I was frying up some bacon today to make a lovely bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and figured I would show y’all my preferred method of bacon making. Ha! Bacon making is funny to say. Anywho…
You might prefer to nuke yours in the microwave. I, however, do not own a microwave. I did, but not anymore; and really frying up bacon always tasted better to me than the microwaved version. So, let’s talk about the love of bacon, as well as bacon grease and the wonderfully lovely things you can use it for!
You’ll need a some bacon, which kind of goes without saying. We always end up with whatever bacon was on super sale at the grocery store. This time we were lucky in getting thick-cut. Thick cut takes longer to cook than a thinner cut.
You’ll also need a rough looking baking tray, tongs and/or a metal spatula, and either a plate or another baking tray double lined with paper towels. This baking tray is a no go for cookies, unless I suppose you were lining it with silicon baking mat; however it’s perfect for oven frying some bacon. It’s also good to cut up watermelon on, as this tray also gets used for that purpose by my dad.
Depending upon how done you like your bacon will depend on which tool you will need for getting the bacon off of the tray. My mom and sister like very crisp bacon, which needs a small shove with a metal spatula to loosen from the tray. My dad and I like ours less crisp, so a pair of tongs is just fine.
You can skillet fry bacon, preferably in a cast iron skillet, but this sputters and splatters a lot, and isn’t nearly as effortless to cook, so I’d suggest going the oven frying route if you’re into eating bacon. This method was actually shown to us by a non-immediate relative, because my family always skillet fried or microwaved. So, kudos to said family member, yeah?
If you’re frying a lot of bacon, you’ll want to lay them along the width of the tray, that way you can fit 8 – 10 pieces on the tray. For a smaller batch, I like to arrange my few pieces along the length (as shown). There also isn’t really an exact science to this method. You’ll want to set the oven temperature between 400 and 430 degrees; whichever you prefer. Also, you’ll take into consideration the cut of the bacon, as well as the amount of pieces that you have on the tray. These three, thick-cut pieces, cooked for about 8 minutes, to a limp, but cooked doneness, at a temperature of 430 degrees.
Unlike skillet frying, where you have to constantly stand over the bacon and watch it, possibly flipping and adjusting the heat; oven frying frees you to do other things. You only need to peak in the oven to see if it’s to your liking. So, while these were cooking, I could have been straightening up the kitchen, or washing some dishes, or preparing another dish. I, however, was in the next room, looking up recipes in my binder.
You’ll also not want to over cook the bacon. If it looks perfect in the oven, then it’s overdone by the time it’s cooled. It continues to cook slightly once out of the oven, so it’s best to pull it out just before it looks perfect. The difference from the above cooked photo on the tray and the pieces on the paper towels aren’t a trick of my mobiles camera or lightening. They did continue cooking, slightly, due to heat retention in the meat, to be perfect once transfered from the tray to the paper towels.
So, you’ll just transfer the pieces to the paper towels and place a double layer of paper towels on top and slightly press to help get all the excess grease out of the pieces. And voila you’re done! As I said, these pieces went into a bacon, egg (fried), and cheese sandwich on toasted bread. But, we’re really big into bacon around this house, so it could have been used in BLT’s, or one of my favourites Pasta with bacon and pesto, among many, many, many other things.
If you’re a southerner, chances are you’re already saving your bacon grease. If you’re not a southerner, you might think this is weird or disgusting. It would be, if we just scooped the cold and tallowy grease out of this jar with a spoon for a mid-day snack or something. But, that’s not what we’re doing. We’re cooking with it, and cooking with bacon grease is some really good eating.
We put a slab or two into a cast iron skillet, stick that in the oven to melt, and then pour our cornbread mix on top of that and then bake it all. You get this dark, gorgeous crust on the cornbread and it tastes absolutely divine. We stick some in with green beans; we sometimes fry our cornmeal breaded okra in it; we use a bit of it, instead of butter or oil, to fry or scramble eggs in; we use it in our greens – mustard and collard, respectively.
It is the pure basis of soul food at its finest. If you’re not using bacon grease, then you’re using fat back or salt pork – or all three! It’s why southern food tastes so amazingly good. It’s the love we put into the dishes, but it’s also the pork fat, because pig makes things taste phenomenal!
Saving the grease is easy. You just need a clean jar or cannister with an air tight lid. Some people prefer “clean” bacon grease, while others have no problem having cooked bits of bacon in with it. My dad hates the extras, I love them. Don’t use them if you have burnt the bacon though.
