Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cooking Perfect Bacon Every Time - Quickly and Easily

Bacon, second only to Spam as the internets and Google's favorite food can be remarkably difficult to cook. Unlike many other delicious foods, like Scallops for example, Bacon retains it's inherent salty goodness even in the face of truly horrendous preparation. So powerful is this effect that Bacon is often deployed to mask other poorly prepared and overcooked food, the aforementioned Scallop for example. With the addition of a few measly strips of Bacon, even burned hamburgers become mouthwatering morsels (especially when cheese is also deployed on the same patty as a force multiplier). Merely good bacon is a clear indication that you are dealing with a a cook of, at best, haphazard kitchen skills, if not one of outright moral depravity or borderline mental retardation. Perfect Bacon on the other hand, like true love, though far more rare, is sublime and transcendental. Perfect Bacon is flat and evenly cooked, is crunchy but retains some chewy mouth feel and has a bright, salty, smoked pork flavor. Fortunately perfect bacon is easily cooked with a few simple tricks I have picked up along the way.

1. Render the fat first.
The easiest, surest and most consistent way is to lay the pieces on a sheet pan and place in a 425 degree oven. Cook the bacon in the oven just until much of the fat and moisture is rendered and the slices have shortened but are not yet cooked. This takes less time than you think, so keep an eye on it. Your oven may vary, but it should not make much difference. Better to take it out prematurely than to let it cook too much. Cook's Illustrated says you can flip the Bacon and cook it completely in the oven, personally, I don't like the results.

2. Fry the Bacon at a low setting
This is where most cooks go wrong, Bacon can tolerate high heat initially while the moisture and fat are cooking off, but during the final cooking stage it will quickly burn if left on high. So, after you take it out of the oven, transfer the slices to a thick frying pan on a lower temp than you think is right (from 2-3 out of 10 works for me)

3. Actively cook the bacon
While the low heat buys you some time flexibility to cook eggs or toast, best results are obtained by focusing on the Bacon. Use your senses, smell it, does it smell like it's beginning to burn? Do you see smoke? Flip it and rearrange the slices to ensure even cooking. Take it out when it's ready

That is all there is to it.


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