Making Bacon

There are different opinions on how you should cook bacon. Some say microwave, some say stove top in a pan or skillet, and others swear by the oven. All work and all have their pros and cons.

Microwave

  • Pros: Easiest method, load the tray, start the microwave, forget about it until you need it. Great for one or two people for breakfast. Extra crispy “well done” bacon is only takes one extra minute. Easy to cook bacon to different crispy levels to cater to different tastes (simply remove some bacon, then run the rest for another minute). Cook time is very reliable, once you know how long it takes to get to the level you like, it will always be the same time.
  • Cons: Need a microwave bacon tray. Limited quantity per microwave round. Different trays top out at different amounts but you will need to repeat cooking for lots of bacon. You have to empty the grease between rounds.

Oven

  • Pros: Can do huge amounts of bacon all at once. Baking time does not change much between small quantities and large quantities.
  • Cons: Messier than microwave. Need a sheet pan with sides or you risk dripping bacon grease inside your oven. Longer cook time than microwave makes it annoying for small quantities. Extra crispy “well done” bacon can take a very long time. Difficult to cook to different crispy levels.

Skillet/Stove Top

  • Pros: No special equipment needed, just a regular pan.
  • Cons: Messy and potentially painful as bacon grease will splatter on the stove and you during cooking. Longer cook time than microwave. Requires you to pay attention so you don’t burn the bacon or smoke the grease. Bacon sits in the grease while cooking so you need to rest it on paper towels to absorb the extra grease.

I personally use the microwave for most of my bacon needs. The only time I use the oven is when I need a very large amount of bacon all at the same time and don’t feel like repeating microwave rounds. I almost never cook bacon in a skillet, it just takes too much attention and work, but it is a good option if you don’t have a microwave bacon tray and only want to make a few pieces.

No matter what method you choose, I do recommend you keep the bacon grease at the end. That stuff is gold for making breakfasts. Check out this Tip for more info.

Generally the way I cook my breakfasts would be to start heating a pan on the stove over medium heat with some saved bacon grease. Load the microwave tray with bacon and start it cooking. Then move back to my heated pan, spread the now melted grease around with my spatula, drop a few eggs in and cook the eggs. When I plate the eggs, I can grab the finished bacon waiting patiently in the microwave (and dump the fresh grease from the microwave tray into my bacon cup to save for later). If I am cooking something that will take more than 5 minutes in the pan, I can wait to hit start on the microwave until I am part way finished on the stove. One pan, one microwave tray, one spatula and no mess.

I could do the bacon in the skillet, but then I have to wait 10 minutes for the bacon to be done, move it to a plate with paper towels to absorb the extra grease on the bacon, drain off the extra grease from the pan, then I can add the eggs to the pan and finally get them started. Meanwhile my bacon is getting cold. I can use a second pan to make my eggs while my bacon is frying, but if I’m going to dirty a second pan, I might as well just dirty the microwave tray instead. Meanwhile, I splattered grease all over my stove top, burned my hands with flying grease. If I save the extra pan and cook the eggs in the bacon pan after my bacon is done, then I have to worry about my bacon getting cold… no that’s a lie, I have to worry about eating my bacon before my eggs are ready. A pile of hot bacon sitting next to me isn’t going to last long enough to get cold.

As for the oven, while I can mostly ignore it like the microwave, it still takes longer and the timing is less reliable. I inevitably wind up having to interrupt my eggs to get the bacon out of the oven (which risks me burning my eggs) or finish cooking the eggs long before the bacon is done, letting my eggs get cold.

All in all, microwave is the way for me. Fast, easy, and reliable.

Select your Recipe and Process to learn how to cook bacon: Easy (Microwave)Intermediate (Oven)Advanced (Skillet/Stove Top)

 

Skillet Bacon

Frying bacon on the stove top in a skillet is probably the oldest, most traditional way of making bacon. It is also the messiest and requires the most attention. However, it is method that virtually anyone can do as all you need is a standard pan and a stove.

