When I handed five bucks to a trio of hipsters at a food festival booth advertising chocolate-covered bacon, I expected strips of smoked pork belly, still sizzling, and dribbled in milk chocolate, possibly held straight by a skewer. My mistake.
This is what I got instead: three strips of limp, so-cold-the-fat-was-white bacon wafted under a faltering chocolate fountain and then ensconced, chocolate end first, in a napkin. Wrong end, jackass.
As part of an effort to educate, and make sure that such an atrocity never happens again, I’m here to plead, but also to edify. As the veteran cook of several Fat Tuesday parties—last year we managed twenty-eight pounds of bacon, and that wasn’t even a record—I’ve tested every technique, and made every mistake, regarding the cooking of the internet’s favourite food.
How to Make Perfect Bacon
First, use an oven. The stovetop splatters, and the microwave is for chumps who like melty plastic. Preheat to 400°. Get out a baking sheet, and line it with foil. The foil will help mitigate the mess. Alternatively, buy a foil baking sheet if you’re planning your own twenty-pounds-of-bacon-Fat-Tuesday-party and are content to simply throw the mess away at the end of the night. Arrange the bacon slices on the foil, and don’t overlap them; pieces that are covered won’t cook as well. Throw the pan in the oven for seventeen to twenty minutes, and boom, bacon.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try the following:
1. sprinkled with black pepper,
2. egg-washed and breaded with panko,
3. dusted with brown sugar,
4. simmered in Jack Daniels,
5. chopped bacon with mixed nuts,
6. and drenched with equal parts ground mustard, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and cayenne pepper
Save Your Fat
You will need a jar and a method of straining out solid pieces. If you’re a gourmet, it’s time to pull out your cheesecloth. If not, use an old fashioned strainer. Strain the fat into the jar, and refrigerate it. Now you can discover the many joys of cooking with bacon fat.
Turkey bacon is bullshit.
We’ve been talking about American-style bacon, which is sliced pork belly. It’s the most popular kind out there; in fact, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange recently stopped trading pork belly futures because it’s always popular now.
Of course, American bacon isn’t the only game in town. You’ve obviously enjoyed a bacon sandwich made with peameal bacon (and if you haven’t, stop and got to the market, now). Combining the two is British bacon, which is both the loin and belly portion. Finally, southern Europe has pancetta, which is rolled and cured pork belly. It has a milder taste than American bacon, owing to the fact that it isn’t smoked.
One more thing: beef bacon is gaining popularity, and it’s well worth your dollar. If you buy it from a kosher or halal store, you’ll probably get shaved brisket. Alternatively, if you buy from the Beef Bacon Corporation, you’ll get strips of short plate, which is the cow’s belly.
Truly adventurous? Curing and smoking your own bacon isn’t so difficult. You can buy a make your own bacon kit. Alternatively, follow these instructions from America’s Test Kitchen on how to cure and then smoke your own bacon. You don’t even need a smoker, just some wood chunks and a plane old Weber.
Not content with a mere bacon cocktail? Infuse some bourbon with bacon. Take a third of a cup of that aforementioned bacon fat, heat it up, and pour it in a jar. Fill the rest of the jar with bourbon. Put the jar in a freezer for twenty-four hours. The fat will solidify, but the bourbon won’t freeze—and if it does, you were ripped off, my friend. Strain out the bacon fat, and you have a jar of bacon infused bourbon.
Superior Chocolate-Covered Bacon
Pay attention, hipsters. Prepare the aforementioned pre-cooked bacon, but don’t finish it. Stop after about fifteen minutes. Let it cool. Once your bacon is cool, skewer it on satay sticks by threading it, in and out, multiple times. This is tedious, so you’re doing it ahead of time.
When you’re ready to eat, heat up a pan of bacon skewers for about five minutes in the oven. While that’s happening, make a quick chocolate sauce (six tablespoons of heavy cream, heat it till boiling, then pour in six ounces of fine chopped semi-sweet chocolate; this is enough for a half-pound of bacon). Once your bacon is done, drizzle the chocolate over it with a spoon and eat your chocolate-covered bacon while it’s hot.