Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bacon, Bacon, Bacon!

Slab of bacon
Bacon, bacon, bacon! Who doesn’t like bacon? Some like it cooked easy, some like it cooked medium, and some like it extra crispy. In a modern home kitchen cooking bacon can and often is a challenge. Cooking bacon in a round pan is a lot like pushing a round peg through a square hole. The problem is that they just don’t make a bacon pan. 
Cut bacon to fit
When I was a much younger man I worked as a short order cook. The flat top grill was the perfect medium to cook bacon, eggs, hash browns, hamburgers  and anything else.  Place the bacon slices on the grill, place a cast iron bacon press on the bacon and cook side one. Remove the press, flip the bacon and cook side two. Drop your eggs into egg rings while side two of the bacon is cooking.
Cooking in egg rings

Move the bacon to the plate and add the cooked eggs. You can pick up a bacon press and egg ring set a Target™ for about $10.00. Pop a couple of slices of bread into the toaster and you’re ready to make your own bacon and egg breakfast sandwich.
You just can't get this at a fast food joint
Let’s face it cooking bacon on a stove top in a pan can be messy. Not to mention dangerous. How many times have you attempted to turn a piece of bacon over at the exact moment it decides to shoot off a bacon flare? That really hurts. Doesn’t it? My wife bought several stainless steel splatter shields for the different sized round pans that we use. While they do work great for containing most of the grease and splatter, cleaning them when you are finished should be done immediately before the grease cools. My wife uses a vegetable brush to clean the screen. These splatter shields are about $8-$10 depending on the size.
Bacon on cooling rack
One day while watching a show on television I learned about cooking bacon in the oven. My first though was that the oven would contain the splattering to a small area in the oven leaving a major oven cleaning to add to my things-to-do list. You have to understand that my oven is only two years old and is still in pristine condition. Would I allow it to be violated like that? I will place a sheet pan under a casserole just in case it bubbles over to avoid cleaning the oven later. I’d rather clean a sheet pan than clean the oven any day. I just had to try it. 
Do not preheat your oven! The first step is to line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil to make cleaning the pan easier. So far so good, I thought. The next step is to arrange the slices of bacon neatly on the aluminum foil. This beats putting long bacon slices into a small round pan. Next place the baking sheet on the center rack of the cold oven. Close oven door and turn the oven to  400°F. That’s it. You’ve got about 15-20 minutes to kill depending on how fast your oven reaches 400°F. You can also use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and fitted with a cooling rack. Either way works. 
It's done
Don’t peek before 15 minutes is up. The anticipation was killing me. It's done when the bacon is golden brown and not too crisp. The exact time depends on how thick the bacon is, the accuracy of your oven temperature, and how crispy you like your bacon cooked. It seemed that when I checked the bacon after 15 minutes it was not done. It changes from almost done to perfectly cooked rapidly so keep your eye on it so it doesn't burn. 
Remove the pan from the oven. Immediately transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to stop the cooking process and absorb the grease, aka. fat.  When the bacon fat has cooled and hardened, simply roll up the foil and discard. Or....pour the bacon grease from the foil lined sheet pan into a ramekin fitted with a strainer and discard the dirty foil. What you do with the bacon grease is up to you.We like using it to cook campfire eggs.
Spoon baste eggs with bacon grease
Now here’s the part I love and why I save the bacon fat. My dad, a WWII Army vet, taught me to make campfire eggs when I was a Boy Scout. When camping in the wild butter is not often not packed available so we relied on bacon grease instead. To make campfire eggs after frying the bacon cook the eggs in the bacon grease. He also taught me a very bad habit. When the bacon grease is hot he would tear off a piece of bread and dip it in the hot bacon grease before eating it. The cook's share is what it's called.
The cooks share

My day said it makes your hair shiny. When the egg is cooking, tilt the pan and spoon the hot grease over the top of the eggs. As the yolk turns white continue spooning until the egg is cooked to your liking.
Just how I like them
No flipping of the eggs is necessary. The bacon flavored campfire eggs is incredible and a welcome cooking method for people who are lactose intolerant.
Mirepoix Rack
Strained bacon can be stored in the refrigerator for months and used for a spinach salad, German potato salad, greasing a quiche or cornbread pan, pan frying fried potatoes, or left-over kartoffelklösse (like that ever happens), sauteing a mirepoix (celery, onions, and carrots), or the holy trinity (onions, celery, and bell peppers). The uses are endless.     
Pan fried kartoffelklösse
Bacon, Eggs, pan fried Kartoffelklösse, toast

© TMelle 2014

1 comment:

shmemily said...

I love bacon in the oven! If you're planning to freeze the bacon, you can take it out of the oven when it's almost done. When you reheat in the microwave for 1 minute it'll finish the cooking process.