Bacon grease is a delicious cooking fat that can add tons of flavor to various dishes. But like any animal fat, bacon grease has a limited shelf life, especially when left out at room temperature. Knowing how long bacon fat will last unrefrigerated is crucial to avoid consuming rancid grease that can cause unpleasant effects.
In this article, I’ll provide a comprehensive overview of how long homemade bacon grease can be safely kept unrefrigerated before it goes bad. We’ll look at the shelf life of bacon fat at room temperature, signs of spoiled bacon grease, and proper storage methods to extend its shelf life.
An Introduction to Bacon Grease
Bacon grease refers to the rendered pork fat that is produced when cooking bacon. As the bacon cooks, the fat melts off and accumulates in the pan. This liquid gold can then be strained and saved for future use.
Homemade bacon fat imparts a smoky, salty, umami flavor to various savory dishes. From sautéed vegetables to baked goods, bacon grease enhances flavor in amazing ways. Some popular uses for bacon grease include:
- Sautéing greens like spinach, kale, or collard greens
- Frying eggs
- Roasting potatoes
- Adding richness to soups and stews
- Making popcorn
- Flavoring cornbread
- Cooking beans or lentils
- Sautéing brussels sprouts
- Adding depth to chili
- Making gravy
Bacon grease can also be used for high-temperature cooking thanks to its high smoke point of around 375°F. This makes it suitable for searing meats or stir frying.
Overall, saving and reusing bacon fat is a great way to get the most out of a package of bacon. But proper storage is crucial.
How Long Does Bacon Grease Last at Room Temperature?
When left out at room temperature without refrigeration, bacon grease will only stay fresh for about 8 hours. After that point, the shelf life significantly decreases.
This short timeframe is due to bacon fat being very perishable. It consists mostly of polyunsaturated fats that are prone to quick rancidification when exposed to heat, air, and light.
Leaving bacon grease out overnight is not recommended, as it provides the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Consuming rancid bacon fat that has sat unrefrigerated for over 8 hours can cause foodborne illnesses.
Some signs that your bacon grease has gone bad when left out include:
- Sour, rancid smell – Fresh bacon fat has a mild aroma. A sour, unpleasant odor indicates spoilage.
- Change in color – Good bacon grease is white or pale yellow. If it turns dark yellow or orange, it has oxidized.
- Mold growth – Bacon fat sitting out may develop mold on the surface, a clear sign it has spoiled.
- Smoking or bubbling – Bacon grease can smoke or bubble when heated to extreme temperatures. This suggests that the fats have broken down.
If you notice any of these characteristics in grease that has been unrefrigerated for over 8 hours, it’s best to discard it. The changed odor, appearance, and texture mean it is no longer good for consumption.
Maximizing Shelf Life Through Proper Storage
To extend the shelf life of your rendered bacon fat, proper storage methods are key. Here are some tips:
After cooking bacon and draining off the grease, let it cool slightly so it’s warm but not scalding hot. Then pour the liquid fat into an airtight container. Allow to cool to room temperature, then promptly refrigerate.
Storing bacon grease in the fridge will extend its shelf life to 1-3 months. The cool temperature prevents bacteria growth and slows oxidation.
Use Air-Tight Containers
Choose a container with a tight sealing lid like a mason jar. This prevents air exposure which causes bacon grease to oxidize faster. Glass also helps block light.
Make sure to ladle out bacon fat with clean utensils each use, and wipe the rim clean before replacing the lid. This stops food particles which can introduce bacteria.
Freeze For Long-Term Storage
Freezing is the best method for long-term storage of bacon grease. It can keep in the freezer for up to 1 year without going bad.
First, pour the grease into freezer-safe containers leaving 1⁄2 inch of headspace. Mason jars or plastic containers work well. Next, cool it completely then store in the freezer.
Thaw frozen bacon fat overnight in the fridge before using. Avoid microwaving it.
Store in Small Portions
Consider freezing bacon grease in ice cube trays for easy use. Once solid, pop them out and store the cubes in a freezer bag.
This allows you to thaw just what you need for a recipe. It also avoids repeatedly reheating and cooling down the same large container, which degrades quality over time.
Safely Using Bacon Grease For Cooking
Bacon grease is delicious for cooking, but only when it’s fresh. Follow these tips for safely enjoying homemade bacon fat:
- Never use bacon grease that is more than 8 hours old if it has been left out unrefrigerated. The risk of foodborne illness is too high.
- Inspect the color and smell before using grease that has been stored. Discard if it smells bad or looks darker than normal.
- Always use clean utensils to remove bacon fat from the container to prevent introducing bacteria. Never put a dirty spoon back in.
- Heat it gently over low heat. Avoid overheating bacon grease as it can quickly go from melted to smoking, indicating the fats are breaking down.
- Don’t cook it for extended periods. The longer grease is heated, the more it will degrade. Use for quick sautés or stir-fries instead.
- Never reuse bacon fat more than 4 times. The flavor and quality deteriorate with repeated reheatings.
Following these tips along with proper refrigeration allows you to harness the flavor of bacon grease safely.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have some questions about the shelf life of unrefrigerated bacon grease? Here are answers to some common queries:
How long does bacon grease last at room temperature in a sealed container?
Even in an airtight container, bacon grease left out at room temperature should not be kept more than 2 hours before refrigerating. The sealed container slows oxidation but does not prevent bacteria growth.
Can you leave bacon grease out overnight?
It is not recommended to leave bacon grease out on the counter overnight. Even in a covered container, it can still spoil and become rancid due to prolonged heat exposure. For food safety, always refrigerate it within 2 hours.
What happens if you eat rancid bacon grease?
Consuming rancid bacon fat can cause unpleasant symptoms like nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, it may even cause food poisoning. Rancid bacon grease often contains dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria.
How can you tell if bacon grease has gone bad?
Signs that bacon fat has spoiled include a change in appearance to a darker, duller color, a thick texture, smoke or bubbling when heated, and a pronounced sour or rancid smell. If in doubt, it’s best to discard old grease and make a fresh batch.
Should I cook with bacon grease I found in my cabinet?
Bacon grease stored in a kitchen cabinet should never be used for cooking. Without refrigeration, it would not have lasted more than 2 hours before spoiling. The health risks of old, unrefrigerated bacon fat are too dangerous.
Bacon grease is an invaluable cooking ingredient that takes dishes to the next level with its smoky, salty flavor. However, this animal fat is highly perishable and has a short shelf life at room temperature. Knowing how long bacon grease lasts unrefrigerated helps prevent accidentally using rancid grease in recipes.
The bottom line is that bacon fat should never be left out for more than 2 hours before refrigerating. After 8 hours unrefrigerated, bacon grease is unsafe to consume. Always store homemade grease in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer.
With proper storage methods, you can safely harness the flavor power of bacon grease for months. Just be diligent about keeping it chilled, and inspect for any signs of spoilage before cooking. Following these tips will help avoid the health risks of rancid bacon grease.