The scent of sizzling bacon can be detected by humans from a range that would put a bloodhound to shame. It instantly incites a Pavlovian, borderline-pornographic response, flooding your system with endorphins and stimulating the hickory-smoked portion of the brain. The body involuntarily goes into motion, rapidly following its nose to the source of this olfactory magic: the porky pot of gold at the end of the bacon rainbow. In a perfect world, you are greeted with a platter of warm bacon coated with the scantest amount of fat, exploding with the flavors of smoke and salt, and ethereally crispy.
But this is not a perfect world. There is such a thing as bad bacon, and it is the cruelest of all the devil’s tricks. It can be chewy, flaccid, burnt, greasy, or all of those things at once. The realization that you have been tantalized by bad bacon is devastating. The endorphins of joy transform into lightning bolts of white hot rage. This is no way to live. You should never have to settle for bad bacon, and I’m here to help. Forward this to your friends and family who have disappointed you in the past. Print it out and keep a copy in your wallet. Go to Kinko’s and make flyers to post around the neighborhood. This is your bacon bible, which will save mankind from itself.
1. Rinse well
Fat is good, but too much fat is not. Right off the bat, rinse your bacon well with hot water to remove all the congealed excess. Give it a little shake in the sink to remove excess water, then pat dry.
2. Select your cooking method
Oven: This is quite simply the best way to cook bacon: no spattering, no burning, minimal shrinkage and best of all, lots of clean rendered fat that you can store in the fridge for a rainy day.
Line a sheet pan with a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, then place a roasting rack or wire cooling rack on top of it. Lay out your bacon out on the rack, and don’t worry about leaving any spaces in between, or even overlapping a little bit if you need the room. The bacon shrinks as it cooks, so there’s no need to worry.
Roast at 400°F degrees for at least 15 minutes before checking—the exact cooking time will vary depending on how crispy you want your bacon to get. Once it’s done, carefully remove it from the oven and, using tongs, flip the strips over to allow any grease that may have pooled on top to drip off.
After you’ve had your way with the bacon, carefully lift up the foil like a sling and pour the liquid fat into a clean jar, because wasting bacon fat is a sin.
The water hack: America’s Test Kitchen gave the world this “hack” a few years back and it’s a total game changer for you folks who hate turning on the oven. Arrange your bacon strips in the widest pan you have in your kitchen—frying pan, pasta pot, doesn’t matter as long as it’s got a lot of surface area. Pour enough cold water over the bacon to just cover and place over high heat.
As the water comes to a boil it will slowly render excess fat from the bacon. Allow it to completely boil off, then reduce heat to medium and fry the bacon in its own grease, flipping often to make sure it cooks evenly.
Brick: Cast-iron purists may balk at adding water to their precious pans. If you’re one of them, make your bacon they way they do at the diner by weighing it down on a rocket hot surface. Heat that pan on high for at least three minutes, add your bacon in flat strips, then put a foil lined brick (or two) on top to hold it down. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt over the non-brick areas, which will help keep the grease from popping out of the pan onto your delicate forearms. Check bacon after two minutes to monitor its progress, flip when you feel it’s ready.
3. Drain properly
If you’ve roasted your bacon there’s no need to worry about this, as all the fat dripped off in the oven. If you’ve cooked it in a pan, you’ll need to wipe off the extra grease. Line a large plate with at least three layers of paper towels—any less will just absorb the bare minimum of fat and keep the bulk of it all over your bacon. Remove the bacon with tongs and let drip dry into the pan for a second, then put right on the paper towels. Once all the bacon is out, put a few more paper towels on top and gently press down using the bottom of a glass, not your hands. Blisters make it hard to eat bacon.