Items needed:

Ingredients:

  • Your bacon of choice – have fun, try different thicknesses, flavors, etc

Process:

  1. Line a plate with paper towels – you will be resting the bacon here at the end
  2. Place your pan on the stove, set the burner to medium heat – don’t rush the bacon with a higher heat level, you will burn the grease causing a lot of smoke before your bacon is done.
  3. Unwrap your bacon
  4. Using your fork, remove a strip of bacon
  5. Place the bacon in your pan
  6. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for as much bacon as you desire. Do not crowd the pan. Strips should have as little overlap as possible. This will allow the bacon to fry evenly. If you want to crowd and overlap, use the microwave, it doesn’t really care. If you want lots and lots of bacon at once, use the oven.
  7. Fry the bacon until it starts to sizzle and makes popping and crackling noises. About 3-5 minutes. Don’t go anywhere, unlike microwave and oven methods that you can pretty much ignore, pan frying bacon you have to keep an eye on as it can burn pretty fast.
  8. Using your tongs, flip each slice of bacon. Be careful as hot bacon grease is going to be spattering everywhere. It hurts.
  9. Continue to fry another 3 minutes or until you have reached the crispiness level you desire. You can flip the bacon periodically if you desire, it will cause it to fry a little more evenly. This is more important with thick cut bacon than it is with regular or thin cut.
  10. When you have reached the crispy level you like, use your tongs to remove the bacon to your paper towel covered plate.
  11. Turn off the stove. If using an electric stove, move the pan off the hot burner.
  12. Wait a minute for the grease on your bacon to absorb back into the bacon as it cools, or blot with a paper towel and dig in.

Note: If keeping your bacon grease, let the pan cool for about two minutes, then pour the grease into your storage container.

Oven Bacon

Bacon made in the oven is great if you need to make a lot of bacon at the same time. The cook time for one piece or several pounds is basically the same.

Items needed:

Ingredients:

  • Your bacon of choice – have fun, try different thicknesses, flavors, etc

Process:

  1. Turn on oven, set to 400 degrees
  2. Line your cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Don’t bother with the more expensive non-stick kind, just use regular cheap foil. If you are using a pan without an edge, like a flat cookie sheet, be sure to roll the edge of the foil up to prevent grease running off the pan and burning in your oven.
  3. Unwrap your bacon
  4. Using your fork, remove a strip of bacon
  5. Place bacon on your cookie sheet. Try to keep it flat and all pieces in a single layer, there should be no overlap.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for as much bacon as you want to cook. – you can use more than one cookie sheet if you want a serious amount of bacon, the bake time will not be dramatically impacted. You can easily bake several pounds at the same time.
  7. Place your sheet pan into the oven. The oven does not have to have reached full temperature.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes
  9. While the bacon is baking, wash your fork with soap and hot water to avoid cross contamination with the raw bacon.
  10. Check the bacon, if it is not as crispy as you want, continue to bake checking every 2 minutes. If your oven was not fully heated when you started the bacon you will most likely need at least another 5 minutes.
  11. When it has reached the crisp level you desire, using an oven mitt, remove the sheet pan from the oven and place on the stove top
  12. Using your fork, transfer the bacon to your plate and serve.

Note: If saving the bacon grease, wait about 2 minutes for the grease to cool slightly, then pour the bacon grease into your storage container.

Microwave Bacon

Microwaving bacon is the easiest, fastest way to cook bacon.

Items needed:

Ingredients:

  • Your bacon of choice – have fun, try different thicknesses, flavors, etc

Process:

  1. Unwrap your bacon
  2. Using your fork, remove a strip of bacon
  3. Place the bacon on your microwave tray, it need not be perfectly flat or straight and can overlap slightly
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for as much bacon as you want, don’t massively overcrowd the tray, you can always repeat for more bacon (if doing a large amount of bacon, consider the oven method)
  5. Place the tray in the microwave – If using a splatter guard, place it over the bacon tray
  6. Cook on high for 1 minute per slice. Microwave times, bacons, and personal taste towards crispiness vary. At the end of the cook time if the bacon is not to your liking, add time in 1 minute increments.
  7. While the bacon is cooking, give your fork a quick wash with soap and hot water. This avoids cross contamination from the raw bacon.
  8. Using your fork, transfer the cooked bacon to your plate and serve.

Note: If saving the bacon grease, let the tray cool until you can touch it, but not so cool that the grease has solidified, about 2 minutes, then pour the bacon grease into your storage container. Do not scrape out the tray, just save the liquid grease.

Keep that bacon grease

Bacon grease is good stuff. In my opinion, every time you make bacon, you should save the grease grease that is left behind. This stuff is great for lubricating a pan or griddle when making eggs, pancakes, french toast, hash browns. You can use it with basically anything you want to not stick to the pan that bacon would go well with, which is pretty much everything. You can even substitute it for butter or shortening in some recipes.

Saving it is simple. You just need a container. You want something that won’t crack or melt when the hot grease is poured into it. It also needs to be able to handle the cold temperature of refrigeration without breaking as well. Finally, you want something stable and strong enough that you can add hot grease to the cold container without it breaking from the thermal shock.

