Big Little Recipes

Bacon Leads the Way in These 3-Ingredient Biscuits

March  2, 2021

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Psst, did you hear we’re coming out with a cookbook? We’re coming out with a cookbook!


If I had to guess, I’ve baked over 10,000 biscuits, almost all right before or right after sunrise, depending on the time of year in North Carolina where I worked at a small, coffee-scented bakery called Scratch—exactly the sort of place to learn what separates a good biscuit from a great one.

The crust should be crisp, the center should be plush, and the flavor should be Elon Musk–rich with a hint of tang. It must be baked that day or, even better, that hour, so it’s still warm from the oven, just enough to exhale steam when you tear it apart.

But countless roads will take you there. “There are many kinds of biscuits,” Shirley O. Corriher, certified biscuit Genius, writes in BakeWise. “Moist biscuits; flakey biscuits; and John Egerton’s beaten biscuits.”

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Top Comment:
“I also use whole milk, with butter on top instead of buttermilk, and baking powder instead of self-rising flour.. only because I have nice freshly bought ingredients! Also, noticed you are living in my childhood, till early twenties, home state of NJ! Isn't the food awesome there.. something about the many ethnic foods, (I'm Irish and Italian) the many different amazing diners and restaurants back there! My husband and I have been in So California since late 80's and we fondly recall where our love for good food came from! ”
— Irenepamela
Comment

Some roll out the dough and cut it into circles. Others opt for squares. Others skip the rolling altogether and grab a couple of spoons. Some swear by butter. Others, shortening. Others, lard. Others mix and match.

And while the typical ingredient list isn’t very big to begin with—flour, fat, buttermilk, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt—it can get even littler. The trick is to optimize your flour by ditching all-purpose for self-rising.

What would you serve your biscuits with? Bacon and eggs? Butter and jam? Endless coffee? Photo by ROCKY LUTEN. PROP STYLIST: AMANDA WIDIS. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG.

A real overachiever, this flour comes with the leaveners and salt already balanced and blended. In addition to such convenience, it’s beloved for a lower protein content, which means softer, loftier, even-better biscuits (and pancakes and muffins and a bunch of other things I wish I had in front of me right now).

Once you have this staple, you’re a third of the way to three-ingredient biscuits, the sort of simple pleasure that sounds too good to be true but isn’t—easy enough to make a Wednesday morning feel like the weekend.

Buttermilk is the most common liquid, and who am I to argue with such creamy, zingy bliss? But the fat is a free-for-all. Maybe it’s butter, or shortening, or even mayonnaise.

This Big Little Recipe opts for bacon. Because when you sizzle strips until chewy-crispy (or crispy-chewy, depending on your vibe), you get the bacon itself, a cook’s treat, or a built-in side. Which is good. Which is great.

But you also get the rendered fat, a baking superstar in its own right. After a stint in the fridge or freezer (or, if you’re in a hurry, an ice bath), bacon fat shifts from liquid to solid, becoming something so smoky, salty, sweet, and buttery, that it puts butter to shame.

And I don’t say this lightly. My cat is named Butter, for heaven’s sake.

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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

44 Comments

Armin23 March 4, 2021
Looks wonderful and I could almost smell the bacon-y aroma. I would eat them buttered and with strawberry jam or preserves. I really enjoyed the video. Can't wait to see more.
 
Penny H. March 4, 2021
I've tried a similar recipe only with heavy cream (for the butterfat). My picky kids didn't like them nearly as well as the labor intensive type where you have to measure all the ingredients and work in the butter the hard way.
 
Elizabeth D. March 4, 2021
Lamination (layers of fat and layers dough, much like a croissant) really makes a difference
 
[email protected] March 3, 2021
These biscuits would be great with porkchops..
 
MsJoanie March 3, 2021
So if I have bacon fat already stored in my refrigerator, would I use a full 1/3 cup from solid, or is the 1/3 cup only the liquid measure? I feel like density might change the measure...
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 3, 2021
Hi MsJoanie! You could use between 1/4 and 1/3 cup solid bacon fat—the recipe is pretty forgiving in that range
 
MsJoanie March 3, 2021
So if I have bacon fat already stored in my refrigerator, would I use a full 1/3 cup from solid or is the 1/3 cup only the liquid measure? I feel like density might change the measure...
 
