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).
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.
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:
- 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.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the packaging away from the bacon and discard it. Place the meat on a cutting board.
- 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.
- Cut the slab of bacon in half down the middle, leaving you with two hunks of bacon slices.
- Peel off between 5 and 7 slices of bacon at a time and put them in plastic bags and freeze them.
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.
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.
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.