In the spirit of the saying, "You can eat just about everything but the squeal," which celebrates the pig's culinary contributions, you can say rendered bacon fat makes just about everything better. Like lard, bacon fat has a high smoking point, well above the temperature needed to make French fries, or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you have a hard time holding bacon fat at 350 F long enough to make crispy fries because of tiny, floating particles of bacon solids, which smoke before 350 F. You work around this by oven-blanching the fries at a low temperature then finishing them at a high temperature.
Things You'll Need
- Vegetable oil
- Heavy-bottomed pan (optional)
- Rendered bacon fat or bacon strips
- Slotted spoon (optional)
- Rimmed baking sheet
- Parchment paper or foil
- Brown paper bags or degreasing paper
Heat just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pan and place it on the stove over medium-low heat if you don't have rendered bacon fat.
Cut bacon strips crosswise into 1-inch pieces and place them in the pan. Cook the bacon until it browns and crisps and the fat renders out, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 12 minutes. You need about 1/2 cup of bacon fat for each pound of French fries.
Strain the bacon over the pan in a slotted spoon and reserve the bacon pieces for another use. Turn the heat off on the stove when finished.
Line a sieve with two layers of cheesecloth and place it over a saucepan. Scrape the bacon fat from the pan and into the sieve. Press the bacon fat through with a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon. Even if you have bacon fat already rendered, heat it and strain it through the cheesecloth. The cheesecloth traps the tiny bacon solids, the main cause of smoking.
Rinse the French fries if you cut them yourself. You want to remove as much residual starch as you can. You don't have to rinse packaged frozen fries, since they're already blanched.
Place the French fries on a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels and pat them dry. Place the French fries in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes. Chilling the French fries before oven-blanching them prevents the outside from getting dark too quickly.
Heat the oven to 300 F while the fries chill in the fridge. Heat the bacon fat over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Take the fries out of the fridge and place them in the saucepan of bacon fat. Stir the fries in the fat to coat them heavily on all sides.
Take the fries out of the saucepan with tongs and lay them in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Let some of the bacon fat drip back in the saucepan.
Place the pan of fries in the oven and bake them until they soften and develop a blonde color. Oven-blanching the fries helps them get crispy without getting too dark on the outside when you finish them later. Remove the fries from the oven and place them on a pan or a few plates lined with brown paper bags or degreasing paper.
Gently blot the fries with paper towels. Turn the oven up to 450 F and let the fries cool to room temperature.
Place the fries in the bottom of a shallow baking dish in an even layer. Pour the rest of the bacon fat into the dish and coat them on all sides. You should have about 1/4 inch of standing bacon fat in the bottom of the dish. If you're a little short on bacon fat, add a bit of vegetable oil to make up for it. Place the fries in the oven.
Oven-fry the fries until golden brown and crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir the fries and turn them over halfway through cooking so they cook evenly.
Remove the fries from the oven and place them on degreasing paper, paper towels or brown paper bags to drain. Blot the fries while still hot to lift the residual fat.
Tips & Warnings
- If you're using packaged frozen French fries, you can skip oven-blanching them. Coat them heavily in bacon fat and bake them for about 20 minutes. Stir the fries halfway through and add more bacon fat if you see the pan drying up.
- If you cut your own fries, use a starchy potato, such as russets.
- Stir the bacon as little as possible during rendering to limit the amount of solids that get in the fat.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images