If you don’t want the bits, just use the spatula to move them to the opposite end of the tray from where you’ll be running the grease off into the container. If you want them, just use the spatula to scoot them down to that section. Then just tip one corner of the baking tray (as shown) and let the grease go into the jar; using the spatula to scoot any stray grease or bits towards that area and into the jar. You can absolutely layer bacon grease, as I did today, adding the new grease onto the old.
You’ll want to partly cover the container with the lid and wait until it’s cooled to completely seal it. We put our jar into the refrigerator. I know of some northern Mississippians who keep their bacon grease on the counter, all the time. This far south where I’m sitting it is inadvisable to do this. In our experience that bacon grease will mold and go bad in a week or two (depending on if we’re in the middle of summer or if it’s spring). To err on the safe side, I’d just suggest putting it in the fridge. It will last, well, years, I know, but we generally use it all up before two years is up.
We use a pint canning jar (16 oz) size. You might wish for a larger or smaller sized container. If you run into the problem where you are making more bacon than you have room for in that canning jar, you don’t have to keep the extra. Just pour it into a coffee can or mayonnaise jar with other greases you don’t want to keep (hamburger meat grease, etc) and put it into your garbage can outside when it’s full. You never want to just pour a bunch of oil or grease down your sink or into your garbage uncontained. If you have a trash compactor, you also don’t want to compact that can of grease refuse.
On an added note, I need to explain soul food for people that might not know. A lot of southern people make soul food, or make cornbread or use bacon grease. Even that Paula Dean lady was pretty popular for a time (is she still?) It seems to be that the face of soul food is a white woman, or at least, it is when I look around and that’s odd to me.
Soul food is a wonderful thing born out of something atrocious. We have soul food only because of slavery. We abduct these people and force them over here and then give them scraps and random bits of things that we as primarily British people, descendants of, or white people in general deemed as things far beneath us. The enslaved peoples cobbled all of this random food together and used cooking methods from their home countries in order to make the inedible, edible.
The enslaved making do with what was given them created Soul Food. Cornmeal, bacon grease, random bits of pig, collard and mustard greens, field peas, etc. They used their home country know-how to make it fit for human consumption and to taste good. The reason we have Gumbo? The enslaved people. There’s even things that I won’t touch like weird bits of animals like tripe and chitterlings (pronounced chitlins) and gar fish, and it’s Soul Food because that’s what the enslaved had and made it taste good and it just continued. There’s also pickled pigs (insert your part) lips, feet, and knuckles; tongue, necks, and innards.
I say I won’t touch it, and it doesn’t matter who makes it. The French have all sorts of weird pig parts, cows legs, calves brains, tripe, innards, etc. and I won’t touch that either. Nor their pâté, but that’s just me. My dad and my grandpa loved a lot of the lesser known, to non-southerners, Soul Food.
The point is that one should know how this food even came to be. Many a white southerner forgets where they’re beloved granny’s cookin’ originally came from and neglect to remember that Africa met with strife to give you that recipe. Without their knowledge and ingenuity in a terrible situation you’d still be eating flavourless food. Try some Colonial food sometime, and I mean not fancied up for modern times Colonial Food, and that would have been your granny’s cherished recipe instead. Trust me, I’ve made some Colonial fare. It was very bland generally speaking. Very, very, very bland.
If you’re wondering how Soul Food merged and encompassed all of the south, it’s because of two factors, which were basically: The white people who owned enslaved Africans in the south would allow them to make their food for the household. Generally speaking, as not all slave owners in the south allowed this. White people in the north for the most part didn’t allow this sort of food interchange. Secondly, pretty much everyone in the south was starving after the Civil War and the enslaved already knew how to make something from nothing, where a lot of the white people; whether once wealthy or not, didn’t have this knowledge, so food ways were shared.
I’m just saying. Honour and remembering should coincide with you making your fried chicken southern style or your pot liquor and peas. It’s black people food for a reason and this unsavoury purpose they were thrown into. Would Cultural Appropriation apply to this topic? Black people coming up with food and white people taking it and running with it; neglecting to mention who came up with the food in the first place, or why? I think so. Don’t be that person.
You don’t have to scream its origins from the roof top, just know the origins and don’t conveniently forget it, right? Right. Now, get to saving some of that bacon grease because recipes utilizing it will most certainly appear in this blog in the near future.