns and eventually evaporates, leaving you with a teaspoon or two of grease.
You want to cook your bacon on a low and slow heat to get the most grease possible that is clear and unburnt.
“Make” Your Own Bacon Grease
Although you can technically purchase bacon grease, there’s really no reason to most of the time. If you’re going to make bacon at home once in a while anyway, you can harvest that bacon-y goodness and save it for a rainy day!
Here’s how to get bacon grease from cooking bacon as normal in a pan:
- Heat a non-stick frying pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. You can add a drop of olive oil or butter to help lubricate the bacon and prevent it from burning, but because of this cooking method, the bacon won’t stick, so it isn’t necessary.
- Add the bacon to the pan in a single layer. Allow it to cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the bacon has been fully cooked. If the bacon cooks too quickly at any point, lower the heat.
- Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. While the fat is still hot and in its liquid form, pour it into a glass container and allow it to cool completely, uncovered.
If you cook your bacon in an oven (hey, we get it; sometimes you’re too busy to monitor breakfast in the morning), you can still save your bacon grease for later!
How to get bacon grease from oven-cooking:
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
- Place a single layer of bacon on a wire rack. Place the rack over a drip-tray or cookie sheet (any type of tray that can catch all of the drippings).
- Place the rack and tray in the oven and cook the bacon for 8-12 minutes or until it has been fully cooked.
- Once cooked, remove the tray from the oven, set aside the bacon, and pour the bacon grease into a glass jar. Allow the grease to cool down completely, uncovered.
Tips & Tricks
If your grease has solidified (meaning it has cooled too much), simply reheat it before placing it in a jar. Transferring it to the container when it is in its liquid form will use much less space than filling a container with solid chunks.
Glass jars or containers (like a mason jar) work the best because it can be sterilized and doesn’t hold any stains or odors from previous foods.
This will help extend the shelf life of your bacon grease, compared to storing it in plastic or metal containers. Glass won’t affect the fat in any way!
How Long Does Bacon Grease Last?
If bacon grease is stored using the correct methods, without impurities and without any light or temperature changes, it has the potential to last long; you will most likely use one batch before it expires.
|Storage Method||Shelf life|
|Room Temperature (68-72°F / 20-22°C)||2-4 weeks|
|Refrigerator (40°F / 4°C)||6-12 months|
|Freezer (0°F / -18°C)||1-2 years|
The exact expiration date for bacon grease is extremely difficult to determine due to a wide variety of factors that affects it. These are only estimates and you should always check your grease for signs of spoilage before using it.
Store-bought bacon grease will last around the same time unless it has been processed, in which case follow the “use-by” or expiration date printed on the package.
In general, we would say bacon grease lasts 2-4 weeks at room temperature and 6-12 months in the refrigerator.
We’ll explain how to store bacon grease properly using each method below, so keep reading to make sure your delicious ingredient is stored well enough to actually last this long!
How to Tell If Bacon Grease is Rancid
Because bacon grease is an animal product, you should never risk consuming rancid or even suspected spoiled products.
There are a couple of very obvious signs when bacon grease has gone bad, but then there are also some less obvious signs:
The first and most noticeable sign of spoiled bacon grease is the odor. Spoiled bacon grease has an extremely noticeable rancid, sour smell. This odor directly translates into the flavor, so if you don’t smell it, you will most definitely and immediately taste it!
The second very noticeable change is the color. It will turn from its milky white to a yellowish, and sometimes even brown color.
Other signs of spoiled bacon grease are changes in its texture. The bacon grease sometimes becomes crumbly, moldy, or watery. Which one exactly depends on the bacteria present in the grease.
This is the reason it is important to strain your grease and remove any solid particles if you plan on storing it for a long time. These pieces can introduce bacteria, causing rapid spoilage.
If your bacon grease has reached its estimated expiration date, just don’t risk consuming it. Expired animal products can cause serious food poisoning, even death in extreme cases.
If you suspect the bacon grease being spoiled, rather throw it out. It doesn’t cost much to make as it is a by-product, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
How To Store Bacon Grease
Once you have rendered the bacon and placed your liquid fat into glass jars, you have to allow the fat to cool completely, uncovered (meaning no jar lids and no plastic lids) before even considering storage.
When storing warm foods that are sealed, it creates an optimum environment for harmful bacteria to thrive and cause the food item to spoil, which can lead to serious food poisoning.
As with all foods, the biggest enemies are light, air, and moisture.
