Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mmm....bacon...

As if the world didn't already have enough information out there about bacon: how to cook it, how to cook with it, how to make it into dessert, jam, candy; how to decorate your home or adorn your body with versions of it.  But I can't help myself; I need to add a little something to that bucket of bacon knowledge.

You see, like most meat-loving humans around here, we love our bacon, too.  In fact, if I cook bacon for breakfast, I may as well not bother cooking anything to accompany it for the kids.  They don't even look at anything else on their plates, having eyes only for that crispy, succulent portion of the "pig meat!".  That is what they sometimes call it; I am trying to teach them that the meat we eat comes from animals, not just from the store.  More on that another time.

I thought I would share how we cook our bacon when we have it for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner, for that matter.  If we cook it when Hubs isn't home, then us girls get to eat more of it.  Shhhh, don't tell him!  Mu wa ha ha ha!).  We bake our bacon in the oven, not just because it cooks more evenly, but because we can cook a whole pound at once, and the stove isn't splattered with bacon grease either.  I also don't have to babysit it, I can be preparing the other breakfast dishes (not that there are ever multiple breakfast dishes, I'm talking some kinda vegetables, and perhaps throwing a bowl of sliced apple on the table).

Our kids prefer almost perfectly cooked bacon, as in "squishy ones", which the Hubs and I find disgusting.  Now, don't get all worked up, we are certainly not serving our children raw bacon!  As if.  They just prefer the deliciously crispy and unctuous fatty parts of the bacon, over the meaty bits.  And in our oven, our bacon cooks a bit unevenly.  The 4-6 slices of bacon in the center of the tray are a bit less done than the perfectly rendered slices on the ends of the tray.  So, kid bacon in the middle, grown-up bacon on the ends.  It works out perfectly for us.  And the grown-up bacon is especially good when you crack some black pepper on top of it before you bake it.

The bacon we love and splurge on is sold at our local natural market.  It is Beeler's, (Beeler Pure Pork)and they make a garlic pepper flavor as well as uncured hickory bacon.  We have tried it and it was delicious, but the kids do not like pepper bacon.  So we just pepper our own slices of bacon, and everybody is happy.  If you have never tried Beeler's bacon, you really should.  We have tried many of the "natural" bacons over the years, and this one is consistently the most delicious and the best price.  Now, we do buy Applegate when we have seen it at Costco, but it really pales in comparison.  We also love Beeler's hot dogs and pepperoni sticks.  Great for once in a while quickie kid protein, and mom-on-the-go protein, respectively.

Without further ado, here is our method for baking bacon.  We have a gas oven that heats from below, so your oven may cook it quite differently.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Get out a jelly-roll pan, baking sheet, sheet pan, whatever you call it.  Lay out your bacon directly on the tray.  Crack some fresh black pepper over some or all of the bacon, or none!  Place your bacon in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes.  Check it to see how far along it is.  If it still looks raw or not done, set the the timer for 5 minutes and check it again.  You should also rotate the tray when you check it after 15 minutes.  It is very easy to forget about your bacon in the oven and it could get over done on you.  We despise over done bacon, but some folks like that sort of thing.  We like our bacon to have the fat about 95% rendered, and the slices nice and caramelized.  Our oven takes a total time of 25-35 minutes to cook our bacon to our liking.  Plenty of time to make some hash browns and coffee, and maybe saute some mushrooms and peppers to go with it.  If you can eat eggs, obviously, those would be perfect.  Us girls here are unable to eat eggs, but the Hubs certainly has them.  Just keep checking on your bacon every few minutes to get it exactly the doneness you like.  When it is cooked to your liking, place the slices on a paper towel lined plate or tray, and serve.  Save that bacon fat to cook with!  Liquid gold!  We use it especially for fried "rice", sauteed green beans, and for oven fries.  Delicious!

I'm sure you have seen someone say that the best way to bake bacon is on a rack in the oven, and I do agree that that works very very well.  But not for us.  Number one, I hate hate hate washing that rack!  So difficult to get scrupulously clean, the way I like to clean my dishes.  And I have found that washing the tray itself is much easier and faster.  A quick soak in hot water to loosen the brown bits, scrub scrub scrub and it is clean!  Lots of hot water, soap and clean it right after breakfast, not the next morning.  It is much easier to clean pots and pans right after the meal, before the food particles have dried on.

So there you have it, my little bit of bacon knowledge for the home cook.  I hope you found it helpful, or at least somewhat informative.  So, how do you cook your bacon?  Perhaps you can try a different way next time and see if it works better for you!