#2 will give your sheet pan dinners a serious upgrade.

Nestled in the corner of my refrigerator’s cheese compartment is a mid-size, rectangular container filled with formerly liquefied bacon fat, now solid and striped in layers of varying shades of light brown. Sure it's odd-looking, but I promise that this little container is one of the most delicious, game-changing food items in my fridge. I'm here to tell you why.

Bacon fat, created by pan-frying or baking bacon in the oven, is the not-so-secret ingredient anyone can use instead of butter or oil in nearly any recipe. In fact, salvaging your bacon fat instead of dumping it down the drain, which puts pipes and local sewer lines at risk, is necessary (no matter what you plan to do with it).

As long as you have allowed your liquid bacon run-off to coagulate and you keep it in an easy-to-access container, you can use this ingredient as you see fit. Ready to start? We have a few ideas on how to use your bacon fat to add flavor (for free!).

1 Scramble or fry your eggs in bacon fat

Bacon-free morning? Not possible—at least when you have bacon fat ready and waiting. Melt a small amount in a skillet (instead of butter) before cooking your eggs, and it’s like you have a multi-dish breakfast all in one. This also works for pancakes or French toast!

2 Add layers of flavor to a sheet pan meal

Sheet pan meals are excellent for their efficiency and the ease with which we can create a well-balanced, intriguing meal with minimal effort and dishes. But if there’s one setback to the ubiquitous sheet pan dinner, it’s that the end result can be one-note. Add some more depth of smokiness, saltiness, and meatiness by greasing your sheet pan with a small amount of bacon grease before baking your sheet pan meal.

3 Grease grill grates with bacon fat

Most grilling recipes start with the essentials step of greasing the grates to keep food from sticking. While a non-stick spray may be a common go-to, using a pastry brush to paint on melted (in the microwave, 20 seconds at a time), bacon grease is a quick fix to add more flavor to anything to cook on the grill.

4 Cook croutons or fries in bacon fat

Duck fat fries may be the go-to for chef’s to reuse rendered duck fat, but at home, you can use the same trick with leftover bacon grease. Melt the grease so its liquid (not solid) and lightly coat cut potatoes or roughly torn stale bread in it, then back until crisp. You can also fry croutons or potatoes in the fat, if that’s more your speed.

5 Make a bacon-y sandwich

To add more bacon flavor to grilled cheese or a homemade panini, lightly spread bacon grease on the outer-facing sandwich layers and cook for a nice crunch.

6 Make warm bacon vinaigrette

Warm bacon vinaigrette can be drizzled on cooked veggies, as well as over leafy salads. Heat two tablespoons of bacon grease in a skillet and add chopped alliums (like shallots or garlic). Cook lightly before stirring in equal parts vinegar (apple cider works well), olive oil, and mustard (dijon or whole grain). Add salt and pepper and as soon as the mixture sticks to your spoon, it’s ready to serve.

7 Amp up a boring boneless, skinless chicken breast

A sauteed chicken breast is versatile, yes, but so dull. Give it an upgrade by sauteing it in melted bacon grease to add flavor and keep the chicken moist. About five minute per side should be sufficient (internal temp should reach 165 degrees F), and avoid flipping the chicken more than once to give it a nice crisp crust. This also works for tofu and firm veggies.