Those properties rule out cheap glass or cups, as well as most plastic food containers. Pyrex and heavy ceramics work, as should a silicone baking cup, or even a metal can. In theory you could just recycle a metal fruit can. Just be sure to fully wash the can before use. I personally use a Pyrex custard cup

Once you have collected it, stick the container in the fridge. A top would be nice, but not mandatory. I’ve never kept a lid on mine, nor did we growing up. Like anything else in a fridge without a cover, it could pick up some other flavors and smells, so depending on what you routinely store in your fridge and how often you clean it out, you may want a cover. I clean my fridge weekly and anything that has strong odors or flavors is kept in air tight containers, so I’m not too concerned about picking up odd flavors in my fridge.

There is debate on how long it is safe to keep bacon grease. Officially, it should probably be treated as something that can go rancid. Unofficially, I’ve had the same cup in my fridge for several years, I just keep adding and removing. We did the same growing up. You can definitely safely keep it for at least several months. If you are readily using and refilling with fresh, then you can likely hold it indefinitely. If you are uncomfortable holding onto it forever, just set the container on the counter for a little while to bring it to room temperature, then scoop the contents out with a paper towel into the trash. Wash your container and start fresh.

Pulled Pork Results

The pork tasted great, however it wasn’t “pulled”. It was going along fine and was on track to be done in about four and a half hours. At the four hour mark I pulled it from the oven, used a baster to remove the liquid from the dutch oven, then put it back in without the lid. My plan was to dry the surface of the meat to simulate that ever so tasty “bark” that smoked meats get.

Alas, that was my error. I should have just left it alone. As it turned out, that last 20 degrees increased at a much slower pace. I really should have anticipated that. Once you cross about 160 degrees the connective tissue and collagen in the meat starts to break down. That absorbs energy which in turn slows the temperature increase. This caused my remaining cook time to hit 190 degrees to be another two hours instead of the 30 minutes I was estimating.

The longer cook time without the cover caused me to wind up with pork that was closer to being roasted than slowly steamed as it would have been with my simulated smoking process. That left me with fully cooked meat that tasted fine, but was a little dried out and more importantly, failed to really break down to the point of falling apart like you want for pulled pork.

The upside is the dry rub did set up nicely giving it a bit of a crust, not really the same as the coveted bark, but was about what I expected to get out of the process. The downside, the meat wasn’t falling apart the way I wanted. I just sliced up the meat into some large chunks and handed out knives and forks. Everyone had seconds and I have about a serving of meat leftover.

Next time I do this I’ll leave the lid on the dutch oven the entire time as I’d rather the meat pull apart even if it might cost me the dried crust I like.


 

Here it is going into the oven

goingin

Coming out after about 6 hours

comingout

All sliced up to serve

cutup

Leftovers for tomorrow

alldone

Pulled Pork

I’m prepping to make pulled pork tomorrow. I have no idea what is going to happen. I want the dry rub to sit on the pork and absorb into it for a while, so I’ve applied that today, wrapped it in plastic, and tucked it into the fridge until tomorrow morning.

I’ve made smoked pulled pork several times in the past, but my smoker died several years ago. I had an electric one so I didn’t have to worry about watching the fire. I started a nice 8 pound piece of meat at midnight so it would be ready for a BBQ the next day. I got up the next morning, checked it, and it was stone cold. The electric controller shorted out over night. Of course I had 30 people showing up for a BBQ in a few hours and no pulled pork to go with their burgers. I was annoyed to say the least, but a quick run to the store for a few steaks, a quick change of menu and everyone was happy.

I don’t want to buy a new smoker right now. I no longer have regular large BBQs so I won’t get much use out of it. Instead, I’m trying a way to fake smoking it. It will be done inside, in my oven, using a dutch oven with a little water and liquid smoke. This could turn out great, it could turn out horrible, we will find out tomorrow.

What you want to take away from this (besides being able to see if this works), is the general attitude towards cooking. You can’t be afraid to try and fail. The worst that happens is the pork is inedible. If that happens, I’m just out the money on the pork shoulder. No one is going to hate me for it. The few people that are coming over tomorrow will just get burgers or heck, I’ll send out for a couple of pizzas if I have to. Enjoy the company of your friends and don’t fret so much on if the meal was a hit. Besides, one of the guys is bringing an ice cream cake, you can’t have a ruined meal if you have ice cream cake.

Watch below for today’s prep work. I’ve mixed up my dry rub, trimmed some of the extra fat off, and then rubbed the heck out of my pork. Rub it, smoke it, pull it.

