Sunday, December 9, 2012

How to Cook Crispy Bacon without Burning It



Bacon. What more can I say? The very name is an ode to all that is best about breakfast. Or supper. Or sandwiches. Or those little cocktail wieners at parties.

I'm a lifelong aficionado of crispy bacon. Even as a kid (especially as a kid), I couldn't stand bacon that didn't crumble in my mouth, bacon that was chewy and slimy. Blechewgross! But I've also never had a real craving for charcoal.

When I first started cooking bacon, I managed to make my poor salted pork strips do all of these things--chewy, slimy, AND charcoaly. If you're not at this moment rolling your eyes and thinking, *Good grief, another bacon inept*...if you too have tortured your bacon to the point of inedibility, and wept at the sight (or told your frying pan in no uncertain terms what you think of it) ... if your smoke alarm goes off out of habit when it sees you pull out that package ... then this post is for you. (Yes, In days of yore I did actually set off the smoke detector every time I cooked bacon. And the house would stink for three days.)

I've got three words for you, my fellow bacon inepts:

Patience.

Medium heat.

Here's the thing: you cannot cook crispy bacon quickly. I know it's hard to deal with this idea. When that craving hits, we want our bacon five minutes ago. But it takes time for all that fat to melt out all along the strip, leaving nothing but salty crisp goodness behind.

I used to cook my bacon on high heat exclusively. Why did it take me so long to figure out that all I had to do to get the perfect crispness I craved, especially when that information was probably printed on the back of the package? I don't know. I tried some complicated solutions, including baking it in a roasting pan. But nothing works as well as just turning down the heat. So here's what you do.

1. Heat frying pan over medium heat. Make sure pan is hot before putting bacon in. 
2. Put bacon in, make sure each slice lies flat, and leave it alone for a few minutes. I can't be more specific than that--exact number of minutes will vary depending on thickness of bacon, your pan, your stove, and your exact level of desired crispness. I usually cook mine about five minutes on that first side--enough time to unload half the dishwasher. The important thing is to leave it alone--don't flip, poke, or shove. Do something else for those few minutes. The bacon needs to heat all the way through and then lie still while the chewy slimy bits melt away. 
3. Flip bacon and cook for slightly less time on the second side. You may need to use a spatula to push down any fatty ends that have curled up in the heat. Hold them down until they flatten out.
4. Drain and enjoy.

May your bacon be ever crisp this holiday season!

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