Duff Goldman's Secret To Great Chowder Is All In The Bacon

Pastry chef, Duff Goldman, should know a thing or two about New England clam chowder. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, he talked about eating his fair share of the rich and creamy soup on Cape Cod as a kid. He also said that being from New England, it's something he cooks regularly. As he revealed, his secret to great chowder is to render the bacon. "Render it until it gets nice and crisp to get all the fat out, because when you're eating and you get this floppy piece of fatty bacon, that's gross," he explained.

This may be a bit of a challenge for those who like to fry their bacon at a high heat, which can cause it to brown, or even burn, before all the fat has been rendered (it's okay, bacon can make the best of us impatient). The problem is, any fattiness left on the bacon will get soft and rubbery when added to hot chowder, just as the Food Network star critiqued. On the flip side, if you render it (cooking it low and slow until all the fat has cooked out), the bacon will not only lend a salty umami goodness but also a hearty texture to your chowder.

How to render bacon fat

To render bacon fat, place it in a skillet or frying pan and cook it on low heat (again, this ensures the bacon won't burn before it's fully rendered) until the bacon is crisp, all the white is gone, and the grease has accumulated in the pan — about 10 the 12 minutes. Then, remove the bacon using tongs and spread it out on paper towels to drain before adding it to the chowder. And don't forget that golden-hued bacon grease can be strained, saved, and stored for later use in collard greens or country gravy to give it a little oomph.

If you don't want the hassle of monitoring your bacon on the stovetop, you can simply stick the bacon on a baking pan with a rack and pop it in the oven for about the same amount of time, allowing it to cook until all the fat has rendered, leaving you with crispy bacon, and that manna from the gods (bacon grease) to collect on the baking sheet below. Whichever way you do it, the rendered bacon will elevate your decadent chowder with a meaty chewiness rather than ruin it with a slimy softness.