How (And Why) Do You Render Bacon?

If you're perusing Food Republic, surely you've heard the term "rendered bacon." Render means "cook the fat out of." The bacon is a great thing to add to a world of recipes, and the rendered fat is a great thing for frying. Ever fried an egg in bacon fat? It's breathtaking (and just not because of the cholesterol).

Rendering bacon is different from cooking bacon slices to be served with breakfast. The goal is to expose as much of the surface area as you can to get more fat out using lower heat, which prevents the bacon or fat from cooking too quickly and burning. A slow, low render will give you lean, smoky, salty bacon pieces, while cooking too quickly may result in remaining gristly pieces of fat.

Chop your bacon — slab if possible, but chopped thick-sliced bacon works too — into small dice, then fry slowly over medium-low heat in a heavy skillet (cast-iron is always best for bacon), shaking occasionally to keep the pieces from sticking. The bacon is done when it's golden-brown and has shrunk about 50% in size and the pan has a nice thick layer of grease in it. Then remove the pieces using a slotted spoon and drain on a layer of paper towels until you're ready to use it.

Why not render and use whole pieces? You could cook whole pieces and crumble them, but they're much tastier in small, uniform chunks and break down more thoroughly than large pieces of cooked bacon (which won't break down very much at all). The goal is to make the bacon part of your dish without any of it starring front and center — the smaller it is to begin with, the further it will break down. Try these recipes that need your render loving care:

  • Cider-Brined Pork Chops with Maple-Bacon Chutney
  • Bacon Taquitos
  • Collard Greens with Ham and Bacon
  • Beer, Bacon and Cheddar Bread
  • The Ultimate Onion Tart
  • Bark's Baked Beans
  • You'll be adding rendered bacon bits to everything. Ice cream? Go for it. Stamp of approval, right here.

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