How to Season a Cast Iron Pan with Bacon Grease

Cast iron pans are beloved kitchen staples thanks to their versatility, durability, and natural nonstick properties when properly seasoned. While these pans come pre-seasoned from the manufacturer, the seasoning is light and benefits from being built up through home seasoning. One of the most popular and effective home seasoning agents for cast iron is bacon grease.

As a frequent bacon cooker and cast iron user myself, I’ve found seasoning with bacon grease to be easy and effective. Here’s everything you need to know about using this unconventional fat to season your cast iron cookware.

Why Choose Bacon Grease for Seasoning?

Out of all the fats and oils out there why bacon grease? Here are some of the main benefits

  • Flavor – Bacon grease imparts a lovely smoky, salty, umami flavor to cast iron. This enhances the flavor of everything you cook.

  • High Smoke Point – Fresh bacon fat has a high smoke point around 375-400°F, making it suitable for seasoning in the oven.

  • Free Byproduct – If you cook bacon regularly, you likely have grease on hand. Take advantage of this free seasoning agent.

  • Natural Source – Unlike vegetable oils, bacon fat is an animal-derived saturated fat that polymerizes well

  • Traditional – Bacon grease seasoning has a long history. It’s a tasty way to season in the spirit of old-fashioned cast iron cooking.

As long as you render and store the grease properly, bacon fat makes an excellent seasoning oil.

Step 1: Prepare the Bacon Grease

Bacon grease can be prepared in a few ways:

  • Cook bacon expressly for grease: Fry up 8-12 slices of bacon expressly for the grease. Pour off grease into a heat-safe jar.

  • Save grease from other bacon: Scoop out the grease after cooking bacon for a meal. Let it cool and transfer to a jar.

  • Purchase bacon grease: You can buy ready-rendered bacon fat from a butcher shop.

However you obtain it, be sure to strain the grease through a fine mesh sieve to remove any food particles Impurities can cause the grease to smoke or burn during seasoning

Store cooled grease in an airtight container. It keeps for up to 3 months refrigerated or 6 months frozen.

Step 2: Prepare the Cast Iron Pan

Before seasoning a new cast iron pan, it’s important to remove the factory coating:

  • Scrub pan with steel wool or a metal scraper under hot water to remove packaging grease.
  • Dry it thoroughly. Place on the stove over low heat for a few minutes to evaporate any remaining moisture.
  • Optional: Apply a very thin coating of crisco or vegetable oil and wipe out as much as possible. This aids with seasoning adhesion.

For used cast iron, simply wash, dry, and heat the pan to open the pores before seasoning.

Step 3: Apply the Grease

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place a sheet of foil or a baking sheet on the bottom oven rack to catch any drips.

Use a paper towel or brush to apply a thin, even layer of bacon fat all over the pan – bottom, sides, handle, and interior. The grease doesn’t need to pool or puddle at all. Just a light sheen is sufficient.

Step 4: Bake the Pan

Place the greased pan upside down on the middle rack of the oven. Upside down prevents grease pooling.

Bake for 1 hour. Keep an eye on it, as bacon grease can smoke with excessive heat. If heavy smoking occurs, lower the temperature 25°F.

Leave the pan in the turned off oven for 30 minutes to cool gradually.

Step 5: Repeat Seasoning

For optimal seasoning, repeat the seasoning process 1-2 more times, letting the pan cool completely between sessions.

One round of seasoning will work but a few layers are ideal to build up the patina.

When done seasoning, wipe off any visible excess grease with a paper towel. The pan is ready for cooking!

Tips for Using Bacon Greased Cast Iron

  • Reseason using bacon grease every 3-6 months to maintain the pan’s natural nonstick patina.

  • Always cook acidic foods like tomatoes in a well-seasoned pan to prevent etching.

  • If food sticks, deglaze the pan to loosen residues rather than scraping.

  • Clean with hot water and a brush or non-abrasive scrubber. Avoid soap which can strip seasoning.

  • Dry promptly after washing and rub with a thin layer of bacon fat to maintain the seasoning after each use.

  • Store greased pans upside down or on their sides to allow air circulation and prevent rust.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you season cast iron with any fat?

You can season with any fat that has a high smoke point like lard, tallow, avocado oil, crisco, etc. However, bacon grease provides added flavor.

Do you need to oil the pan before cooking bacon?

No, a well-seasoned cast iron pan doesn’t need additional oil to fry bacon. The bacon’s fat renders out.

Should you reuse bacon grease for seasoning?

For best results, use fresh bacon grease. As it’s reused for cooking, the smoke point lowers. Stick to fresh grease for seasoning.

How do you clean bacon grease out of a cast iron pan?

Use hot water, coarse salt, and a non-abrasive scrub brush to clean out rendered bacon fat. Avoid soaking more than 10-15 minutes max.

Can bacon grease go rancid?

Yes, reused bacon fat can spoil after prolonged storage. Refrigerate for up to 3 months and freeze for up to 6 months to extend shelf life.

Is cast iron seasoned with bacon grease safe for vegetarians?

If avoiding meat-derived products, bacon fat would not be the best choice. Opt for a plant-based oil instead.

The Takeaway

Bacon grease is a readily-available and high-performing home seasoning agent for cast iron pans. With its high smoke point and rich, fatty texture, bacon fat polymerizes beautifully to a pan’s surface. It adds a lovely hint of smoky flavor to cast iron cooking. Just be sure to start with fresh, clean grease and apply thin layers. In no time, you’ll have a gorgeously seasoned cast iron pan!

What are your favorite oils and fats for seasoning cast iron? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

Seasoning Lodge Cast Iron Griddle on Stove Top with Bacon Grease

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