One Man's Search for Food Gold
Nectar, manna or food from the gods; call it what you will, bacon is here to stay.
Since time immemorial, this magnificent meat product has been one of life’s ultimate culinary pleasures. It fills a primeval, gustatory need for meat like no other food. The Greeks ate it, the Romans ate it, the Jews & Muslims, not so much. Still, dried, smoked or otherwise cured cuts of pork from the sides and back of the pig have come to epitomize the best that the gastronomic world has to offer.
While there are as many recipes to cure bacon as there are cultures, there are not quite so many ways to cook it. Most chefs prefer the traditional way - frying it - but others have also attempted less conventional methods such as simple boiling or its cousin sous vide as well as deep frying and cooking the meat over an open fire. Undoubtedly, each technique has its advantages, though we think one method is simply superior, that is, making bacon in the oven.
Frying Your Bacon
Bacon's not the only thing that's cured by hanging from a string. - Hugh Kingsmill
Any fool can heat up a pan, throw in some bacon and produce a relatively delicious piece of meat. Any modern chef will tell you that starting with good, fresh ingredients is half the battle when it comes to producing a delicious dish. So, when it comes to bacon, a chef is already starting with a veritable “food gold.” It is simply hard to ruin it. Not that some chefs don’t try.
Here, watch: Oil and Water Do Mix. Who Knew?
Seriously, this guy recommends that you add water to the bacon?! While the video makes it look possible, you are in for hours of failed effort. Go ahead and try it. The result is either boiled bacon (if you keep adding water) or fried bacon that takes an extra long time to cook because you need the water needs to boil off first.
Regardless, most amateur cooks can take Mother Nature’s perfect food and turn it into something palatable. We are not looking for merely palatable, however. We are looking for something much, much better, something superlative, something approaching perfection; which brings us to, drum roll please, Making Bacon in the Oven.
A Better Method
Making Bacon in the Oven
Is it Bacon Day? – Homer Simpson
Personally, I am fine with store bought bacons. There are dozens from around the world and all cook exceptionally well in the oven. By the way, for you purists, who just have to try making your own bacon, try this recipe from Alton Brown. I have tried it on more than one occasion and it is produces a truly magnificent bacon.
Making bacon in the oven is not difficult. In fact, it is kind of a “fire and forget” mission. The problem is that it does take some time, patience and empirical practice to determine the exact procedure for your particular oven. First, here’s an overview of the technique by an unnamed but exacting master:
Pretty simple isn’t it. No bells and whistles, no complicated formulas to follow. As you’ll notice, most of the effort goes into not making a mess. It’s a decided bonus but the real benefit is the crisp, flavorful bacon that you will make.
The one thing that will have to do is pay attention, at least for the first few times. Be sure to note the temperature (400 degrees is recommended) and EXACTLY how long you cook the bacon. From there, it is a simple process of repetition until you determine the exact amount of time that will give you the desired results. It shouldn’t take more than three or four tries before you are enjoying PERFECTLY cooked bacon without any agita or stress.
A Third Alternative
Seriously? Is There One?
The ultimate comfort food is radiation-cooked bacon. - Wilhelm Roentgen, a "fool for the bacon"
No, he didn’t really say it, but we’re pretty sure that the inventor of X-rays was thinking it.
Anyway, anyone who has tried boiled bacon at a Korean restaurant or encountered a sous vide version at some over the top, haute cuisine French eatery knows that bacon must be cooked properly or it is an utter failure as food. In fact, without those beautiful, glistening, fat globules and the crispy brown parts, the resulting product is not even worthy of the name, bacon.
Now, I’ll accept bacon-wrapped shrimp or filet mignon but isn’t that we’ve been saying all along, that bacon is best prepared in the oven. Bacon is an excellent accompaniment to all types of meat, seafood, shellfish and vegetables. Vegetarians be damned. Bacon is just good food. It would be a shame, a disgrace, actually, to eliminate it from our gastronomic palate for the sake of few pounds.
Not to Put Too Fine a Point on It, but...
Let's Be Real
Bacon is the essence of “bacon and eggs.” No one runs around saying things like “Eggs make everything taste better!” Really, no one cares what the ovo-lacto-whatever-o movement has to say except themselves and, perhaps, their gastrointestinal doctors.
Bacon is a quintessentially necessary human food and those who deny it, deny scientific evidence. On a more playful note, many have told the story of bacon and eggs and how it relates to pigs and chickens but it bears repeating.
“When is comes to bacon and eggs, the chicken is interested but the pig is involved.”
If you love bacon and would like to read a far funnier and more revelatory joke about its progenitors, visit my article, Finding the Best Bacon in the World. The article is quite fascinating but, for those of you in a hurry, the actual joke is at the end.