Archive for May, 2013

Cooking Bacon

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

In honor of Camp Bacon, we’re sharing an excerpt from A Pocket Book of Bacon that comes to you with one of your yummy shipments of the Bacon Club from Zingerman’s Mail Order. We’ll also have a few of these books on hand at the Street Fair. Enjoy!

Different method, different texture, different flavor. We recommend trying ’em all and choosing your favorite for the recipe at hand. Note that if you need drippings for your recipe, you’ll want to cook your bacon in the skillet or oven.

Skillet

The key here is to start with a cold skillet. We like to use a well-seasoned cast iron pan, though a non-stick pan works well too. Place the pieces of bacon side-by-side in the skillet, and turn the heat to medium. When the bacon starts to brown, check to see if it releases easily and carefully turn it using tongs. Cook on the second side until it’s done to your liking. Note that some bacons, like Irish back bacon, will cook much faster than others. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Oven

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover a large baking sheet (one with a 1/2- to 3/4-inch lip to catch the grease) with parchment paper or foil. Place the raw bacon side-by-side on the parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until bacon is done to your liking. Remove bacon to paper towel-lined plates and pat dry.

Microwave

There are many tools out there to help you with your microwaved-bacon skills—many available on infomercials on late night television. We’ve chosen the good ol’ plate-and-paper-towel method here, which works great for a few slices. In this procedure, you will not get any usable drippings. Line a microwave-safe plate with several layers of paper towel. Lay up to 6 slices of bacon across the towels. Cover the bacon with a few more layers of paper towel. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. (Cooking time will vary according to the microwave and number of slices of bacon you have.) Remove the bacon from the paper towels and serve.

Campfire

You can cook your bacon in an iron skillet over the fire just like on the stove at home. If you’re feeling a wee bit more adventurous, you can also cook it on a stick. The risks of losing a slice of bacon to the fire are about equal to that of roasting marshmallows over an open fire, so if you get emotional over lost bacon you might not want to try it. The perfect time to roast is when you’ve got a nice layer of hot coals going and the fire is not too high. Fold a slice into thirds and skewer it on a long stick. Roast it until it’s cooked to your liking.

Save Your Bacon Fat

Next time you cook a batch of bacon, let the grease cool until it’s safe enough to pour through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth into a glass canning jar. Make sure to filter out the small bits of meat that could cause the fat to go rancid. Keep it around for those times when you want to add more flavor to your dish than you’d get from a spoon of butter or olive oil. How should you store it? Folks have been resting jars of bacon fat next to their stoves for centuries without much incident so you can certainly go that route. For safety’s sake, we generally recommend storing it in your fridge where it can last months. John T. Edge, writer, culinary historian, and cultural commentator par excellence grew up in Georgia where his mother always kept a Dundee jam jar filled with bacon grease next to the stove: “She started every dish with a glug of bacon fat.” Sounds like heaven.

A Few Ways to Put Bacon to Work in Your Kitchen

Wrap a dried date (or one of your favorite dried fruits) and a piece of cheese with a half-slice of bacon. Run a toothpick through it and bake it in the oven.

Try an Ojibway tradition and top your oatmeal with a few chopped slices of cooked bacon.

A tip we learned from the Romans: drop a raw slice of bacon rind into your pasta water to enhance the flavor of your pasta.

For 42 more ways to put bacon to work in your kitchen, see Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon or email us for more ideas at zingpress (at) zingermans (dot) com.