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Ask a Foodie: What’s the Secret to Making Crisp Bacon?

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Q. I like bacon to be really crisp, but when I cook it on the stove it always seems to have some soft spots. Is there a remedy for this? — W. Anderson

Pan-fried bacon: Nearly everybody likes it crisp.

A. Well, W.A., some people actually like that crispy-soft bacon … but it might be they grew up in a household where the breakfast cook was in a rush. (And, if the cook was absent minded, they might also have developed a taste for blackened toast.)

It is heat and time that get bacon crisp, as well as using a good cooking surface that is flat and distributes heat well. Cast iron skillets are good for this, or enameled cast iron or copper. I also like a well-made nonstick skillet. Sometimes, if the heat distribution is uneven, watch the bacon and when it appears to be getting cooked more, say, in the middle than on the ends, you can move it around in the pan so that all of the bacon is exposed to the hot spots and it gets uniformly cooked.

The fat rendering out of the bacon is what turns it crisp. I sometimes pour the rendered fat off partway through cooking, which seems to make the bacon cook more quickly and get more crisp. When it is well browned on both sides, lift it out of the pan and put it on some folded paper towels on a plate. The towels will absorb excess fat.  Or, drain it on wire mesh.

A way to make crisp bacon for a crowd is to put it on a bake sheet (the kind with sides, obviously) in the oven. Line the strips of bacon up on the sheet (OK if the pieces touch slightly) and put it in a 350-degree oven. Keep your eye on it; in fact, do not move too far away from the stove! You might even set a timer for a couple of minutes just so you don’t wander off.

Have a metal pan or ceramic bowl ready for draining fat into about halfway through the cooking. This is actually not hard to do if you take the baking pan out of the oven and carefully tilt it up so that the grease pours out one corner into the receptacle. Wipe that corner lightly with a towel and put the pan back in the oven and the bacon will resume cooking, quickly and crisply.

This brings another question to mind: Should an inexperienced cook try making bacon in the oven? And, if they spill grease on the oven floor and it catches fire, what should they do?

I’d suggest to never let an inexperienced child, or any child or inexperienced cook, be in charge of any major frying without plenty of supervision, and that would include frying bacon in a pan. (Don’t show them the oven trick until they are young adults!)

If they, or you, spill bacon fat on the bottom of a hot oven, causing a flareup, remember that you do not want to pour water on it. The water will sizzle and spatter all that hot bacon grease onto you. Instead, after turning off the oven, smother the flames by setting a large pot lid put down over the grease fire. Or, douse it with baking soda (and, you’ll need to use a lot of it) and/or salt.

If a grease fire starts in a pan, turn off the burner but don’t move the pan. If it is safe, set a lid down over the flames.  Again, don’t pour water into the pan, as it will send up a hot spatter.  Douse the fire with plenty of baking soda and/or salt.

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2 Responses to “Ask a Foodie: What’s the Secret to Making Crisp Bacon?”

  1. Ann says:

    Do you remember bacon presses? Some people even use very old metal irons to flatten the bacon in the pan.

    • Hi Ann, I do remember bacon presses, and you can still find them in hardware, cookware or antique stores now and then. That weight really does help press out more of the fat and you get crisp bacon that stays flat. I have to admit I like my bacon on the wavey side – But, the bacon presses with the little pigs on them are fun. BW