Got Leftover Bacon Grease? Make Southern-Style Biscuits

In general, Americans tend to have a fondness for bacon, but the adoration for the cured pork is particularly strong in the South, where you're likely to find a jar in the fridge holding the greasy remnants of the last pan-fry. Home cooks who hang onto bacon fat may use it later to grease a pan or add flavor to vegetables. But you can also put that leftover liquid gold to good use by marrying it with another favorite in the South — biscuits.

Biscuits and bacon have always been a quality pairing, whether in the form of a simple breakfast sandwich or nestled on a plate with some scrambled eggs. But this way, you can incorporate bacon's smoky flavor directly into your biscuit dough. Just take a simple buttermilk biscuit recipe, and transform it by replacing the butter with bacon grease.

Adding bacon grease to biscuits may sound like an exercise in decadence, but there's science to back up the substitution. Bacon grease is nearly 100% fat, while butter can be up to 20% water. That water contributes to the formation of gluten as it combines with the flour. In contrast, the fattiness of the grease can help reduce the amount of gluten that forms, creating a biscuit that's far more tender. That said, a butter-less biscuit dough may not rise as much or become as brown, but you can easily troubleshoot by adding a bit more baking powder, or brushing butter on the tops before baking.

Tips for storing and using bacon grease

While it sounds appealing to fry up a batch of bacon and turn straight to making biscuits, that strategy won't work. If you've made biscuits before, you know it's essential to use cold butter when you mix up your dough, and the same rule applies here. So, you'll want to think ahead and ensure the leftover bacon grease is stored properly until you need it.

When storing the grease, avoid simply dumping it into a jar. Instead, filter it first to remove any charred bits of meat that will not only interfere with the appearance of your biscuits, but can also cause the stored fat to spoil more quickly. To filter the grease, let it cool slightly so it's safe to handle. Meanwhile, find an airtight glass container and stretch a cheesecloth or coffee filter over the opened top. Then, transfer the grease to the container by pouring it through the filter. Seal the container and store it in the refrigerator for up to three months, or keep it in the freezer and allow it to thaw overnight before using.

Once you're ready to make the biscuits, simply use the bacon grease straight from the refrigerator, just as you would butter. But if you want even more bacon flavor, consider warming it slightly before using a pastry brush to apply it to the tops of the biscuits just before baking.

Other ways to use leftover bacon grease

Once that jar of delicious bacon-y goodness is in your fridge, its siren call to be used may be hard to resist. Fortunately, you don't have to reserve it just for baking your next batch of biscuits — there are tons of ways to put it to work.

Just as you can substitute bacon grease for butter in biscuits, you can do so in other savory recipes, like homemade tortillas or cornbread. You can also create a smoky version of grilled cheese by swapping out the butter for bacon fat. And if sweet-meets-savory treats are what you're craving, you can use it in cookies or pie crusts.

Leftover bacon fat is also a flavorful substitute for cooking oils. Infuse bacon flavor into eggs, veggies, meats, or anything else you might cook on the stovetop. Or, let the grease replace oil when making homemade mayonnaise. You can also create more complex flavor profiles by adding it to sauces, soups, and stews, or mixing it with vinegar to make salad dressing. And if your snacks need a bacon-infused boost, try using it to make popcorn, or even ice cream.

Finally, why not wash down all your new bacon-flavored creations with a unique whiskey cocktail, like a bacon old fashioned or Manhattan? Or use the grease for fat-washing any other liquor like tequila, vodka, or gin, to give your favorite drink a bacon-style upgrade.