Why oven mitts

I am a big fan of oven mitts instead of pot holders or worse a towel. Why you may ask? So you don’t burn yourself of course! I know that seems obvious and both pot holders and towels will keep you from burning yourself as well, but they are more cumbersome to use and don’t provide the same level of accident protection.

Oven mitts cover your full hand and work like giant mittens. Once they are on you can grab objects firmly with no fear you may have exposed skin. You can adjust your grip without worry your hand may slip off the pot holder. And they stay where they belong, covering your hand, wrist, and forearm and don’t go where they don’t belong like into an open stove flame as towels are prone to do.

Since oven mitts cover your entire hand, wrist, and part of your arm, they also provide protection for other actions like pouring boiling water out of a pasta pot. No worries about steam rising up and searing your arm, you can concentrate on just making sure you don’t splash boiling water all over the place and onto your feet (or just don’t cook in bare feet as I all too often tend to do). They also protect you from bumping the sides or door to your oven when retrieving items. Sure opening the oven door all the way helps prevent that problem as well, but sometimes the cat has decided to camp out in front of the oven and refuses to move and I have to get the chicken parm out from under the broiler right now before the cheese burns to a charcoal like state (blackening isn’t a flavor in my book). With oven mitts, I don’t have to make the difficult decision of having my ankles bitten when I push the cat out of the way versus being burned by hitting a half open oven door. The mitts protect my arms from the door so I can protect my feet from the cat.

I’m sorry but I’m just a realist when it comes to cooking. I don’t plan my kitchen around the way things should be, I plan it around the way things could be when they go wrong. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. So I use oven mitts, flame retardant ones at that, because I’d rather my heat protection be convenient and protect me from the dumb things I am bound to do.

I also keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, you should have one of those too.

Cast Iron Cornbread

Cornbread is a good baking exercise, it is very forgiving with measurements and baking time. So give this a whirl and see how you do.

This recipe calls for a 9 inch or medium size cast iron skillet. If you do not own one, you can use a 9 inch round cake pan, or an 8×8 square baking dish, or really anything oven safe of around that same size. Do NOT use a regular stove top pan or skillet unless it is specifically rated for oven use, if in doubt, assume it is not. If you do use an alternate receptacle, then just substitute it anywhere the cast iron skillet is referenced in the recipe.


Beginner Version – This walks you through assuming you have no idea how to bake. It uses the least number of utensils and gives the most detail.

Items Needed:

  • oven
  • 2 oven mitts
  • 9 inch/medium cast iron skillet (or similar size baking dish/cake pan)
  • large table spoon (the kind you might eat soup with)
  • butter knife (standard non sharp table knife)
  • fork
  • large plate (large enough to cover the cast iron skillet)
  • 1 cup dry measuring cup
  • 1 tablespoon measuring spoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon
  • 2 cup liquid measuring cup
  • large mixing bowl
  • cake tester (a toothpick works as a substitute)

cornbread-items

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow or white cornmeal
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup half & half (milk works but half & half is better)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten

cornbread-ingredients

Process:

