Bacon Grease Is Your Secret Weapon To Revive Leftover Fried Rice

Fried rice is an irresistible takeout option and one of the best ways to reinvent leftovers for a quick, delicious meal. But, there are proper ways to warm up the dish to enjoy it in its original glory. 

You'll probably want to avoid the microwave, for example; since fried rice is typically made with day-old rice in the first place, reheating the grains again in the appliance can actually turn them mushy. Instead, use a wok and some bacon grease as your secret weapon. Made from rendered bacon fat, the cooking grease can replace butter or oil in recipes that benefit from a layer of umami flavor — like fried rice.

A wok is also a great go-to. Fried rice is traditionally made in the large pan, so reheating it in the same method enables you to develop the same crispy texture of the grains. If you don't have a wok, an oversized stainless steel or cast iron skillet that will enable the rice to move around as it cooks also works well.

To reheat leftover fried rice in this way, heat the wok or pan and add a tablespoon of bacon grease. Allow the solid fat to melt and, once hot, add the leftovers. Spread the rice in a single layer to maximize contact with the bacon grease-covered surface. As you hear the rice sizzling, use a spatula to redistribute the contents so each grain gets the same careful treatment that will make it taste like a freshly-made batch.

How to make bacon fat

Bacon grease or "liquid gold" can add a smoky, salty flavor to leftover fried rice and other dishes. And, while you can purchase it at the store, it's easy enough to make at home. The rendered fat is the byproduct of slowly cooking bacon over low to medium heat and saving the leftover grease from the skillet or baking sheet (if you cooked the bacon in the oven).

To safely store this flavorful fat, strain it through a fine mesh sieve or coffee filter while it's still warm and in a liquid state. Once the crunchy bacon bits are removed, pour the grease into a resealable glass container — mason and recycled baby food jars work well. For long-term storage, it's essential to remove any solids to prevent the fat from going rancid.

Despite past generations that may have kept a refillable jar of bacon or chicken fat near the stove, it's best to store it in the refrigerator (it can also last up to three months or longer in the freezer). Each time you make bacon, strain the rendered fat and add it to the dedicated jar. Since the fat is intensely flavored, only a little is needed to add a smokey element to dishes. Aside from using it in baking and sauteeing, the grease is also suitable for seasoning cast iron cookware surfaces. 

Tips for making homemade fried rice

Making homemade fried rice yourself is also easy and is a great way to stretch bits of leftover meat and veggies that can't make a meal alone. Although any leftover rice will do in a pinch, there are some that are better than others. Rather than using glutinous, sticky rice that holds its shape when pressed, long-grain varieties like basmati and jasmine that cook up fluffy and firm are ideal for fried rice.

Since rice absorbs moisture, it's essential to start with dried-out grains — this avoids the added soy sauce or tamari from making the dish mushy. Leftover pints of take-out white rice are great, but, in a pinch, same-day rice can be used if it's dried out on a sheet pan in the refrigerator for a few hours. Although most recipes call for 1-½ cups of water for every cup of rice, using less liquid will also produce a firmer grain that is better for fried rice, especially if making the dish with same-day grains.

The dish comes together quickly, so it's best to pre-cook all the components, but fresh ingredients can be sauteed for a firmer bite, like in this Chinese sausage and broccolini fried rice recipe. You can also use bacon grease to make fried rice the first time around. Add some to scramble eggs for the dish, then add more to saute aromatics like shallot, garlic, and ginger. If you like the sweet/salty combo, you may want to also add diced pineapple and cooked bacon to finish the dish.