Friday, February 7, 2014

Baconology: 10, 5, Flip, Finish Method


I have cooked a lot of bacon over the last few months. I jokingly coined my efforts 'Baconology' and have documented notes and weights on at least 25 lbs of bacon cooked by various methods. This was hardly a deep-dive scientifically speaking, but the measured observances and extensive taste tests led to a number of rather interesting discoveries.

My intention was to come up with a cooking method that would consistently yield great bacon. After I met that criteria I worked to make it as effortless as possible, which included reducing cleanup and cook times. The results are the '10, 5, Flip, Finish', and as recorded in the video, prove that not only does it work for one pound of bacon, but it works just the same for two.

Watch the video to learn more: 

Breakdown: 10, 5, Flip, Finish 

Place bacon straight out of the package fat side down in a cold nonstick pan. Place on burner over MEDIUM heat.

Set the timer for 10 minutes, don't touch it.

At 10 minutes, separate the rashers to fill the pan.
Cook another 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, FLIP it all over.

Push the least cooked rashers to the sides and use the middle of the pan to FINISH.

If the pan spits grease, turn the heat down.
If they cook too quickly, turn the heat down.

Remove from pan as they turn golden and allow to drain on paper towels.

Don't allow the bacon to steam, move it to a plate while still warm.
It will continue to crisp up as it cools.

The concept here is that the fat takes longer to cook than the meat. Cooking it fat side down protects the more tender meat proteins and allows the fat to render, creating a more tender and delicious rasher. Admittedly the process takes a bit of time, but the first 15 minutes are nearly hands off, and the benefit of those last 10 minutes of extra attention means fewer grease splatters and greatly reduced mishaps of burnt bacon.
I should also note that I tested all kinds of pans, stainless steal, cast iron, and nonstick. Each of them performed well, but I settled on the nonstick pan for the ease of clean up. It is certainly not essential to have a nonstick pan to make great bacon, it is just my pan of choice.

Other Bacon Geek Discoveries:  

Baked vs Fried
As mentioned in the video, I measured the weights of grease and meat with the expectation that baked bacon would weigh less in meat and more in grease than that of fried, since I believed the myth that baked bacon is lower in fat (thinking more grease would render out.) However four different methods, two on the oven and two on the stove, using exactly the same raw meat weight revealed the post-cooked weights of all four methods also was exactly the same. Which leads to the assumption that baking only removes flavor/moisture, not fat (since it did not taste nearly as good.)
Great Bacon has a High Fat to Meat Ratio 
The bacon from the video.
Weighing bacon this way revealed a pattern in the relationship of great taste to rendered grease.  The bacon with the most flavor nearly always rendered out the same weight in grease as in meat. This meant in almost every instance that the national brands did not even compare to the lower cost/generic or regional brands. When purchasing bacon in the past I always picked through the selection looking for the 'meatiest' looking package. Measurements and tastes tests confirm that is completely unnecessary and even undesirable.
 Meat Weight
Strained bacon grease.
I weighed dozens of pounds, uncooked, cooked, along with the grease left in the pan. Not all bacon is a full pound out of the package, despite what it says on the wrapper. I found many that came in a full ounce short. This is actually more appalling when you learn that those 15 ounces cook down to less than 4 ounces of edible meat. If you consider the cost per pound equates to only a quarter of that amount in cooked product; that makes bacon a very expensive cut of meat. The cost alone should be reason enough to get serious about a cooking method. 
Additional Bits of Bacon
Home-cured and smoked bacon is darker in color,
but has no off-putting flavor unlike commercial bacon
when allowed to get this browned.
Bacon grease, like any other fat introduced in your diet should be consumed sparingly, but is does enhance almost any dish. Rubbed on the outsides of baked potatoes, sauteed with onions and garlic for tomato sauces, omelets, hash browns, and every sort of green veggie benefit from frying in bacon grease. The fat content is not any higher in bacon grease than other fats, but it does contain sodium, so keep that in mind when adding salt. Allow the grease to cool a bit, then strain any cooked meat bits out and store it in the fridge in a lidded glass container.
Bacon's cost, its unequivocal flavor, and its potential health implications make it all the more important that when you do indulge, you make the most of the little bit of meat you get from your efforts. I hope you find as much success with this method as I have.
Enjoy!

Oh and for you vegan fans, I haven't left you out. You can find my version of tofu 'bacon' here



5 comments:

  1. We eat a lot of bacon at our house and I must admit that I hate to cook it. It ALWAYS makes such a mess that I often wonder if it is worth it...but few things beat bacon so I would continue to cook it in spite of the mess. I tried this method with some skepticism because I doubted that there was any "special" way fry bacon, "hot and fast" was the only way I knew to cook it...I was wrong. This method really works. It was so nice to sit down to a lunch of BLT's and not have to dread a greasy mess awaiting me in the kitchen. Instead the grease remained in the skillet where it belonged. I dont think I will go back to "hot and fast"...slow and steady truly does win the race...and it makes good bacon!

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  2. Thanks Hannah for your nice comment! I think a lot of people think hot and fat is the best way to go, and that is how my mother always cooked it too, but logically, thinking of it as any other piece of fatty meat, that doesn't make sense; which is why I started playing around with cooking methods. Oh I know there are going to be folks who say "This method will never work, that it will splatter grease everywhere, or that the bacon will be soggy, not crisp." But I cooked 25+ pounds with this method before I dared to make a video to prove it worked (I know people are sensitive about their bacon cooking, I wanted to be sure.)

    The fact it, there is approximately 10 ounces of unaccounted weight in bacon that cooks out, that weight must be water, this is why bacon spits grease. If instead you let it steam out slowly, allow the grease to render and the steam to be released more slowly, the grease stays in the pan. If it spits at all, it is a sign the temp is too high. This is most obvious when the bacon is chopped and cooked in the pan as if for a salad, the entire pan will bubble with steam escape. The results just look different when the strips are cooked whole.

    To what end do we sear meat? To seal in moisture/fat, but fatty cuts we allow time to render and cook slowly as to keep the meat tender. Proteins do not absorb fat as they fry, but the even temperature in the pan as a result from more grease creates an environment where the entire rasher can cook more evenly instead of some parts getting too done, and have a tendency to seize due to high heat, while others don't cook enough.

    Lastly, a crowded pan means that you can stack the rashers if needed, so when those really narrow or unevenly cut ends start to brown, they can sit up on another piece nearby while the rest cooks to perfection. It's a win/win method. Great bacon, less mess, no burnt bacon bit in the grease.

    Thanks so much for trying it and leaving your thoughts!



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  3. I love bacon. I've always had a hard time finding a method that cooks it to perfection, but now I need not look any further! This method is so perfect, absolutely fantastic! Will definitely be showing this to all my friends. Thanks so much for sharing! Now I will never have to worry about poorly cooked bacon again. :)

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  4. I tried this method last night.. I ended up with the best bacon that ive ever cooked. I suggest it highly. you wont be disappointed

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  5. Your baconology has made my husband a very happy man! It has been close to a year since I've cooked any bacon. I made some the other night and it was so much easier using this method. It eliminated the time consuming step of pulling the strips apart and laying them out in the pan. The low heat also allowed me to do other things in the kitchen while the bacon was cooking. I didn't have to worry about it burning or splattering and it turned out nice and crispy.

    I had some difficulty using big tongs along with a fork and was worried about scratching my non-stick pan with them. Using small bamboo toaster tongs in one hand and a single wooden chopstick in the other made the manipulations easier for me.

    Thanks for the "well done" video demonstration and the easy-to-remember verbal steps!
    Carolyn

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