Few things signal the beginning of morning as clearly as the smell of bacon wafting through the house. It used to be that bacon played sidekick to the standard eggs and pancake breakfast, but those days are long gone. Bacon is now marinated, rubbed, and featured in everything from salads to desserts. Follow these tips and tricks for to-die-for bacon every time.
Three Different Ways to Cook Bacon
While pan frying remains the typical preparation method, there are basically three different ways to prepare bacon and enjoy it: frying it in a pan, microwaving it, or baking it.
This is the way most people know how to cook bacon. It yields a less crispy bacon than microwaving or baking, and it must be watched constantly lest you burn the bacon to a crisp.
- Before you fry, take the bacon out of the fridge and allow it to sit out for about 20 minutes. This will let the fat get a little more pliable, and allow for the bacon to cook in its natural greases more easily.
- Place the bacon in a single layer in your frying pan, filling up the frying pan but being careful not to overlap pieces of bacon.
- Turn your burner on to medium.
- Monitor your bacon continuously to ensure that it doesn't burn, and flip it once, after about 10 - 12 minutes.
- Place pieces of finished bacon on a paper towel.
- Pour grease into a bowl lined with tin foil. Continue the process until you are finished frying the bacon.
- Once the grease has solidified, you can easily wrap it in the tin foil you poured it into, and throw it in the garbage.
While there do exist a myriad of gadgets for cooking bacon in a microwave, all you really need is a flat dish that fits into the microwave, and paper towels. If you do happen to have a fancy bacon cooker for the microwave, the directions are still the same.
- Place three paper towels on a microwave safe plate or dish.
- Put your bacon, side by side without overlapping, onto the plate.
- Place one more paper towel over the bacon.
- Generally, one minute per slice is a safe cooking time. Your microwave may have a bacon setting as well.
- Note that if your microwave doesn't have a rotating tray, you'll need to stop mid-way through and rotate the plate.
Believe it or not, most restaurants bake their bacon. This renders a very thin, flat piece of bacon that is cooked to crispy perfection. This method is also superior for creating bacon bits, since it yields the most consistently crunchy texture out of any of the methods you can use to cook bacon.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lay the bacon side by side on a cookie sheet or in a casserole dish.
- Bacon cooked this way will take approximately 15 minutes. When your bacon is done, remove it from the oven and transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate.
Five Tips for Cooking Perfect Bacon Every Time
Bacon is hard to mess up. Even when it's a little too burned, it's still awfully tasty. With that said, if you follow these five tips, you'll have bacon perfection every time.
- Never cook bacon cold. Always allow the fat to soften before cooking, regardless of your method. The grease that melts when the bacon is cooking is what helps keep the bacon from going too brittle and burning too quickly.
- Never cook your bacon on high; only cook it on medium. High heat makes the bacon burn too easily.
- If you're pan frying, line a bowl with tin foil to pour the grease in as you go. Then when the grease hardens, you can wrap it up in the foil and toss it in the trash. Never pour bacon grease down the drain because it will coagulate and cause problems in your plumbing.
- You can save your bacon grease. Used bacon grease makes for great cooking oil because it is already flavored. Pour hot grease into a container that can both stand heat and go into the refrigerator. Keep for up to three months. Do not freeze.
- You can towel off plain bacon before you pan fry it to reduce the amount of splatter it makes.
Variations and Recipes
Bacon is surprisingly versatile and goes well beyond a simple side dish at breakfast. Recently, bacon has taken a spot in gourmet trends appearing in everything from desserts to condiments. Whether you want to try the simple or the bizarre, use your cooked bacon for something spectacular.
Once you've eaten marinated bacon, you may never want plain bacon again. To marinate, use about one-half cup of marinade per one pound of bacon. Rub your marinade over both sides of the bacon, making sure to rub marinade into fat. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Pan fry or bake the bacon as usual. Try any of these marinades for delightfully different bacon:
- Teriyaki sauce
- Maple syrup
- One cup pineapple juice plus one teaspoon of soy sauce
- Italian dressing
Baked Bacon Cups with Salad
Get our your muffin pan and make bacon cups for serving salad. They are surprisingly easy to do, and the presentation can't be beat.
- Turn your muffin pan upside down, so that you will be molding the bacon around the back of the pan rather than in the muffin tin.
- Line your muffin pan (upside down) with tin foil. Line the pan for as many cups as you need.
- Lay two strips horizontally over the back of the muffin cup.
- Weave two more bacon strips into your existing strips in such a way so that there are minimal gaps.
- Wrap a piece of bacon around the bottom. Secure with a toothpick if needed.
- Bake (upside down), at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.
- Take the bacon out and allow the bowls to cool. Once the bowls have cooled, fill them with shredded lettuce, tomato, and other salad fixings.
Sugar 'n Spice Rub
Salty and sweet is always a winning combination. To use a spice rub on your bacon, let your bacon sit out until the fat is soft. Rub the spiced mixture on both sides of the bacon and cook as usual. You can use this method whether you are pan frying, baking, or microwaving - although the flavors tend to stand out more if you pan fry. Try one of these combinations with one pound of bacon:
- One and one-half tablespoons of dark brown sugar
- One teaspoon of brown sugar, one-fourth teaspoon of cracked pepper, and one-fourth teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- One teaspoon of cinnamon, one teaspoon of apple or pumpkin pie spice, and one tablespoon of brown sugar
Everyone knows bacon and maple syrup go together, so it follows that bacon and maple syrup with pancakes is even better. You can add bacon to your pancakes in one of two ways. First, you could always add chopped, cooked bacon to your pancake batter and make your pancakes as usual. You can also try it this way:
- Cook one strip of bacon until it is nearly done, but not quite done yet.
- Using a ladle, pour about one-half cup pancake batter over the strip of bacon. This way, the bacon will be right in the middle of the pancake.
- Cook the pancake as normal.
Love Your Bacon
Currently, the cooking world is having a love affair with bacon. Bacon is being featured not only in the traditional ways, but also in things like desserts and even alcohol. If Oscar Mayer no longer satiates your need for the greasy goodness that is bacon, try a store like Bacon Freak, which sells artisan bacon and other bacon-related products.