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Cooking Tests: Bacon (Part II)
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Cooking For Engineers



Joined: 10 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:31 pm    Post subject: Cooking Tests: Bacon (Part II) Reply with quote


Article Digest:
When I posted the first Bacon Cooking Test (October 2004), I knew that I would have to continue to test different ways to cook bacon. I was so sure that a second article would follow that I named labeled that first article as "Part I". Over half a year later, I've finally gotten around to writing up my latest experiments with cooking bacon.

I look at three more techniques in this article (using a fourth cooking method, low heat pan frying, as a control): Microwaving with a Makin' Bacon dish, grilling, and slow baking.

Method 1: Microwaving with a Makin' Bacon dish
[IMG]
There are many specialty dishes designed for microwaving bacon. Some are simply plastic plates with grooves cut in them to catch grease. This one, the Makin' Bacon dish (about $10), elevates the bacon on poles. As many as a eighteen strips of bacon (according to the manufacturer), can be cooked at a time on this apparatus (although I think my bacon must be wider than their bacon because only a dozen of my strips would fit).

Since I was only going to be cooking a couple strips, I used only the center pole.

[IMG]

Following the instructions on the Makin' Bacon box, I covered the bacon with a paper towel to reduce potential splatter.
[IMG]

I then microwaved it on high for 90 seconds. The bacon at the top (where it bends over the beam, was thoroughly cooked (almost overcooked). However, some of the fatty parts were still soft and partially unrendered. The texture of the bacon was thick and crunchy (similar to the microwaved bacon from the first test). There was also a slight off flavor to the bacon indicative of heating the bacon to too high of a temperature. It is definitely a very fast way to cook and with the Makin Bacon dish, a reasonable number of pieces can be cooked at the same time.
[IMG]

As advertised, the bacon grease dripped down into the plastic container. The instructions recommend pouring out the bacon grease but why waste a good thing? After the grease cools, simply spoon it out into a storage container and store in the refrigerator. The grease collected was fairly clean with some small pieces of bacon in it.

Method 2: Grilling
I prepared a grill with low heat (about 300-350 degrees) and laid out the bacon onto the cooking surface.
[IMG]

Flipping the bacon every five minutes, they reached doneness in twenty minutes time.
[IMG]

With this method, the meaty portions were chewy (but not overly so) while the fat was light and crisp. There were also no off flavors to the bacon. Because of the texture and flavor, this was Tina's favorite cooking method.

Because the bacon grease dripped down into the grill, there was no grease to collect and save afterward; there was also no clean up required. Depending on the size of your grill, you can cook a great deal of bacon at once.

Method 3: Baking at low temperatures
I seemed to have lost the pictures that accompanied this baking technique - but their not much to look at anyway, it's just an oven.

I laid out strips of bacon onto a wire rack and positioned a wire rack on a foil lined half sheet pan. I placed the pan in an oven preheated to 200°F (93°C) and waited. The theory was that the low heat would penetrate the bacon slowly and as the bacon cooked the fat would render, but without increasing the bacon temperature to a level where the preserving agents of cured meat begin to react and form new compounds producing an off taste (and potentially carcinogenic substances - but more chemicals such as ascorbic acid or erythorbic acid are added these days to help mitigate these effects).

Unfortunately, I do not know how long the bacon was in the oven because I forgot to look at the time and fell asleep. My best estimate is that the bacon baked for about 3 hours.

The baking resulted in extremely straight pieces of bacon that I found to have exceptional taste and flavor as compared to the pan frying and grilling (the microwaved bacon's off taste was really apparent next to the baked bacon). The texture was crispy throughout. Since flavor and texture were great, this is my favorite cooking method. (Tina prefers a little chewier meat and still likes the grilled method the best.)

The long cooking time means this method is best for cooking bacon in large quantities (multiple pans) and then bagging and refrigerating them for future use. The bacon grease collected from the half sheet pan was pure white and completely devoid of charred bits.

Method 4: Pan frying
As a control, I cooked the bacon in the same way as the "winning" method from the first bacon test - pan frying. I placed three strips of bacon in a cold pan and placed it over low heat.
[IMG]

After fifteen minutes of cooking while turning the bacon occasionally, the bacon was done. The bacon was light and crispy with a little chewiness to the meat. The grilled method's results came closest to this bacon. The bacon grease remaining in the pan had a pale gray-brown color and was spotted with charred bits and pieces of bacon.

Conclusions
If you're in a rush, microwaving works - but for the best flavor and texture either grill or bake (in advance). If you own a propane grill, cooking bacon over the grill is easier and more convenient than doing it on a stove top. However, if you don't mind spending the time, baking produces the best results with pure bacon grease for use later (may I suggest clam chowder?).

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Sir Frederick
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have found that slow cooking
(baking) meat consistently produces the best flavor. This even in steaks normally grilled.
I bake with no condiments and no
wire rack. More like a bbq with no
sauce. Sauces can be added when eating, and varied. A variac on a toaster oven or contact grill and a good thermometer take the guess work out and more even heat.
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Sir Frederick
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is the inexpensive
20 amp VARIAC I use.
http://store.yahoo.com/webtronics/varacouttran.html
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cooking bacon, or any fatty food like duck breast for example, requires a slightly differant treatment than most meats. It's best to start by placing the meat, fat side down, in a cold and dry pan. Then the stove is turned to high until the fat begins to sizzle. At this point the heat is turned to medium high until done. This approach allows the fat to gradually render, producing a superior product.
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Claire Eats
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is there any meat on the bacon you get in america? It is totally different to what we call bacon in Australia
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1626
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

re: Australian bacon?

I'm not familiar with the bacon that is sold/served in Australia. American bacon is cut from the belly, cured or smoked. The fat content is about 50% (eye-balling it, not actually measured). Generally streaks and clumps of meat are surrounded by ample areas of fats.

Canadian bacon is cut from the loin and in comparison is not fatty at all. It has a different texture and taste (almost like ham) when compared to American bacon.

Perhaps the bacon sold in Australia is like Canadian bacon?
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I understand it, what we in America call bacon is called "streaky bacon" elsewhere in the anglosphere.
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the most commonly available form of bacon here in the antipodes is known as "middle rasher bacon" which comprises the streaky/fatty bit and a generous portion of meat at one end crowned with a small layer of fat. the cut i believe, is from the middle to back portion of the animal.
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

watch Good Eats on food network
A B says put your bacon in a cold oven and pre heat to 400 i leave it in about 12 minutes and i'v tired most of the other methods and find this to be successful for flavor plus i even just use my toaster oven if all i want is a little and ajust the time to suit your tastes
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In Canada, bacon is the same stuff that Americans eat. "Canadian bacon" is usually called "back bacon" here. My dad likes back bacon coated with peameal.
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Brenda
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My Grandfather always has bacon with the "rind" on at his house in SW Arkansas. I'm sure that he bought it from the local butcher. It was always an exotic treat.
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The Hermit
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bacon and a nap! I know what I'm doing on sundays.
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--z
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah - I can't vouch for it's flavour in comparison to pan-fried or other methods, as it has been many years since I've sampled it this way at my grandparents - but in the microwave, an old newspaper section folded in half withpaper towels in the middle - bacon strips cooked there... just another method to chew on.
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really enjoy your site, keep up the good work!
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megwoo



Joined: 08 Jul 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I adore your bacon posts... keep 'em coming! I love the idea of grilled bacon, I'm going to have to try that asap.
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