Bacon is one of the world’s favourite foods because it has a wonderful smoky taste that adds so much flavour to so many recipes, and its even amazing on its own. Crisp, crumbled bacon is excellent for adding a crunchy texture to a variety of dishes, ranging from salads to soups, and whole rashers can be used for covering or wrapping roasts, sausages, vegetables, fish fillets, and more.
Bacon is a versatile ingredient, and you don’t need much of it to add a special touch to your cooking. Here are our ten top tips for cooking with bacon:
When you’re frying rashers of bacon, there’s no need to add oil or any other fat to the pan (except if you’re using very lean bacon; see CUTTING DOWN ON FAT). Make sure that your pan is very hot, then add the rashers, a few at a time, placing them flat in the pan.
Leave them, undisturbed, until they’re brown and crisp underneath, then flip them over and cook the other side. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook the remaining rashers. Avoid ‘stirring’ or poking the bacon strips (or turning them often) while they cook, as this may break them up and may cause them to stick. Crispy bacon is perfect in pasta recipes and with breakfast.
Bacon cooks beautifully in the oven, and this method produces nice flat slices. Place the rashers flat on a baking sheet lined with lightly oiled tin foil, in a single layer, and place them in the cold oven. Turn the heat on to 200 ºC. Leave the slices for 12-18 minutes, or until they are crispy and cooked to your satisfaction. How long they take to bake will depend on how thick they are, and how long the oven takes to come up to the recommended temperature.
Place a plate on the microwave turntable and cover it with a piece of kitchen paper. Place a few bacon slices on top, in a single layer, and cover with another piece of kitchen paper. Microwave on high for 2-5 minutes (depending on how many slices there are) or until the bacon is cooked to your liking.
CUTTING DOWN ON FAT
If you’re watching your waistline, buy lean bacon, such as back bacon, and remove any excess fat before you cook it. You will need to add a little bit of oil to the pan to prevent it from sticking when you fry it. If you’re using streaky bacon, you can drain the cooked rashers or ‘bits’ in a sieve to remove excess fat.
TO MAKE CRUNCHY BACON TOPPINGS
Cook your bacon until it is very crisp, then drain it on kitchen paper. Crumble the cooled bacon over soups, salads and stew recipes. Alternatively, you can cut the bacon into bits before you fry it. Here are three lovely salads topped with bacon.
BACON IN STEWS
Adding a few diced rashers of bacon to a stew imparts a lovely smoky flavour to your dish. Check out some of our new stew recipes to find tasty dishes to add your bacon bits to.
USE BACON AS A WRAPPER
Wrapping meatballs, sausages and chicken pieces with bacon rashers adds interest to the finished dish. Try wrapping pork bangers with bacon or enclosing cheesy meatballs in strips of bacon. You can also stuff a whole pork fillet with apples, onions and walnuts, wrapped in bacon and then roasted in the oven. And how about wrapping your baked potatoes with bacon? Or sprinkling bacon bits on top of your baked potato with some sour cream?
USE BACON TO COVER YOUR ROASTS
A few strips of smoky bacon over the top of a whole chicken will help to keep the breast tender and succulent. A fabulous roast chicken recipe, for example, uses bacon both in the stuffing and as a topping for the bird
PEP UP YOUR PASTA
The easiest way in which to add a touch of real luxury to a quick pasta dish is to introduce bacon. In fact many pasta recipes iclude bacon as a recipe.
BUT I DON’T EAT BACON
If you’re not a fan of bacon, or you don’t eat pork, try using macon instead. This substitute, usually made with mutton, is available from the Kosher section at bigger supermarkets, and at Halaal butchers. Smoked chicken rashers are another good substitute for bacon.