You can't beat a good rasher of bacon or two, with good coffee. So here's how I like to cook mine :-

1. Take a frying pan add some olive oil, with some rosemary, and thyme, put on a medium heat and add the bacon.

2. Cook on each side until the bacon is brown.

3. Add about 1/3 can Guinness (1/3 pint), and reduce until you get a treacly mess in the pan and coating the bacon.

4. Keep cooking until you have enough crunchy bits.

5. Stick bacon in roll, add HP sauce to taste. Drink freshly made coffee. Enjoy.



This is of course a good way to start a Sunday morning, particulary if hungover.

In the purest and simplest sense, bacon is a belly of pork which has been cured by salting; but of course there are numerous regional variations of bacon; some smoked, some not, some cooked and some raw - some don't even use belly pork, but another cut entirely.

Historically, bacon was a staple food for the working class. Pigs were cheap and easy to breed for the table, as they will eat virtually anything (including cars if you believe Emir Kusturica). Bacon is always cured, or salted - a process that draws moisture out of the meat and significantly delays spoilage, so it can be kept for long periods. In addition, many styles of bacon are smoked, which combined with the fatty nature of pork belly provides bacon with a rich and hearty flavour - meaning a little went a long way to feeding the whole family.

The English word is derived from the Old French word, bakko; meaning ham. The Modern French word bacon came to mean any cut of pork, usually salted. The French even had a term repas baconique, which was a festival where only pork was served. The English perfected the technique of salt curing and smoking belly pork and borrowed the French term for the meat, and the word was returned to the French and now means what it does in English speaking countries; salted belly of pork.

The traditional preparation of bacon involves salt - and lots of it. Once the pig has been slaughtered, the belly is removed and rubbed with dry salt. The moisture that is drawn out of the pork due to simple osmosis quickly forms a brine. The belly is left to steep and cure in this salty liquid and turned daily, for up to 2 weeks. Once fully cured, the belly is washed of excess salt and then given one of three treatments - air-drying, cold-smoking or hot-smoking. The first two result in raw bacon, much in the same manner that gravlax and smoked salmon result in raw fish. Hot smoked bacon on the other hand has been cooked through.

These days most bacon found in supermarkets is hot smoked, but not in the traditional manner. The whole process is expedited (and therefore much cheaper) by first injecting the un-cured belly with brine, then an atomized smoke and hot water solution is injected to cook and provided a smoky flavour to the belly. This is bacon at its most pointless, and when prepared in such a manner it tends to ooze moisture in the pan and end up dry. The flavour also suffers, instead of a full and delicious natural smoke flavour, a pale chemical imitation is the result.

The only way to get real bacon these days is to visit specialist butchers that prepare their own. Not only will you receive a superior product, but you will be supporting a dying art that if we are not careful, will disappear forever. German and Austrian butchers make a product called kaiserfleisch or sometimes speck, and good Italian butchers will make pancetta. These are both prepared in a very similar manner to good quality bacon. Of course, you could try visiting a specialist English or Irish butcher and ask for raw or green bacon, which ideally should be cold smoked.

Bacon is not made form the same pigs you get regular pork from. Table pork is produced form 3 different grades of pigs; porkers, superporkers and finishers. These tend to have lean meat and a dressed weight of up to 60 kg. Pigs bred for bacon production are known as baconers and are sold at an age of around 24 weeks. They have a higher body fat ratio than regular pigs and can weigh up to a whopping 100 kg.

There are several different varieties of bacon. Middle bacon rashers possess the familiar bacon shape, that is a thin strip of belly pork with a lean round piece of loin at one end. Streaky bacon is the same cut minus the round loin end. Picnic or café bacon is various off cuts of pork that are pressed into a pseudo-bacon shape and should obviously be avoided. Gammon is a specialty of the United Kingdom that is a joint of pork - not the belly, that is cured and prepared in the same manner as regular bacon.

Just as there are a large variety of bacon styles, there is an equally large array of cooking methods, depending on the dishes country of origin.

In Britain and countries influenced by their cuisine, such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand, bacon is cut into thin rashers, then grilled or fried. It is generally considered a breakfast dish, witnessed most often in the famous dish of bacon and eggs. In Germanic countries bacon tends to be cut into thicker slabs, then poached or braised. The cooked bacon is often served up with an accompaniment of cabbage or potatoes. This is rich and robust fare perfect for colder climates. French influenced cuisine tends to use bacon as a flavouring agent, rather than a solo ingredient. This is typified by lardons, which are small dice or rectangular strips of bacon that are cooked at the beginning of a dish to enrich the final result with a nice smoky, salty pork flavour.


