This Grandma Trick Is the Key to the Best Vinaigrette

updated Sep 10, 2021
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In my grandmother’s kitchen, a can near the stove for collecting rendered bacon fat was a common sight. Then came the fat-phobic era of the early 1990s, and the ritual of reserving bacon’s smoky grease fell out of favor (or at least it did in my home).

In the decades since, I’ve realized that saving bacon grease is one of the thriftiest ways to add salt, smoke, and savory umami flavor to food. It’s no wonder my grandmother strained and saved every drop. You can add the golden grease to johnny cakes and cornbread and even pop popcorn in it, but one of my favorite ways to use bacon fat involves salads. Once you whisk bacon grease into a vinaigrette, you may never go back to your old oil-and-vinegar combo.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Turn Bacon Grease into a Vinaigrette

Start by cooking a skillet full of bacon and removing the cooked bacon from the pan. Wait for the fat to cool slightly, then strain the bacon grease into a heatproof container — metal or heatproof glass is best for this. To make the vinaigrette immediately, pour equal parts bacon grease and white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar into a bowl. Add a dollop of Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper, then whisk to emulsify. Taste and adjust with extra-virgin olive oil if the bacon flavor is too strong. If the flavor is too sharp, add a little brown sugar.

How to Make Bacon Vinaigrette in Advance

Bacon grease solidifies as it cools, especially if it is refrigerated. To get it dressing-ready, slowly melt the cooled fat in the microwave or in a small pan on the stovetop before combining with the rest of the ingredients. Store the vinaigrette in the fridge for up to five days, letting it to come to room temperature before each use.

What Is the Best Container for Saving Bacon Grease?

Could you stash your bacon grease in an old coffee can like your grandma? Sure, but we prefer to pour ours through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the meaty bits, then transfer the grease to a heatproof canning jar. Just twist on the lid and stash it in the fridge. For an all-in-one option, you can buy a stainless steel grease jar with a built-in strainer. Our guess is that Grandma would approve of that!

How to Use Bacon Vinaigrette

This savory, smoky, tangy dressing is great on salads, of course. As you might imagine, it plays particularly well with tomatoes: Slice and shingle tomatoes on a platter and drizzle with dressing or cut into cubes and drizzle the dressing on. To level up your grain bowl, toss your cooked grain (or lentils) with some of the dressing. To add a little turf to your surf, spoon a bit of dressing over cooked white fish or shrimp. It’s also delicious tossed with roasted potatoes, green beans, or carrots. For the perfect garnish for any of these ideas, add on a handful of crispy crumbled bacon.

Your turn! Try your vinaigrette in the following recipes: