Not only is it popular around the globe, it has for some reason special cultural weight among geeks. I cook some for my family most Sunday mornings. Have done for years, and only recently have I started getting consistently good results; so maybe sharing my experience will be useful.

The Bacon · If you buy it shrink-wrapped from the supermarket, you’re very unlikely to have a memorable experience. You’ll get something which is waterlogged, sliced way too thin, and doubtless loaded up with nitrites, which keep the product from going grey while it sits unloved on the supermarket shelves.

You need to find a real butcher who will slice your bacon extra thick while you wait, within a day or two of when you’re going to eat it. Organic pork, unlike beef or chicken, is fairly hard to come by; and I’ve actually had bad luck with “organic bacon” which was improperly smoked and thus flavorless.

In Vancouver, I buy bacon from Continental Sausage, at the corner of Main and 20th: “double-smoked European” sliced extra thick. And the supermarket may not be entirely a wasteland; recently I tried something called “Irish short bacon” from a Canadian outfit called Goodricks; hmm, their Web site has now been replaced by a GoDaddy parking page. It was shrink-wrapped but nonetheless fresh, thick, and good, if perhaps overly salty.

One crucial thing is that the bacon has to be sliced thick; I just don’t know of a way to get it cooked right when it’s thin.

How To Cook It · Other people manage to fry bacon and get good results, but it’s never worked for me; the fat puddles up and spits and makes a huge mess, and I never quite manage to get the stuff properly done without some burning.

I broil bacon on the grill-pan thingie that you find in most stoves; it sits on the slotted-metal surface so fat drains away. We have a gas stove but I don’t suppose that would make much difference. I move the shelf to the second position from the top, so there are six inches or more between the flame and the bacon. My experience is that the broiler’s heating pattern in most ovens is uneven, so you need to place things with care.

What I do is, after only a minute or two of broiling, pull out the shelf and grill and, with a fork or whatever, turn the pieces of bacon over, because they’ll have started to curl up and will just go on doing that, if you let them.

The Turning Point · This is where your actions make the difference between sloppy and undercooked, blackened and brittle, or colorful and toothsome. Seconds matter. There is room for disagreement as to where on the floppy-to-crispy spectrum you like your bacon, but the time lapse between almost-ready and irretrievably-blackened is no more than a minute.

So there’s no substitute for hovering over the stove, peeking in at the bacon every few seconds during the critical period, and pouncing at the critical moment. I should think that Zen masters would find this easy.

If you have a gas stove, you have an advantage in that you can just turn it off, leave the bacon in there, and it’ll stay warm while you do the pancakes or eggs or whatever; if it’s an electric stove you have to pull that pan out right now.

Accompaniments · Don’t be silly, bacon goes with everything. Having said that, seasonal berries, homemade pancakes, and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice are not to be sneezed at.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Joce (Sep 19 2010, at 14:55)

Here in Edmonton, you can get some incredibly delicious back bacon at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market.

It's from Irving Farm, about 100km East of the city, and it's so delicious, it's a sin:

http://www.irvingsfarmfresh.com/bacon.htm

You should give it a try next time you're in town.

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From: Mark Bernstein (Sep 19 2010, at 16:19)

You might need to specify more clearly whether you mean Canadian Bacon here, which is cut from the loin, or American Bacon, which is cut from the belly.

I think you probably mean American bacon, which is the bacon that has the big geek cred behind it, but it could easily be misunderstood. And you don't want to cook them the same way!

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From: Dorian Taylor (Sep 19 2010, at 16:31)

And if you're ever looking for an alternative, consider "Yukon-style" bacon, à la Tomahawk.

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From: Stuart Dootson (Sep 19 2010, at 17:38)

If frying bacon, a bacon crisper/press (see http://www.kaboodle.com/reviews/more-pans-142) works very well…

And yes, has to be thick…can be tricky to translate US/American bacon terms to British (I think Canadian bacon is what we'd call back bacon, US is what we'd call streaky…hmm, Wikipedia {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacon#Cuts_of_bacon} comes to the rescue...)

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From: Eric Meyer (Sep 19 2010, at 18:53)

I too had problems with frying in a skillet until I learned the secret (with American bacon, anyway). It's to put the bacon in the skillet and THEN turn the heat on to medium. As the bacon begins to cook, turn it every minute or so. After about eight minutes, you'll have un-curled and un-burned bacon. Cook longer still to get it crispy, if you're the sort of degenerate who likes that kind of thing. This method still has the spitting-grease problem, but I can live with that given the results.

If cooking multiple batches, just drain the grease after each batch and then run the skillet under some water to cool (and clean) it quickly. Once it's sent up a lovely gout of steam, arrange bacon, apply heat, etc.

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From: James (Sep 19 2010, at 20:10)

I have found the best way to cook bacon is in a George Foreman grill (or similar fat draining grill). It heats on both top an bottom, drains the fat, and rarely overcooks if monitored.

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From: Jeremy (Sep 19 2010, at 23:52)

Hi Tim.

No story on bacon would be complete without mentioning it comes from the flesh of a slaughtered, unwilling participant. At the very least, please suggest that your readers exercise conscientiousness when procuring their bacon. If one must eat meat, let's at least have some consideration for where it comes from.

Thanks

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From: carlos (Sep 20 2010, at 09:17)

You can stop back bacon curling by making radial cuts spaced about 1cm apart through the fat. This is most easily done with scissors. You should finish up with a sort of crenellated effect once its cooked.

UK terminology:

Streaky bacon is a rectangular strip with alternating meat and fat down the length.

Back bacon is an oval of meat with a small strip of fat down the side and a bit of streaky at one end.

P.S. If you find unsmoked bacon tasteless, buy better bacon.

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From: Ian Petersen (Sep 20 2010, at 09:18)

I like barbecuing my streaky bacon. It takes some patience to avoid really burning it, but it comes out smoky and delicious.

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From: Matt Laird (Sep 20 2010, at 11:46)

Bacon makes everything better. (get the t-shirt)

It's true. I've tried chocolate with bacon. There's Baconnaise. And from the makers of Baconnaise and Vancouver local company Jones Soda there will soon be bacon flavoured pop!

Tim if you want another source of good local bacon (and I'm pretty sure they're organic) I highly suggest Gelderman Farmers, you can find them at the local farmer's markets (Vancouver Trout Lake, Royal City, etc) but check the schedule they only come every two weeks. I've gotten to know them over my tenure on the RCFM board and they're good people with really good products. Try their farmer's sausage too, yum.

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From: Joce (Sep 20 2010, at 15:56)

To all of you who like bacon, you might be interested to know that pig is an intrinsic part of our daily lives, whether we eat bacon or not, as explained in this very interesting TED talk!

"How pig parts make the world turn"

http://www.ted.com/talks/christien_meindertsma_on_pig_05049.html

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From: Martin Probst (Sep 21 2010, at 02:31)

I second Eric Meyer, starting out with a cold pan helps a lot when frying bacon.

It's also a good trick when doing duck breasts. Start in a cold pan with the fat layer on bottom.

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From: Geoff (Sep 29 2010, at 13:40)

Avoid the mess and use the bbq to cook your bacon... I have a bbq skillet that collects the drip-off fat. Works great!

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