Food & Drink

Seven Ways to Cook with Bacon Grease

Don’t let what’s left in the skillet go to waste. Here, top Southern chefs give ideas for one of their favorite secret ingredients

Photo: Jacqueline Stofsick

Stir it into sauce

I like to use bacon fat as a base in many of my homemade tomato sauces. The bacon fat works with the natural sugars to practically caramelize the tomatoes, and it adds a deeper smoky, almost creamy, flavor. When you throw in some fresh herbs, you have a perfectly balanced dish.”

Jamie DeMent, author of The Farmhouse Chef
Hillsborough, North Carolina

Bake it into bread

“We use bacon fat in our bacon fat focaccia bread. It’s all natural and seasoned with smoke. It’s the liquid gold of cooking.”

Nathan Richard, chef, Cavan
New Orleans, Louisiana


“I use bacon fat in a popcorn bread that we make at Succotash. We grind popcorn until it resembles cornmeal then bake a bread with that. We use the bacon as a fat but also to give it a nice smoky flavor.”

Edward Lee, culinary director, Succotash, and chef/owner 610 Magnolia
Washington, DC; Louisville, Kentucky

Trade it for oil in mayonnaise

“I unabashedly love mayonnaise. Maybe it is my Southern roots, but it is so versatile and delicious on meats, vegetables, and seafood of all types. I especially enjoy making it from scratch with a little bacon fat as my secret ingredient. Substitute about a quarter of your olive oil or other emulsified fat with warmed bacon fat and add a completely new dimension to your mayonnaise. Aromas of smoke swirl together with flavors of fresh garlic, tart lemon, and sea salt.”

Aaron Deal, Executive Chef, The River and Rail
Roanoke, Virginia

Pair it with potatoes

I love to use Benton’s bacon fat to cook with because it’s so smoky and packs a punch. One of my favorites uses is to cook fresh new potatoes sous vide with bacon fat, chives, sour cream, and cheddar powder. Slow cooking the potatoes allows all the flavors to really intensify. Then, we pan fry the potatoes in bacon fat to finish and cover them with chives and crumbled bacon. Best served with a sour cream and cheddar sauce—they’re loaded “baked” potatoes on steroids.”

Travis Grimes, Executive Chef, Husk Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina


We like to take bacon fat, smoke it, and emulsify it with blue cheese to use as a coating on a baked potato, which we serve alongside grilled tomatoes. The bacon fat gives the potato a big, rich flavor which pairs perfectly against the freshness of the tomato.”

John May, Executive Chef, Piedmont
Durham, North Carolina

Use it as a finish

“I always sneak in a little bacon fat when finishing any sort of beans. Not while cooking, but when getting them ready for the plate. I also love a touch of bacon fat when cooking rice—it’s subtle, but really nice. A spoonful of bacon fat also goes a long way in soups. Even a fresh tomato soup or roasted butternut squash soup with a spoon of bacon fat blended in makes for great results.”

Erik Niel, Chef, Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats
Chattanooga, Tennessee