If you’ve ever watched your grandmother cook, you probably noticed her saving every ounce of rendered bacon fat. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably started doing this too. And if you’re really like me, you now have an overflowing container of bacon fat in your fridge that needs to be dealt with.
It turns out there are a bunch of ways to put that leftover grease to use for camping. Here are five of our favorite uses for the stuff, and three tips from the internet that you should definitely not trust.
Do Use It to Butter Your Backcountry Toast
Another thing you probably saw your grandmother do was keep the bacon grease on the counter. Because it’s nearly all fat, grease is surprisingly shelf stable. In fact, we asked a food safety expert at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and found out that you’re more likely to notice off flavors from the oil going rancid before you run into a bacterial issue. And because bacon fat, like butter, is solid at room temperature, it’s the perfect thing to bring on multiday camping trips. Smear it on bread for a quick calorie hit, or stir it into your rehydrated mashed potatoes for an instant meal upgrade.
Do Use It to Stoke Your Fire
Cotton-ball fire starters are all the rage in the prepper community. The usual recommendation is to soak cotton balls with Vaseline, but bacon grease also works, as long as you pull the cotton ball apart to let it breathe more. After that, you’re ready to light some kindling.
Do Use It to Season Your Cast-Iron Collection
Seasoning your skillet adds years to its life and gives it that gorgeous black patina. In our guide to cleaning cast iron, we recommend seasoning by cooking regularly with coconut oil. While it’s not the most preferred, bacon grease can work as well—it just might not coat the skillet as uniformly. If you want to try it, give your skillet a good rubdown with grease from your jar of lard and put it in the oven for an hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do Use It to Make Bangin’ Dog Biscuits
You wouldn’t leave for a multiday trip without some extra-tasty snacks, would you? So why would you pack just boring old kibble for your four-legged companion? Bacon grease adds a huge amount of flavor to homemade dog biscuits. Try this recipe.
Do Use It to Moisturize Parched Hiking Boots
Aside from being tasty, bacon grease acts like lotion on leather boots. While it’s probably not as ideal as using true leather moisturizer, if you’re 13 days into a 30-day hike and your boots are starting to crack, smear some bacon grease on those bad boys or girls. A couple caveats: Don’t use bacon grease on synthetic boots, and it might be best to avoid this if you’re in bear country.
Do Not Use It to Condition Your Canvas Clothing
Grease is hydrophobic, so it should, in theory, repel water. Luckily, before we tried to waterproof our favorite hunting pants with it, we called Nathan Grey, a product specialist at Filson. “I would not recommend anyone use bacon grease,” he says. “I’d rather get wet until I could get some wax to treat it properly.” Bacon grease, Grey says, would probably stiffen up in colder temperatures and might attract bacteria and get “really foul smelling.”
Do Not Use It as Bug Repellant
There’s a myth that a little bacon grease can keep flies and other unwanted bugs away. In most instances, I heard this rumor among the equestrian crowd, who use it on their horses. But it would stand to reason that if it works on a horse, it might work on a human. We put this one to the folks behind All the Biscuits in Georgia, a Southern pro-bacon blog. Their response was a firm no. “Smelling like bacon may make you attractive to bears, bobcats, coyotes, yellow jackets, fire ants, and some other unfriendly wildlife that wish you ill.”
Do Not Use It to Feed Your Dog
Yes, we gave you a dog treat recipe that uses bacon grease, but that was okay because it’s mixed with other ingredients and not a significant portion of your pup’s diet. In large quantities, bacon fat can make your dog sick. Rick Woodford, the author of Feed Your Best Friend Better, advises keeping fats like this to a minimum. They tend to be loaded with sodium, and too much salt at one time could result in vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. It’s rare, but sometimes bacon doesn’t make everything better.