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 because hardened fats will 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.

To safely store bacon grease, you must first get rid of any small bits of bacon that are left behind. Place a coffee filter over the mouth of a glass container, like a Mason jar. Press the filter down so that it fits snugly inside of the mouth of the jar. Slowly pour the warm 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 glass measuring cup.) The coffee filter will trap whatever is left behind in the grease, leaving it nice and clear.

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