Cooking bacon rashers

Anthropod pointed out that I have neglected to provide a method for cooking bacon. Right she was, but I realise that there is more than one way to achieve this. At work, I throw super thin bacon rashers on a Zanussi hotplate, 80cm x 80cm, angled to let the fat drain away. At home, I - and you, are not so lucky.

There are a few schools of thought. One is the "no extra fat method". This involves placing the bacon rashers in a cold fry pan or skillet with no oil. The idea is to slowly bring the bacon up to heat and cook it at a very low temperature for 15 minutes or so, avoiding any spitting fat and gaining a nice crisp texture at the same time.

I personally tend to add oil to a hot pan before adding the bacon - I find it sticks less. And lets face it, adding a tablespoon of polyunsaturated oil is little to worry about in the face of the cholesterol hell that is bacon. Whatever method you choose, always use a good nonstick pan, never aluminium or stainless steel, otherwise more bacon will end up in the sink than on your plate. Roninspoon mentions that he likes to use a cast iron pan for cooking bacon, the thought being that the bacon sticks to the pan just enough to prevent curling and get it crisp, yet not enough that it permanently adheres to the base of the pan. Sounds like good advice to me - but remember as Roninspoon himself states, cast iron can be "…a pain to clean.."

If you really prefer to add no extra fat, a method I use at home a lot may be of interest. Simple place the rashers on a baking sheet and set under an overhead grill (broiler). This method gets your bacon really crispy, but not so greasy.

A Practical guide to Bacon


In the United States, at least, bacon is most often sold in 1 pound, vacuum-sealed packages. 1/2 pound packages are also available in some brands, but are more expensive per unit. Pricing also varies by geographic region and brand, but a pound of brand-name bacon can cost you between $3.50 (most sane places) and $6.00 (New York City).

Choice

Bacon packaging is designed in such a way as to make you think at first glance that you're getting a better deal in terms of the meat/fat ratio of the cut than you actually are. If you turn the package over, you'll see windows cut into the cardboard or plastic tray that will show you a representative slice of the meat itself rather than its edges - the leaner the bacon is, the tastier it will be and the larger the slices will be after you cook them as the cooking process is going to render out a not insignificant portion of the fat.

Storage

A pound of bacon is a lot of bacon - you're going to want to freeze it after you've opened the package. The easiest way to do this (apart from chucking the whole thing into the freezer and thawing it every time you'd like some) is to separate it into individual portions first and put those portions into plastic sandwich bags. I do it this way:

  1. Remove the bacon from the fridge. You're going to want the meat to be cold when you do this - the bacon fat becomes harder to handle when warm.
  2. Use a sharp knife to cut the packaging away from the bacon and discard it. Place the meat on a cutting board.
  3. Trim the ends - there is usually a good half-inch of pure fat at either end that isn't going to do much for you but clog your arteries more-so than the bacon already is.
  4. Cut the slab of bacon in half down the middle, leaving you with two hunks of bacon slices.
  5. Peel off between 5 and 7 slices of bacon at a time and put them in plastic bags and freeze them.
Easy stuff.

Preparation

Bacon is sold smoked and essentially raw and eating raw pork isn't exactly a good way to spend a weekend, so you'll want to cook it.

Cooking room- or fridge-temperature bacon is easy enough - put it in a cold pan over medium heat, flip frequently, remove when cooked and drain on paper towels. Cooking frozen bacon isn't much harder, but there's a trick to it - you don't have to thaw it completely first, but you do need to heat it through enough so that you can peel the individual slices off and arrange them in a pan, so instead of putting the bacon over medium heat and cooking it through, put the frozen block of bacon slices over medium-low heat, cover it, wait five minutes, flip it, wait another five minutes and peel the slices apart before cranking the heat up to medium again. If you don't do this, the ends of the bacon will burn before the middle comes in contact with the pan.

Variations

There are flavored or prepared bacons are available, which are generally made in one of two ways - either the method or duration of their smoking is altered (different woods, different levels of heat, different smoking durations) or more frequently, the bacon is sprayed down with a flavored coating prior to packaging. These coatings are mostly sugar and, while tasty, they're harder to cook correctly because the sugar tends to burn faster than the meat cooks. To that end, if you end up with one of those varieties, it's important that you cook them over a lower heat and flip them more frequently than you would their less fancy cousins. Personally, I just stick to the traditional stuff.

