You may have guessed from the title of this blog that I have strong feelings about bacon. Not all bacon is created equal. The way it is cooked, where you get it, even what type—all matter to the final product.
We don’t get bacon often…it is a treat. That might be why I take it so seriously. With that in mind, here are my not-humble-at-all, completely-unmovable, there-might-be-expletives opinion on how bacon should be purchased and prepared.
What and where you buy bacon matters
If you can, a farm or a farmer’s market is, hands down, the best place to purchase bacon. You know it is local, and you can be reasonably sure the animal was treated decently during its life. That matters to me, but it might not matter to you. I’m not here to judge.
If you don’t have access to a farmer, try to get the best bacon you can find. This is a challenge, I know, because the USDA doesn’t oversee standards of food marketing very closely. For example, the food industry must adhere to specific standards when they claim their product is organic. However, packaging that says “natural” is guaranteed to be excellent marketing, but not much else.
Price is not a great indicator of quality, either. Good bacon might be cheap bacon. Some people swear by the cheap cuts, while others buy into the Organic, apple-wood smoked, beet-juice cured thick cuts. It’s your choice. I will say that my hubby and I disagree on this. I like my bacon thin and crispy, which is best achieved when you start with thinly sliced pieces. Hubby likes the thicker cuts.
My best advice: if you can’t a get farmer’s stash, hit up the butcher. The butcher will likely have some pretty good bacon on hand and at least you’ll know its fresh.
Bacon Bit: Bacon Gets Saltier As it Cooks
Bacon is already salty. Cheap bacon, even more-so. Bacon makers inject high levels of salt and artificial smoke to get bacon to For this reason, I try to chose a low-sodium bacon.
Bacon Bit: The oven is no place for bacon
I’m not here to give you a way out. Bacon needs to be cooked slowly on a cook top. NOT IN THE DAMN OVEN.
Grill it, smoke your own pork belly, or on a stove and I will line up to help you devour it. But the oven is a terrible place to cook bacon.
I think the travesty of oven bacon came from the Food Network. Well-meaning celeb chefs or cheftestants were tasked to come up with SOMETHING that would wow their audience. So they laid a brick ton of bacon onto a rack and loaded it into the oven.
Good for them. Bad for humanity.
The very idea of an oven is cooking through lack of care. You set the temperature, set the timer, and walk away. But ovens do not give judicious heat. They tend to be really hot in some places, cold in others, and they can vary widely on temperature accuracy. This is fine for roasting and baking. The length of time is more forgiving and the desired outcome for those foods requires an oven.
When you try to roast bacon in an oven, you will get terribly burned pieces along with completely raw pieces. You’ll go to a trusted recipe site and end up with completely burned bacon. Or you’ll keep checking and checking and checking for up to 20 minutes longer than the recipe calls for.
That’s because cooking bacon in the oven is a Minotaur that needs a Theseus. It is a mythological life hack that needs its horns cut off.
Bacon requires care. It needs a little more management than an oven can offer. Cook bacon by the way it smells, by its crispness. It should be turned often to keep the heat evenly distributed. Bacon is meant to be fried and fretted over.
One more point about ovens and then I promise I’ll move on: cleaning up. When you cook bacon in the oven, sure you can get (nearly) an entire package on. But even if YOUR bacon comes out exactly how you want it, there is still clean up, which those Food Network nitwits never had to worry about.
Oven bacon requires a rack and a pan that will need to be scrubbed with steel wool to get burned bacon off. Perhaps you think, “I’ll line it with aluminum foil.” Wrong! It will leak. And have you decided how you are going to transfer bacon grease from flimsy foil (or a baking sheet) to a smaller vessel where it can cool before you discard it? Good luck.
If you cook bacon in the oven, fine. Just make sure its in a pan that you can scrap when you are done.
Whats that? Bacon is a pain to clean up on the stove too, you say? Yeah, it can be. But with a good large pan, and some good technique I can teach you how minimize splatter. And really, what’s a little clean up if you are able to achieve PERFECT BACON?
The last bit: How to make perfect bacon
My perfect bacon is a meat cracker. It is crisp, fully and evenly cooked, with no soft spots anywhere and no burn marks either.
- Get out a large sauté pan. A cast iron skillet will also work, but there will be more spatter. (Check out this Skillet vs Sauté pan article)
- Get your bacon out.
- Lay the bacon in the cold pan.
- Turn the burner on medium to medium low, adjusting as you cook.
- Leave the bacon in the pan for the first 4 -8 minutes.
- Drink your coffee
- After that, turn the bacon frequently, every 1-2 minutes until it is well cooked.
- After each batch, drain the pan of oil.
You don’t need to cool the pan after each batch, but that first batch will be the best rendered bacon. Luckly, you get to nibble on that batch while the rest is cooking.
So there it is. Medium to medium low heat gives your bacon time to render, as does starting in a cold pan. Draining the fat minimizes spatter and ensures your temperature is easier to control.
This is not bacon you can walk away from. But you can drink your coffee while you listen to the sizzle. Not a disappointing way to spend 30 minutes.