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Bacon Cooking Tips
If the packaged sliced bacon is refrigerator-cold, slowly slide the dull edge of a butter knife along the length between the strips, gently rocking to separate slices. Plan ahead and take the bacon out of the refrigerator thirty minutes before cooking. The slices should separate easily.
When frying bacon, it’s important to keep a close eye on it and turn it often. It can burn in the blink of an eye. Older bacon will cook and burn almost twice as quickly as fresh bacon.
If you prefer very crispy bacon, choose thinner slices to fry up. Pour or baste off the fat as it accumulates in the pan. Use medium to medium-low heat. Cook slowly, turning often, to render out the most fat and help reduce shrinkage.
Pricking with a fork will help alleviate any curling problems. Drain breakfast bacon on paper towels.
The fat rendered from the cooked bacon is highly-prized as a cooking oil for its flavor. After cooking the bacon, cool the rendered oil to room temperature and then pour through a fine sieve into a glass container. Cover and store in the refrigerator or freezer for future use. If you do not need the rendered fat, let it cool to room temperature, pour into a disposable metal or glass container, seal, tie up in a plastic bag, and toss into the trash. It’s not wise to pour it down the drain, because it will coagulate and clog up the drain.
There are fancy microwave bacon cookers on the market which work well, but they are not necessary. Place a microwave-safe paper towel in a micro dish large enough to fit a single layer of bacon slices (4 to 6 slices). Cover with another paper towel. Six slices should take about 4 to 5 minutes on high, depending on the wattage of your microwave and the thickness of the bacon. Start checking after the first two minutes, and continue cooking at one minute intervals until you can judge the cooking time for the way you like it.
Consult your microwave manual for more specific times. A rotating base in the microwave is highly recommended for even cooking, and most come with one built-in these days. Remember that foods continue to cook even after the timer goes off in a microwave, so let it rest a few minutes before you dive in to let it crisp up and avoid burns. Curly bacon never bothers me, but this method reduces curling of the bacon.
Bacon can also be easily baked in the oven, resulting in amazingly flat slices. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a rack inside a baking sheet. Lay out slices and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on desired doneness level. Voila! Crispy bacon with no curls. You can also use your broiler, but I don’t recommend it. First of all, the splatters not only make a royal mess, but also cause flares. Secondly, it requires much more attention. Stick with frying, microwaving or baking.
How can you reduce splattering problems? Part of the problem arises from today’s quick salt-brining method (known as pickle-curing) used by producers. The liquid naturally soaks into the meat, and you know what happens when liquid hits hot oil — snap, crackle, pop! Be sure the bacon slices are cold from the refrigerator and start with a cold pan. Use medium to medium-low heat and take your time cooking the slices, turning often. It’s preferable to thaw frozen bacon in the refrigerator to reduce moisture, but even then some of the moisture may naturally seep out. Towel off the slices before cooking to avoid excess splattering.
If you must watch your fat intake, lean smoked ham or prosciutto can be substituted in many recipes where the rendered bacon fat is not needed. Turkey, chicken and vegetarian bacon products are also available.
Most slab bacon is sold with the rind attached. Remove the rind before using. Render the fat from the rind by frying and you have cracklings, a favorite Southern snack.