  1. Turn oven on, set to 400 degrees – continue while the oven preheats
  2. Melt butter in cast iron skillet
    1. using table knife, cut off 5 tablespoons of butter based on markers on wrapper
    2. unwrap 5 tablespoon cut portion of butter and place into cast iron skillet
    3. place cast iron skillet with butter in oven
  3. Combine dry ingredients in your large mixing bowl
    1. measure 1 cup of flour
      1. using large table spoon scoop flour into 1 cup dry measuring cup until overfull
      2. using flat handle edge of spoon scrape measuring cup level
      3. dump measuring cup into your mixing bowl
    2. add 1 cup of cornmeal, repeat 3a-i, ii, iii with cornmeal
    3. add 4 tablespoons of sugar (4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup)
      1. using 1 tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop sugar and shake to level, dump spoon into your mixing bowl
      2. repeat three more times for a total of 4 tablespoons of sugar added to mixing bowl
    4. add 1 tablespoon of baking powder
      1. using 1 tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop baking powder
      2. scrape spoon across lip of baking powder can to level spoon (if your baking powder container does not have a lip, shake spoon until approximately level)
      3. dump spoon into your mixing bowl
    5. add 1/2 teaspoon of salt
      1. using 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, pour salt into spoon until level, dump spoon into mixing bowl
    6. add 1 teaspoon chili powder
      1. using 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, scoop chili powder and tap to level, dump spoon into mixing bowl
      2. repeat a second time for a total of 1 teaspoon added (1/2 + 1/2 = 1)
    7. using fork, stir mixing bowl to combine dry contents
  4. Combine wet ingredients in your 2 cup liquid measuring cup
    1. using 2 cup liquid measuring cup, pour half & half into cup to the 1 cup mark
    2. pour honey into 2 cup liquid measuring cup until liquid level rises to 1 1/4 cup mark (you just added 1/4 cup honey, 1 + 1/4 = 1 1/4)
    3. crack open egg and add to 2 cup liquid measuring cup, repeat for 2nd egg
    4. using fork, beat contents of 2 cup liquid measuring cup until the eggs are lightly beaten
  5. Add melted butter to dry ingredients
    1. put on oven mitts (the cast iron skillet and oven will be very hot)
    2. Check cast iron pan to see if butter has fully melted, if not, stir butter with table knife, close oven door and recheck every 30 seconds
    3. when butter has melted, using oven mitt covered hand, remove cast iron pan from oven
    4. swirl pan to distribute butter across the entire bottom of the pan and around the edges, you do not have to go all the way up the sides
    5. dump melted butter from pan into large mixing bowl containing the dry ingredients, do not scrape out the pan, just pour out the extra butter leaving the pan coated in butter
    6. place skillet on stove top
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients by dumping the contents of the 2 cup liquid measuring cup into large mixing bowl containing the dry ingredients, use your spoon to scrape the honey out of the measuring cup
  7. Using your large table spoon stir contents of mixing bowl until everything is wet
  8. Dump contents of mixing bowl into cast iron skillet, scraping out most of the bowl with your spoon
  9. Using oven mitt, place cast iron skillet into oven (skillet will still be very hot, cast iron holds heat for a very long time)
  10. Set timer for 20 minutes
  11. When timer goes off, check cornbread to see if it is done
    1. using oven mitt, slide oven rack with skillet out of oven
    2. insert cake tester into center of the cornbread and then remove cake tester
    3. look at end of cake tester that was inserted into cornbread, if batter is stuck to cake tester, cornbread is not done
      1. using oven mitt, slide rack back into oven, close oven, wait 2 minutes and repeat steps 11a, b, c testing a new spot on the cornbread
    4. when no batter is stuck to cake tester, using oven mitt remove cast iron skillet from oven and place on stove top
    5. close oven door and shut off oven
  12. Plate the cornbread – optional if you did not use a cast iron skillet
    1. Using your table knife, run knife blade gently around outside of cornbread to separate it from the side of the cast iron skillet
    2. Place plate, upside down, over cornbread (surface of plate should face the cornbread with bottom of plate facing up)
    3. Using oven mitts on both hands, using both hands grasp skillet and plate together and flip upside down so plate is now on the bottom and skillet is inverted on the top
    4. Remove cast iron skillet leaving cornbread on plate
    5. Place skillet out of the way on the stove top, it will remain hot for at least 30 minutes, so don’t touch it without oven mitts
  13. Allow cornbread to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving (so you don’t burn your mouth by eating it too hot)

cornbread-done

NOTE: Some cornbread crumbs may stick to the bottom of the skillet. This is normal. If large chunks of cornbread stick to the skillet, the cornbread may not have been fully baked or the butter may not have fully coated the skillet. To correct this, next time swirl the butter longer verifying the bottom of the skillet is fully covered, and bake for an extra 2 minutes past where you think it is done. The important thing to remember is the cornbread will still taste delicious even if some stuck to the skillet. Ugly cornbread is still tasty cornbread. This is food, not art. Simply scrape out what got stuck and eat it.

To store extra cornbread, allow it to cool to room temperature and then cover with plastic wrap. It will last several days on the counter. If it starts to dry out and get hard, cut off a piece, split it in half and toast it in a toaster oven or pan fry it with some butter.

You have now made your first cornbread. Repeat the above the next time, or if you are comfortable with the overall process, use the below short version.

Standard Version – This version assumes you are comfortable with the basic process gives you the bare steps.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten

Process:

  1. Set oven to 400 degrees
  2. melt butter in 9 inch cast iron skillet, swirl to coat skillet
  3. combine all dry ingredients (first 6 ingredients) into mixing bowl
  4. combine all wet ingredients (next 4 ingredients) including melted butter from skillet in prep bowl
  5. add wet ingredients to dry, stir until moistened
  6. pour into skillet
  7. bake for 20-25 minutes or until tester comes out clean
  8. invert immediately onto plate and serve