One of my most prized possessions is the grease crock I inherited from my grandmother. Whenever she made bacon — which was basically every morning ever — she would remove the strips of fried cured pork, then unceremoniously dump the rendered fat into the crock, along with all the little burnt meaty bits. The crock lived right next to the stove, and she would scoop from it, never measuring, whenever she needed “a little grease.”
This system worked perfectly well for her — her food was always delicious and never made anyone ill — but it was not a model of proper food safety. Not only does keeping fat near a heat source increase the risk of rancidity, but little meaty bits can also promote microbial growth, shortening the lifespan of your precious grease. Luckily, storing and collecting bacon grease is not hard, you just need to take a couple of (very easy) extra steps.
Video: There is only one correct way to “dispose” of bacon grease, and that is by consuming it. While it is a fantastic frying oil — especially for eggs and bread — it also makes a superb mayonnaise, a rich and salty compound butter, and a truly transcendent salad dressing.
If you’re going to be using the grease right away — like frying an egg in it, for example — there’s no need to strain, just add your food to the hot grease and let it work its delicious, salty magic. (Oh, and if you want to maximise your rendered fat yield, and the crispiness of your bacon, start with a cold pan.) But if you want to save it for a later project, you’ll have to remove the solids. First, pick the right vessel. Pouring hot grease into plastic is a bad idea, but a re-purposed glass jar—I like the Clausen pickle jar—or metal or ceramic container will work well.
Next, grab a funnel (canning funnels are my favourite for this), a fine mesh sieve, and a coffee filter. Set the funnel down in the jar, the sieve in the funnel, and line the sieve with the filter. Wait for your grease to cool a bit—this will decrease the danger of it spattering and burning you—the carefully pour the grease through the filter and into the jar. Discard the solids, let the grease come to room temperature, then store it in the fridge, where it will keep almost indefinitely with the solids removed. (If you are worried about rancidity, give it a sniff; it may smell bitter, soapy, or metallic, though I have always thought rancid oil smells like crayons.) If you want to be super safe, you can store it in the freezer—you can even portion it out with an ice cube tray so you don’t have to chip off a hunk of grease from a larger, frozen blob.
As far as cooking goes, you may find it becomes your favourite culinary fat. It’s a fantastic option for shallow frying (greetings, really dank french fries), as well as roasting (hello, the best carrots you’ve ever had), but don’t rule out heat free options, like bacon butter, bacon mayo, or even a bacon vinaigrette. One thing to keep in mind when working with it: go easy on the added salt. The best thing about bacon grease is the smoky, savoury flavour that it adds, and there’s no reason to guild the lily with even more sodium chloride.