Q: I have a pan full of bacon fat. Is it okay to just wash it down the drain with a bit of soap?
A: Unless you like having the plumber as a frequent guest, you should never flush bacon grease down the sink. For one thing, whatever you drain down your sink eventually ends up in the groundwater. So you have to be careful not to literally poison the well.
But melted bacon fat doesn’t stay in its liquid form; it hardens again. So essentially you’re coating your pipes with a solid grease that over time will turn into a gnarly sink clog. There are many ways to dispose of bacon grease safely, or even save it for future use. Of all of them, throwing fat down the drain is the worst possible choice.
In this guide, we advise you on how to get rid of bacon grease, how to store bacon grease, what to do with bacon grease, and how long you can store bacon grease for cooking all kinds of savory foods.
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1. Save bacon grease for future cooking.
If you’ve never had eggs fried in bacon grease, you’ve missed the ultimate breakfast treat. In effect, bacon fat is like any other type of fat used for cooking. It coats a casserole, flavors like a spread or topping, and adds mouthfeel to proteins, vegetables, and carbs. Use it for everything from frying catfish to roasting Brussels sprouts to starting your sauce. You can even throw your popcorn in it or bake it into your cornbread.
It’s easy to save bacon grease for future use at home. Each time you cook bacon, allow the fat to cool a bit. While it’s still hot and runny, strain it through fine wire mesh, cheesecloth, or a coffee filter into a wide-mouthed, heat-resistant container, such as a mason jar. Those with tight fitting lids work best.
The finer the strainer, the less solids will pass through. This is important to know because bacon grease spoils and filtering out the solids prevents it from going rancid. However, some cooks prefer to keep the bits moist, and that’s fine, too. Unfiltered bacon fat lasts about 3 months in the fridge or freezer. A batch of properly strained bacon fat lasts 12 months or more.
However, if you occasionally add bacon grease to your stock, it will destabilize it. Change containers and date it each time you add more so you know how long it has been around.
2. Cool the fat in the pan and scrape it into the trash.
If you haven’t made a lot of bacon and there’s only a little grease left, you can just soak it with a paper towel and throw it in the trash. If you fried a lot of bacon, pour cooled liquid fat into a designated bacon fat container, such as a take-out container, and discard.
Another option: let the bacon grease harden in the pan, then scrape it into the trash. Remember that the pan can’t be washed in the sink until you’ve gotten rid of the grease, so give it a quick wipe down with a paper towel after you’ve scraped off most of the grease.
Bacon grease should also not be composted. Your home compost pile does not get hot enough to break down these types of fats.
3. Cook bacon on a baking pan lined with parchment paper to easily remove grease.
For healthier bacon and easier disposal, cook it on a broiler pan. Line the pan under the grill with parchment paper to catch the grease. Let the grease solidify before discarding the paper.
You can also line the pan with a silicone liner for the same purpose. In this case, scrape the solidified fat into the trash before washing the liner and pan in the sink. This way you won’t damage your pipes.
If you’re not concerned about the health effects of fat, you don’t have to worry about the grill top. Simply line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and cook the bacon directly on it. This not only saves time, but also prevents your arms from getting hit by grease splatters on the stove.
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4. Solidify the grease with a special product before discarding it.
If you have a place to go or don’t want to wait for the bacon grease to cool, store the pan in the fridge or freezer. The fat will freeze faster. You can also use specialty products, such as Organic Plant-Based Hard Oil or FryAway.
Both of these powders are meant to be used while the oil is still hot and aim to turn the melted bacon fat into a solid mass. However, you will still need to scrape the pan. These products may be more useful for processing larger amounts of oil, such as when frying French fries or chicken.