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Cooking Tests: Bacon (Part I)
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Cooking For Engineers



Joined: 10 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:00 pm    Post subject: Cooking Tests: Bacon (Part I) Reply with quote


Article Digest:
Everyone's got a favorite way of cooking bacon, but what's the difference if I broil, fry, or microwave my bacon? Well, I tried to find out.

For my experiment, I took two slices of bacon and cut them in half. Placing them on three paper towels on a dinner plate, I slipped it into a microwave oven.
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I also placed three strips of bacon on a large frying pan.
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Finally, I spread out four strips on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet (for ease of clean up).
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Method 1: Microwaving
I ran the microwave on high for 3 minutes. After three minutes, I checked to see if the bacon was done (should be crispy). In my case, it was. If it's not done, give it another 30 seconds and look again. Repeat until crispy. Nothing could be easier.
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Method 2: Pan Frying
I placed the cold pan with bacon over a medium-low heat. The heat should be high enough that it cooks the bacon, but low enough that you can cook the bacon for a long time without burning it. If the bacon starts to look like it's going to burn (little bits of black start forming at the edges), turn down the heat. Cooking the bacon over low heat will render the most amount of fat out of the bacon. If the fat collects too much (1/4 in. depth), then spoon off the excess fat. Since I was only cooking three strips, there wasn't much danger of this.
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Keep turning the bacon over to evenly cook both sides. When the bacon reaches a deep brown color, it's done. Mine took about fifteen minutes.
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Method 3: Broiler
After placing the baking sheet directly under the broiler, I turned it on. Every couple minutes, I pulled out the rack and flipped the bacon over.
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Unfortunately, it was very difficult to control the cooking of the bacon under the broiler. As the bacon curled up, the fat started to scorch and burn. After about eight minutes, I pulled it from the oven to prevent the rest of the pieces from burning.
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Conclusions
Microwaved - The bacon came out extremely crisp throughout both the fat and meat of the bacon. It felt a bit thicker than I expected from a thin cut piece of bacon. Examining the fat collected in the paper towels leads me to believe that very little fat was rendered out in comparison to the pan fry method. The technique is simple and hands free, but a problem that I have is that the paper towel stuck to several of the pieces of bacon. This may have been because I allowed the bacon to rest and drain on the same paper towel it was cooked on. Another issue is the limited number of bacon strips you can cook in a microwave oven at one time (but the time savings probably more than makes up for this).

Pan fried - The bacon felt the thinnest and lightest of the three. The bacon fat was crispy while the meat was slightly chewy. I actually prefer my bacon this way (not totally crunchy and crispy, but with some texture to it), but others may not. All in all, a good method to cook bacon but time consuming.

Broiled - The bacon was burnt in some spots and the meat felt undercooked. The areas need the burns were bitter in taste and the texture was soft and soggy throughout (except for the blackened parts). Not much fat was rendered off either. I would not recommend this technique.

So, microwaving is king if you're looking for bacon that feels thicker than what you purchased and crunchy throughout. Pan frying is great for a thin, light bacon with a little chew in the meat.

In the future I will test other methods of cooking bacon including baking on a rack (a favorite for many). For now I need to recover from eating nine slices of bacon in an evening.

An aside: Earlier in this article, I cooked the bacon directly on some paper towels. There might be some possible health concerns when doing this. There was once a popular internet chain mail scam/hoax claiming that microwaving Saran Wrap (or other plastic wraps) will release a chemical contaminant called dioxin into the food you are cooking. This was not true if you are using plastic or plastic wrap products labelled microwave safe (in the United States) as these do not contain any dioxins. A supporting e-mail later went on to encourage the use of paper towels instead for microwaving. As part of the backlash against this e-mail hoax, it was put forth that using paper towels might contribute more dioxins into your diet because the bleach used to produce paper towels contains chlorine and chlorine and wood form dioxins. There are plenty of websites that claim that dioxins are formed during the production of the paper towel or that microwaving creates dioxins, but I haven't found one that doesn't make a scientific error in their claim or discussion of the process. To my knowledge, dioxin is produced during combustion, which is not a part of the paper towel making process. The conclusion? I don't know. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) just says to use products marked microwave-safe.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a huge fan of pan frying. But I love bacon the best after it has been cooked thoroughly, then put in the fridge after a day. Mmmmm! Cold bacon!

And 15 minutes sounds about right for pan fry. Do like Emeril says and use the adjustment knob and set it to medium. Keep your eye open for lean bacon at the market!
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Instead of cooking the bacon on a paper towel in the microwave, you might want to try a tray like this one.

-ryan
http://theryanking.com
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Crystal
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking at the ridged plate made me wonder...could you George Foreman grill bacon? It might end sort of oddly shaped though.
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Nik
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was a professional cook we would bake our bacon (pun unintended) in the oven at around 350 - 400 degrees I'm guessing that it took around 8-10 minutes but the bacon could come early or late depending on how you like your bacon (less time for chewy bacon more time for very crisp bacon) it's a fairly consitient way to cook bacon without having to watch it every minute.
-Nik (dakan AT flashmail DOT com)
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1617
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think in part II, I will try baking, grilling indirectly, and find someone with a George Foreman grill.
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The Panda
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your experiment made my hungry! I love bacon but I still don't know how to cook them properly. I don't like it crispy because I like them limp in a sandwich.
Will try your method, then maybe I will see some consistency in my bacon cooking.
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nichole
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the experiments! Like Nik, I bake bacon at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. I get mine from my local farmer's market and there is nothing better at brunch on a fall morning.

For an unparalleled breakfast-meat experience, try brushing the bacon strips with a little real maple syrup before baking.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the problems I've had with cooking bacon in a pan is that I like turkey bacon which often times has much less fat than regular bacon. This seems to make frying much harder since no juices are let off to cook it in.
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Joe
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Important question -- is the bacon thawed, or frozen, when you start microwaving it?
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cynicalb_repost
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A popular restaurant method of cooking bacon is to deep fry it. This is quick and is great for large quantities (assuming you have a large deep fryer). The bacon comes out crisp but usually is not very straight - it ends up curled like a pig's tail.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1617
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The bacon was thawed prior to cooking in each of the methods.
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Jack Shaft
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Which one tastes the best?
Great experiment, got a good feel for cooking methods and textures and evenness of cooking. One Question, which one tasted the best? I have tried them all and found that i like the taste of slow fried bacon the best.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1617
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

re: Which tastes the best
I felt that the flavor produced by the microwaved bacon and pan fried bacon were similar. The texture contributes to how you feel when you eat it, so for my the pan fried bacon was the best given that it was not hard and crispy all the way through.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alton Brown suggests broiling your bacon on a cooling rack inside a cookie sheet lined with foil. This allows the fat to the foil and keep the bacon dry.

Philip
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