Boiled or smoked, dried or fresh, it’s mighty hard to come across a bad slice of bacon. But there is such a thing as the best bacon and it’s all in the preparation.
Don’t get me wrong; starting with a quality product is always the way to go, on both sensory and ethical grounds. But I’ve happily chomped on some decidedly mediocre bacon in my day and the lowest common denominator is that cured pork belly = gooood.
Then there are those rare and bleak occasions on which bacon disappoints. This most frequently takes place at on-the-go establishments, where bacon appears as an alarmingly grease-free, brittle, but tough addition to your egg sandwich. Equally off putting are those patchy strips, overly crisped in the middle and flabby at the ends. Both bacon faux pas are the results of sub par cooking techniques (the former, a microwave and the latter, an overheated fry pan.)
In order to identify the method best suited to bacon, I spent an afternoon broiling, sautéing and frying my way through a few packages of the stuff. In the end, my kitchen was covered with a fine film of lard and I can only imagine the damage to my arteries, but the best-prepared bacon was a clean winner.
Bacon is at it’s best when the striations of fat between the meat have ample time to dissolve. The direct heat of stovetop cooking invites overcooked meat and undercooked fat, plus it keeps the cook chained to the stove. A moderately heated oven, however, provides that slow sizzle; the fat bastes the meat as it melts then pools beneath the rack, moistening the strips without making them greasy. As if perfectly crisped bacon wasn’t enough, this approach frees up the stovetop and requires minimum attention, as one can’t live on bacon alone…?
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place strips of bacon in a single layer on a broiler pan or a wire cooking rack over a baking sheet. Bake until well browned and crispy at the edges, but still pliable, about 25 minutes, depending on thickness of the bacon. Flip thicker slices once during cooking.
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