My grandmother used to store her leftover bacon fat in a coffee cup in the refrigerator. My husband wants to start doing that, so he can fry eggs in the fat. Is it safe? Any suggestions on how to store it?
Didn’t everyone’s mom or grandma do this? Mine sure did. And what a culinary goldmine bacon fat – or grease, as it’s called in the south – is. I associate it with eggs in the morning, and fried potatoes and onions later in the day. Such a vivid memory is waking up to the smell (my room was over the kitchen with the most amazing bedroom ceiling light fixtures) or walking by the open kitchen window before supper – that, and coffee perking. Mmm.
With a husband and three kids to feed, my mother didn’t want to waste a thing. Every morning she fried bacon and poured off the excess grease into a tin can. I don’t even think she refrigerated it. That can lived on the stove top, where it was constantly being used up and topped off, even in Houston’s beastly hot weather. We never got sick.
But the food police are much more vociferous now about food safety, and the public is concerned about the health aspects of BPA in cans. You can do the research and make up your own mind about the BPA issue; let’s look at the question of the bacon grease itself.
Bacon is a preserved meat, so it’s intrinsically less susceptible to spoilage than fresh pork. And bacon grease is a saturated fat which is stable, i.e., it doesn’t break down and turn rancid at room temperature. Remember, traditionally food was preserved by covering with a layer of solid fat to keep air out of it. Of course, this doesn’t apply in hot climates or weather warm enough to melt the fat.
What will cause fat to go rancid is light and/or air, and bits of food in the fat. Keeping it covered in a dark location, or in a dark container, eliminates the light problem and keeps out air. Straining it eliminates the particles of food which could grow bacteria. I recommend straining your bacon grease into a canning jar with a lid and keeping it in the refrigerator. Note that you should allow the bacon grease to cool a little before pouring into glass. Even though it’s tempered, a sudden change in temperature can cause the jar to crack.
If your husband wants to devote a coffee cup to the task, that will work too; just keep it well sealed. The advantage of using a canning jar is that they have standard-sized lids. And if you want to spend the money for a container made just for this purpose alone, Chefs Catalog has two grease keepers: a large stainless steel one available in either a 4- or 6-cup size, and a smaller stoneware one available in black or white. Both come with strainers.