No matter which storage method you choose, make sure the container stays away from bright, direct light, air (so it should always stay sealed), and moisture (which can happen due to condensation when storing in hot areas).
Storing Bacon Grease in the Refrigerator
You can store your bacon grease quickly and easily by sticking it in the fridge. All you need to do is take a few steps to ensure it’s stored safely:
- Pour the hot, liquid bacon grease into a glass jar or container. Allow it to cool completely at room temperature, uncovered.
- Once it has been completely cooled, seal the jar or container with its lid (or wrap tightly in plastic or saran wrap if you do not have a lid). As the liquid cools, it will become a solid and turn a milky white.
- Place the jar of bacon grease in the refrigerator, away from any light and fluctuating temperatures.
Storing Bacon Grease in the Freezer
You can also freeze your bacon grease if you don’t expect to be cooking with it any time soon.
Here’s how to do it:
- Pour the liquid grease into a freezer-safe glass container.
- Once it has completely cooled, uncovered, seal with a lid or plastic wrap.
- Place the container or jar in the freezer in a safe area with no fluctuating temperatures.
Tips & Tricks
- Your bacon grease shouldn’t constantly liquefy and solidify. It reduces the quality of the bacon fat and reduces the shelf life. This means you should have very stable fridge and freezer temperatures, and also not constantly remove the container from the fridge for long periods of time. Bacon grease liquefies at 80°F (26°C) – just above room temperature.
- Store in smaller containers for easier use and to extend the shelf-life of the batch.
- If you plan on storing the fat for long periods of time, strain out any chunks or solid pieces before storing it. These solids are impurities and may affect the shelf-life of your bacon grease.
- Labeling your jars or containers are extremely important. On the label should be the following information; what the product is (bacon grease) when it was produced, and the estimated expiry date.
- Do not constantly fill the same jar of grease with new fat. This will cause the old fat at the bottom to go rancid because it never gets used. Rather start a new small jar for every batch so that you can implement FIFO (the first-in, first-out stock rotation method).
Can Bacon Grease Be Stored at Room Temperature?
Bacon grease can be stored at room temperature, but keep in mind the shelf-life will be considerably shorter compared to storing it in the fridge.
Your room temperature should be around 68-72°F (20-22°C) if you want to store bacon grease.
The storing method is exactly the same, but rather than placing it in the refrigerator, you can place it in the pantry or food cupboard.
Keep the container away from heat sources (so do not store it next to a microwave, oven, stove-top, or even next to the fridge). Keep it away from direct sunlight and light sources.
How to Use Bacon Grease
Bacon grease is an extremely versatile ingredient – just as versatile as any other cooking oil or fat.
It is mostly used to fry, brown, and cook foods like meats, vegetables, and even herbs and spices, but it can also be used in other cooking ways.
It’s great for grilling foods, quickly sautéing ingredients, or even shallow-frying items. You can also use it when roasting meats or vegetables, as it adds a wonderful smoky flavor.
Here are some of the more unique ways bacon grease is used in food:
- Make savory popcorn by adding grease into the pot instead of oil.
- Make biscuits (or scones) by using grease instead of butter.
- Make sauces such as marinades, gravy, mayonnaises, and virtually any dipping sauce.
- Cook grains and pulses with it, for example, make egg fried rice, make quinoa or couscous.
- Make a savory pie or quiche crust.
- Make a wide variety of delicious soups.
What is the Difference Between Lard and Bacon Grease?
These two are very similar as both are obtained from rendering fat from pork. The main difference is that lard is obtained by rendering fresh meat fat, whereas bacon grease is obtained from rendering bacon, an already processed (cured and smoked) piece of pork meat.
How Do You Thaw Frozen Bacon Grease?
You can either leave the bacon grease to defrost in the refrigerator (never at room temperature as the risk of bacterial growth is too high) for a few hours, or you can thaw it in cold water.
Cold water is much faster but requires some work. The water should be changed every 30 minutes or so with new cold water. Within 1-2 hours, the bacon grease is ready for use.
Can You Freeze Bacon Grease Twice?
Contrary to what we normally say about freezing things twice, bacon grease is one of the few exceptions. You can refreeze bacon grease, as long as it wasn’t microwaved or re-heated.
However, we still recommend freezing bacon grease in smaller containers, rather than freezing, reheating, and freezing again. Freezing bacon grease twice will affect the shelf life considerably and will definitely affect the quality.