There’s a golden rule for those of us who cook bacon: Don’t discard the bacon grease. That liquid gold is great for frying eggs, whisking into aioli, and—as we discovered in our BLT Salad recipe—making croutons.
BLTs are nearly perfect, but this salad has something going for it that the sandwich doesn’t: doubled-down bacon flavor. After cooking bacon pieces in a nonstick skillet, Cook’s Country test cook Amanda Luchtel put the leftover bacon grease to use and cooked torn pieces of ciabatta in the drippings to make crunchy, supersavory croutons.
(Quick interjection: If you’re one of those people who gets rid of leftover bacon grease, it’s never too late to right that wrong. Next time you cook bacon, let the drippings cool off, but not enough to solidify. Pour them through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof container with an airtight lid. Store the grease in the fridge and use it within a month. For longer storage, freeze it in 1-tablespoon portions using an ice cube tray. Once the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a zipper-lock bag and use them to cook eggs, cornbread, hoecakes, or—you guessed it—croutons.)
These croutons are one of the stars of this salad, but they’d be a great addition to other dishes, too. Here’s how to make them, whether you have bacon grease on hand already or not.
First: Line large plate with paper towels. Tear 4 ounces ciabatta bread, baguette, or boule into ½-inch pieces. (You should have 3 cups.)
If you already have bacon grease on hand: Heat ¼ cup bacon fat in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bread. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 6 minutes. Transfer croutons to prepared plate and let cool completely, about 5 minutes.
If you’re cooking bacon to use the drippings:
- Cut 8 slices bacon crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Cook bacon in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until well browned and crispy, about 12 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to 1 side of prepared plate.
- Return skillet with bacon fat to medium heat and add bread. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 6 minutes. Transfer croutons to empty side of prepared plate and let cool completely, about 5 minutes.