January 21, 2004

Consider Bacon

Is there any felicity in the world greater than perfectly cooked bacon? There is an article in the New York Times today about a bacon and wine tasting. THAT, my friend, is more glorious. The tasters sampled eleven different types of artisan bacons and noted their reactions as they chewed. My favorite comment comes from one of the tasters that called the New Braunfels Smokehouse Pepper Bacon "too conceptual."

Unfortunately, many people don't know how to cook bacon without burning it or themselves. The key to perfectly browned, crispy bacon is to cook it slowly over low heat. If you like cleaning your oven, spread the bacon out on a sheet pan and let it render to your liking. But I don't like to clean ovens. The easiest (and cleanest) method I've found is to put your slices of bacon in a cold pan and set over low-medium heat. Then stick a cover on it. Let it sit for five minutes then come back and check on it, flip, and sit for another 5 minutes. Tongs are essential. A good pair of 12 inch stainless steel tongs are your friend for life. Keep flipping two or three times for about 20-25 minutes or until the bacon is perfectly browned to your liking (I like to pull it off the heat just before the entire bacon strip crisps all over). Yes this takes a bit longer, but think of it as a process. You can sit down and read a book as the gorgeous smells of smokey pork waft in the air, gently preparing your senses for a taste explosion. More of the fat is rendered out with this slow cooking than if you seared it on high heat for 30 seconds, and the bacon is guaranteed to be really crispy without the constant gauging of the burn threshold.

When you are done with your feast, whatever you do, don't throw the bacon drippings away. After the grease has cooled down, pour it into a container with an air-tight lid and pop it in the fridge*. Don't strain out the bits of bacon either. Think of those delicious bits as extra seasoning. Then use it just like you would butter. You've never tasted pancakes so good that were cooked with a little pat of bacon butter. I also use it to fry eggs, make fried rice, saute vegetables, start soups and chilis, grease cornbread pans, pretty much anything that needs a little punch of flavor. I've even heard of cooks in the deep south using bacon grease to grease pans for dessert cakes. If you're worried about cholesterol, just add a touch of it as you are heating up your vegetable oil, and those little bacon bits you saved will add the nicest hint of salty, smokey flavor without all the saturated fat. But I dare say that a clogged artery is worth bacon.


6 cups of baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1 cup of thinly sliced red onion
crumbled bacon and crumbled blue cheese for garnish

2 Tbsps of bacon drippings
2 Tbsps of olive oil
2 Tbsps of balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp of brown sugar
1 tsp of salt
a few twists of freshly cracked pepper
1 Tbsp of grainy mustard

Place the spinach in a salad bowl. In a skillet, over medium heat, heat the bacon drippings and whisk in the oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the sliced onions and heat til warm. Pour the hot dressing over the spinach leaves. Add crumbled bacon and cheese on top. Toss immediately and serve (spinach may wilt slightly). Serves 4-6.

*I've found no information on how long bacon grease can be kept. Since there is such high salt content, one would think it could be treated as salted butter and keep in the fridge for three months. But just to be safe, toss the unused grease after six weeks. It's also easier to dispose of in the garbage after it has solidified in the cold temperatures. I've heard stories of grandmothers continually pouring bacon grease in a collection tin right next to the stove and using it as she pleases, never throwing it out.

Posted by yi at January 21, 2004 11:25 AM

My dad grew up on a dairy farm in WI and his mother used to save the grease from breakfast and they'd have bacon fat sandwiches for lunch. Mmmm...gross.

Posted by: Jenny at January 21, 2004 4:55 PM

wow. what's in a bacon fat sandwich? like slices of congealed bacon fat? wow.

Posted by: yi at January 21, 2004 6:02 PM

yep, bacon fat is an awesome starter for sauces and gravy. Basically anything that you use oil (olive) for. It really is the missing component in getting gravy just right.

Posted by: c9 at January 22, 2004 12:04 PM

Recipe for bacon fat sandwich: Fry bacon. Eat the bacon. Let the grease firm up in the pan until lunch. Scoop grease on to a piece of bread. Spread thickly. Eat.
Kroenings are not a skinny breed.

Posted by: Jenny at January 22, 2004 6:59 PM

yimay. go to uchi and get their little skewer things -- asparagus wrapped in bacon. morsels of delight! mmm!

Posted by: p at January 24, 2004 9:22 AM

Came across this site surfin'.

Just thought I'd add my 2˘ worth.

I'm 64 years old and growing up in northern Wisconsin after WWII a regular for us kids was congealed bacon fat spread on a piece of homemade bread with a 1/4" thick slice of raw onion, salt and pepper and this was heaven.

This was a snack, say mid-afternoon, not a meal.

My grandparents raised me for a time and Grandma always had a stoneware bowl on the range shelf (wood burner) with saved bacon fat in it.

In addition to bacon fat sandwiches it was used for frying potatoes, eggs, onions, browning meats and a variety of other cooking.

I still save bacon fat and cook the same way even though everything you hear or read tells you that this is bad for you.

My grandpa lived to be 83 eating these things plus he smoked a pipe and chewed tobacco ‘til the day he died. I suppose there are those that would say “He could have lived to be 100 if he didn’t”. Well, to each their own.

Bacon fat rules.

Posted by: Jim at October 18, 2004 6:36 PM

How long can you keep bacon drippings?

Posted by: Richard at September 4, 2006 1:45 PM
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