How To Safely Store Bacon Grease

Preserve it like the treasure it is.

It's no secret that Southerners love bacon. And that includes the grease, too. If you were raised in the South (or raised by someone who was), one of the first kitchen lessons you might have learned is to never pour bacon grease (or drippings) down the drain. Not only will hardened fats create a plumbing nightmare, bacon grease is a precious ingredient, almost as important as the bacon itself.

Bacon grease adds savory, smoky depth to all kinds of recipes: skillet cornbread, succotash, buttermilk biscuits, pastas, and just about any type of cooked vegetable, to name a few. A container of bacon grease is a cook's secret weapon—and unlike pricey olive oils or fancy seasoning blends, it's something you already have on hand. Here's how to make sure you store this cooking treasure with all the care it deserves.

cooked bacon on a pan lined with aluminum foil
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How To Store Bacon Grease

To safely store bacon grease, you must first get rid of any small bits of bacon that are left behind:

  • Place a coffee filter or cheesecloth over the mouth of a glass container, like a Mason jar, or a container made for bacon drippings. Press the filter down so that it fits snugly inside the mouth of the jar.
  • Slowly pour the warm (not hot!) bacon grease into the jar—don't rush this step. (It's easier to do this if you transfer the drippings from the skillet into a glass measuring cup.) The coffee filter will trap whatever is left behind in the grease, leaving it nice and clear. You can also use a fine mesh sieve if you don't have coffee filters or cheesecloth on hand.

Removing the bacon bits will also help prevent the grease from going rancid.

Where To Store Bacon Grease

Although many of us grew up with relatives who stored their bacon grease in a jar or can set on the counter or on the back of the stovetop, food safety experts don't recommend storing it that way now.

Instead, store bacon grease in the refrigerator (up to 3 months) or freezer (indefinitely), according to the USDA. The refrigerator is best because the fat will stay soft enough to scoop, so you can have delicious solid drippings at the ready.

If you plan to freeze your bacon grease, portion small amounts by letting the grease cool slightly—and, then, strain and pour into freezer-safe containers (like an ice cube tray). Pop it in the freezer and defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Ways To Use Bacon Grease

There's a reason jars of bacon grease are a staple in Southern kitchens. There are so many ways to use it. Even if you grew up with a jar in your fridge, you may not know all the ways this precious commodity can contribute to your cooking. A tablespoon goes a long way.

Not only does it work as a substitute for shortening (or butter) in a pinch, but it will also add a boost of flavor:

  • Add a tablespoon to your pan sauces and gravies for depth and smokiness.
  • Swap it for some of the butter or shortening in your favorite cornbread, biscuit, or pie crust recipe—just make sure it's well chilled, if needed.
  • Use a spoonful of bacon grease instead of cooking oil to sautée vegetables or hash browns.
  • For a truly Southern delight, try a cocktail made with Bacon-Infused Bourbon.

You may just never let the grease jar go empty.

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