The average American eats bacon 18 times per year, according to the National Pork Board. Most of that bacon comes in thin fat-rich slices. Rendering bacon involves slowly heating the meat until the fat melts away. This leaves you with lean, crispy and salty bacon bits and a smoky, fatty deposit. This fat is called "rendered bacon," or more commonly known as lard.
Rendering It Useful
Thick bacon slices or slab bacon cut up into small cubes work best for rendering. Thin slices tend to crisp up too fast and burn. The idea is to expose as much fat as possible to a low heat. Use a heavy pan. Cover the surface with bacon cubes without overloading it. Keep cooking the bacon bits until all of the fat is gone from the meat. If you smell burning, or hear too many crackles, turn the heat down.
Fry Off the Fat
When the bacon has finished rendering, you should have small, crispy bits of bacon about half the size of the original pieces. As well as the bacon bits, you'll have a lot of liquefied bacon fat. Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon. Pour the fat into a bowl or heat-resistant jar to cool -- this is your rendered bacon. When cool, the fat will congeal to create a white, jelly-like mass.
Cooking With Fat
Rendered bacon fat, while high in cholesterol, is also rich in flavor. This makes it a useful kitchen ingredient for frying, braising or otherwise adding to savory dishes. For example, frying eggs and mushrooms in a little rendered bacon gives them a delicious smoky tang. Use a spoonful of rendered bacon to add salty flavor to aioli, or as an alternative to vegetable oil for pan-popped savory popcorn.
Using the Bacon Bits
Rendered bacon chunks are deliciously salty, smoky and crunchy little morsels. They enhance all kinds of dishes, from pasta carbonara and braised red cabbage, to meaty barbecued beans and baked savory bread. Unlike larger slices or fatty pieces of bacon, rendered bacon bits can just be thrown in to a dish whenever you need them. If you keep them refrigerated, they even make a great salad topping.
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