Recipes

Bacon thrives on sandwiches, either by itself or with cheese, or in support of heavier meats, turkey or chicken especially. It's good on salads, wrapped around shellfish, baked into savory potato dishes, crumbled into soups, layered into omelets, blended into pasta sauces or, really, anywhere else where you would want salt, ie pretty much everywhere.

There are a few strong flavors you'll want to avoid pairing bacon with, however - sour citruses and bacon in particular creates an odd aftertaste, and heavier sandwich meats (roast beef and pastrami in particular) tend to overpower the bacon's smokiness.

Apart from that: eat up.

How to quickly cook a pound (.45 Kg, around 16 to 18 strips) of lower-fat bacon (recipe - how-to)

Cooked bacon strips are a basic ingredient for BLT sandwiches, Club sandwiches, Quiche Lorraine, Bacon sandwiches, Green bean casserole, an English breakfast, and other dishes.

A pound of bacon can be cooked quickly by top broiling in an oven, resulting in a fairly low fat bacon. One may also start with a package of lower fat and lower sodium bacon.

You should have a broiler pan with a slotted top insert which a llows fat to drain. An alternative is crumpled aluminum foil in an oven proof pan; put the bacon on top of the foil.

If the bacon came from the freezer, thaw it thoroughly in the fridge. Set the oven to top broil and get out your pan. Open the package of bacon and put it on a cutting board. If there is any solid fat at either end of the strips then trim it using a sharp knife.

Next, place strips of bacon in a single layer in the broiler pan. A large broiler pan may do half of the pound of bacon, 8 strips or so. Then wash your hands with soap and water.

Put pan in the oven, about 5 inches from the top heating element. Set a timer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Get another clean cutting board, or a couple dinner plates, and put a few sheets of paper towel on top.

After cooking two to three minutes one side, grab an oven mitt, pull the broiler pan out, and use a fork to flip the bacon strips other side up. Then put them back in the oven and set timer for two or three more minutes.

By then the bacon should be done. Watch that it is at least slightly brown and not burnt. Pull the broiler pan to the stove top again and place each bacon strip in a single layer on the paper towels.

Next, lay the remaining strips of uncooked bacon in the broiler, wash hands again, and cook the second half of the bacon the same way.

When done, drain the bacon grease from the broiler pan into a jar. Either store or toss that.

This should yield about 12 ounces of lower fat cooked bacon, about 16 to 18 strips, prepared in 20 minutes. Cooked bacon keeps in the refrigerator about a week if it's sealed. Use plastic containers or plastic wrap. Re-heat the bacon in the micro-wave, toaster oven, oven, or in the pan on the stove top.

Now you can do some recipes that use cooked bacon strips. BLT sandwiches, Club sandwiches, Quiche Lorraine, Bacon sandwiches, Green bean casserole, or an English breakfast.

The bacon sizzles and we exchange a charged glance. I'm clutching a fleece blanket around me, but it's pretty obvious I'm naked.

He's looking at me again, smiling mischievously. All at once he's coming at me, and I have to sit down onto the stool underneath me to steady myself. He presses me up against the wall and I lift my arms above my head so the blanket falls to expose my bare tits. His hands and his mouth and his body press up against them hard and he reaches down between my legs. I stifle a moan as he fucks me with his fingers, letting my gaze rest on the lit stove.

"We're going to burn it," I say. But my body doesn't listen to my words. Neither does he. His hands are still roaming all over me like he can't get enough. My fingers effortlessly undo the tie to his robe and...

"This is probably dangerous."

"Yeah."

"It's a fire hazard."

"Yeah." He pushes his fingers deep inside me and I feel the shock throughout my entire body.

For fuck's sake, who can argue with that?

Ba"con (?), n. [OF. bacon, fr. OHG. bacho, bahho, flitch of bacon, ham; akin to E. back. Cf. Back the back side.]

The back and sides of a pig salted and smoked; formerly, the flesh of a pig salted or fresh.

Bacon beetle Zool., a beetle (Dermestes lardarius) which, especially in the larval state, feeds upon bacon, woolens, furs, etc. See Dermestes. -- To save one's bacon, to save one's self or property from harm or less. [Colloq.]

 

© Webster 1913.

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