Elizabeth D. March 3, 2021
*safety note* Even though the measuring cup is a Pyrex, hopefully, Emma allowed time for the bacon oil to cool off. Down-shock could cause the cup (even Pyrex) to shatter.
I tried making this and it fell a little flat flavor-wise. The second time, I used Lily White flour, added a pinch of salt, and baking soda for more flavor and color.
Salt and baking soda raise the Ph, & gives your biscuits a golden brown color. Adding baking soda seasons the biscuits, giving them a nice savory flavor. Not a bad recipe, but just needed more oomph.
 
gandalf March 4, 2021
Do you mean White Lily flour?
 
Elizabeth D. March 4, 2021
Oops, yes, I did, thanks for catching that, I wasn't fully awake when I was commenting!
 
Joel March 3, 2021
These would be great with sausage and cream gravy!
 
Elizabeth D. March 3, 2021
Or black eye gravy, and sweet smoked ham!
 
gandalf March 4, 2021
What is the difference between black eye gravy and red-eye gravy? I'm familiar with the latter, but not the former.
 
Elizabeth D. March 4, 2021
I meant red-eye gravy, sleep-typing...
 
Dick D. March 3, 2021
Best fat to use is fat from the tail of sheep for baking , bakers use these fat in baking for hundreds of years..
 
Skip G. March 3, 2021
I’m totally not into baking, (to fussy with all that measuring and ingredients stuff). But I think I can do this and will so give it a go, Looks delicious!
 
Heather S. March 3, 2021
Literally just took them out of oven. For the amount of time and ingredient list this biscuit is pretty amazing. Very surprising at how good. Im already thinking shredded cheddar,chives would all be a lovely addition. Im eating with honey and butter right now and it amazing. Definitely making again
 
Xavier March 3, 2021
This sounds and looks amazing. I can’t wait to give this a try. Thanks!
 
Laura March 2, 2021
What is the blue pan you cooked the eggs in?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
Five Two's 10-inch nonstick skillet! https://food52.com/shop/products/7707-five-two-essential-skillets
 
Carolyn L. March 2, 2021
This wonderful bacon biscuit begs for a summer ripe tomato and Duke's mayo. I love the way you cook!! Keep it coming!!!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
Yum! That sounds like a dream
 
Kathy M. March 2, 2021
What are the ratios to make self-rising flour? I have never found it on store shelves on the West coast, thinking it's a regional difference.
 
Linda L. March 2, 2021
I live in San Diego have never had problems finding. It’s in a bag right by regular flour. Just read label
 
Kathy M. March 2, 2021
I've actually looked for it on grocery shelves in the past and haven't found any. So I look up the recipe for self-rising flour every time I find it as an ingredient.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
Hi Kathy! I haven't tested this recipe with all-purpose flour plus a leavening agent and salt—but for 2 cups of all-purpose flour, a good starting point would be about 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, plus about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. If you give it a go, please report back!
 
RossB March 2, 2021
Almost lost me at Elon Musk flavored biscuits! I love the recipe, and your writing is a pleasure to read.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
Thanks RossB :)
 
Tonya G. March 2, 2021
These look delicious and I would eat them with anything. Maybe some maple butter!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
Mmmmm maple butter
 
Irenepamela March 2, 2021
Yay!
SOOOO good! I've been making lots of biscuits lately too and just love what you have done here! I'm definitely going to try the bacon fat next time instead of butter! I also use whole milk, with butter on top instead of buttermilk, and baking powder instead of self-rising flour.. only because I have nice freshly bought ingredients!
Also, noticed you are living in my childhood, till early twenties, home state of NJ! Isn't the food awesome there.. something about the many ethnic foods, (I'm Irish and Italian) the many different amazing diners and restaurants back there! My husband and I have been in So California since late 80's and we fondly recall where our love for good food came from!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
I love NJ! So many great restaurants and diners and delis
 
Irenepamela March 2, 2021
Oh yeah, can't forget the deli's, pizza parlors and bagels! :)
 
Glen S. March 2, 2021
These look like exactly what the world needs more of. You may need a second cat named bacon. Just sayin'. Thanks for the heartfelt rustic simplicity. I think you've got sour and savory and umami. That leaves sweet. #HoneyButter to the rescue.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
I would LOVE a second cat named Bacon! Though I worry Butter wouldn't feel the same...
 
Alaimo March 2, 2021
Nom, nom, nom.... I literally applauded when you pulled these from under the broiler. Genius!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
Thanks!
 
Arthur J. March 2, 2021
I love your bib overalls! I have six pairs: two with hickory strips and four blue denim. I wear them daily. My wife isn’t exactly happy about that! I am very comfortable. She’s not happy about that either.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 2, 2021
They really are as comfy as it gets