Saving My Bacon

Friday, December 04, 2009

I have to leave early and managed not to set my alarm for a correspondingly earlier time. Amusingly, this situation makes the title of this week's post on things I like take on a funny additional meaning.

Yes. This post is figuratively and literally about saving my bacon!

Ever since I was a toddler, I have loved bacon. My mother told me some time ago that I once became curious enough about the can of bacon drippings she kept in the refrigerator that I asked her for a taste. She obliged, and my immediate response was, "Good grease!"

And so it was with intense interest that I read a post at Jill McKeever's site, Simple Daily Recipes, that I happened by one day about the advantages of baking bacon. I had always fried it in a pan, with inconsistent results, and avoided the microwave because all those grease-soaked paper towels always make a huge mess -- not that frying it in a pan was all that much better.

And so it was that, after reading the article at Simple Daily Recipes, I decided I'd try the new technique to see if it was really as good as advertised. I was not disappointed.

I have no idea how I found it, but bacon has been a rarer treat than it ought to have been for a long time because I never eat it fast enough to use an entire package before it goes bad. To save money, I usually bought bacon only if we also had guests or if some recipe, like gumbo, called for it. And then some of it still would go to waste. I like bacon, but not necessarily day in and day out -- especially if I have to fool around frying it.

In a nutshell:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.
  3. Line the aluminum foil with thick-sliced bacon. (Well, okay. Let's not get carried away. Just the bottom, with some space between rashers.)
  4. Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes. (Depending on whether your oven cooks evenly, you may have to rotate the pan 180 degrees half-way through the cooking time. I don't. Also, the first time you do this, you may want to start watching earlier, in case your oven cooks faster than mine for any reason.)
  5. Near the end of cooking time, flip on the oven light and watch like a hawk to avoid over-cooking, which can happen quickly by that point.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool on paper towels.
  7. Save the grease in the fridge.
  8. Toss whatever you don't use into a plastic freezer bag and freeze it. Individual pieces are good to go after about 20 seconds in a microwave.
  9. Air out your house.
McKeever also warns that the bacon will come out a little bit paler and a lot softer than you might be used to and advises that both problems are cured a little bit by the drying.

Yes, the only disadvantage of this method (which I'm not sure isn't also true for frying) is the need to get rid of the cooking odors. Otherwise, my cleanup consisted of: throwing the paper towels into the center of the foil on the pan, balling it up, and tossing it into the trash. Oh, and I cover the bacon with a paper towel when I nuke it.

Bacon on demand. Nice.

With that, I leave with this video of Trey Parker and Matt Stone "Bakin' Bacon with Macon" and prepare to rush through my morning routine, and the door.


And yes, I'll be having bacon!

-- CAV

7 comments:

@golfmage said...

It's hard not to mention Sir Francis when joking about bacon.

Diana Hsieh said...

I learned the oven-bacon-making technique from Cook's Illustrated a few years ago. It's particularly handy if you're making bacon for a crowd, as you can make tons at once.

I do like to cook it at a lower temperature -- say 350. It takes a bit longer, but then it's less likely to burn.

Also, I reserve my "good grease" for cooking. It adds just a slight bacon flavor to everything!

Gus Van Horn said...

Golf,

You remind me of a true classic, a facetious essay in Science Made Stupid by Thomas Weller, that parodies the confusion people have between Roger and Francis, which one blogger partially quotes:

"Science as we know it today owes a great debt to a man named Francis Bacon, or perhaps Roger Bacon, or both. It is a debt…seldom acknowledged, as few scholars…risk public embarrassment by confusing the two. Such concern is unnecessary…the important facts are nearly identical. Francis (or Roger) Bacon was born sometime between 1212 and 1561. Of both humble and noble birth…Roger (or Francis) Bacon wrote a large body of works with indistinguishable Latin titles, which for that reason are no longer read. He died circa 1292-1626 while attempting to invent frozen food, gunpowder, or the submarine.

That thing's a classic and, although I got rid of the book long ago, I found and downloaded the book as a PDF some time ago.

Diana,

I had good luck at 400, but if that changes or I move, I'll keep that advice in mind.

Definitely, one of the side benefits I look forward to is having some of that "good grease" around any time.

Gus

Diana Hsieh said...

400 works fine, so long as you watch it closely. I'm not always so good at that -- and there's nothing more tragic in a kitchen than burnt bacon!

Gus Van Horn said...

It probably helps that I like mine on the less-crispy side, too. About the point that I start worrying seems about the right time to remove it from the oven.

That and pre-heating all the way -- our oven has a chime for when it's at temperature -- so that each batch takes a consistent amount of time. I just set a timer for 15 minutes, forget about it, and, when it goes off, watch it for a minute or two after that.

Jill@SimpleDailyRecipes.com said...

Hi Gus!

It's always good to read when recipes work out. Diana and I must have watched the same episode of American's Test Kitchen, because that's where I learned to do it. I've been oven-frying bacon for so many years now, I don't think to prepare it any other way.

My kids think bacon comes pre-cooked and ready in the freezer. My nine year old son thinks nothing of reheating a few slices in the microwave while he makes toast. We don't have bacon everyday, but it's nice having it waiting for us when we want it.

Saving the liquid gold is bonus. I consider it first as a cooking oil, before using my good butter or expensive olive oil. Using bacon drippings is free food with great flavor.

Gus Van Horn said...

Jill,

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks again for posting that recipe.

The added bonus with the liquid gold is that it seem, at least to me, to be of a higher quality than you might get from frying 2 or 3 rashers at once and saving the drippings from the pan.

Gus