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If I make a skillet full of bacon, how long can I leave the grease sitting out before it is unsafe/rancid? Is the answer different for ground beef grease?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Fat doesn't spoil like other foods. No bacteria can live in fat. Going rancid is a chemical reaction in which the fat molecules break down. So "leaving out" is not a problem.

The major factors in going rancid are light and air. The more light hits your fat, the sooner it goes rancid. Also, rancidity occurs when the fat is oxidized, meaning that if you prevent contact with air, your fat will last longer.

Both factors are minimized by transferring the fat to a tightly closed opaque container. With liquid oils, you use a dark colored bottle. As bottles are impractical for solid fat, just strain your grease into a jar, close it, and put it in a cupboard. The shelf life should be many months, probably more than a year.

Also, don't worry that you can get something nasty when the grease goes bad unnoticed. Rancid fat isn't a big safety risk, and ingesting it in small amounts is not problematic. If it stinks, throw it our. Before that, there is no problem to eat it.

The above assumes pure, well strained fat. Pieces of fried meat left over in the fat are a safety risk, even tiny ones.

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