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Bacon in the oven


Fat Guy
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The other day we were over at some friends' house for breakfast. We were preparing a feast: pancakes, eggs, home-fried potatoes, toast, and bacon. They have a four-burner DCS range. It's actually the exact one I have at home, which was strange to see in someone else's kitchen (first time for me). Over two burners went the griddle for pancakes. The third burner had the skillet for the potatoes. And burner number four was reserved for the scrambled eggs. Toast would go in the toaster.

That left the bacon. My friend's plan was to cook it on the griddle, then clean the griddle, then do the pancakes on the griddle.

I said, "Why don't we do the bacon in the oven?"

He looked at me like I had two heads. But he consented.

I turned the oven to 325 degrees (F). I took a half-sheet pan and laid the bacon strips out very tightly packed -- overlapping a bit in places -- so that a one-pound package of sliced bacon fit on the tray. I put the whole thing in the oven and waited.

After about 15 minutes -- and during all this time we were able to make stuff on the stovetop -- I opened the oven and turned each piece of bacon over with a fork. By now the bacon had shrunk a bit so it no longer overlapped. Back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so.

The bacon was ready around the same time as all the other food. I took the tray out of the oven and put it on the counter on a couple of cork trivets and took the pieces off to dry on paper towels.

At the table, my friend's wife, who was not involved in the food preparation, asked "How did you get the bacon to come out so good?"

Another convert to bacon in the oven.

Not only is bacon in the oven incredibly convenient and efficient -- it leaves your stovetop burners free and if you have room for three half-sheet pans in your oven you can cook three pounds of bacon at once no problem -- but also the bacon comes out great. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps being surrounded by warm air is better for the bacon's flavor development than the unilateral heat of a stovetop skillet. Perhaps the oven just enforces the low-and-slow approach better than the stovetop. Or perhaps it's because, all of it cooking at once, the bacon comes to the table "fresher" than multiple batches in a skillet or two. In any event, bacon in the oven is the only way to fry.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Put the bacon on a baking rack and then on the half sheet. That way, the fat has a place to drain.

For even better bacon, brush some maple syrup or sprinkle some brown sugar on top during the last 5 minutes or so of baking.

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I like bacon cooked in the oven. I always do it that way when we have to cater breakfasts for large groups. I don't use a rack on the pans, I think bacon is better cooked in it's own fat.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I wrote about this a couple of years ago in a Bacon and Eggs story in "The Daily Gullet." And I stood by it today: spread bacon in your most disreputable sheetpan, put it in a cold oven, set the oven for 400, and pull when then timer goes off. Never fails.

Then pour the grease into a frying pan and cook yourself a fried egg.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I like bacon cooked in the oven. I always do it that way when we have to cater breakfasts for large groups. I don't use a rack on the pans, I think bacon is better cooked in it's own fat.

I don't know whether or not it comes out better on a rack but it would have to be a substantial uptick in quality to make it worth the inconvenience. The beauty of the simple on-tray oven method is that it's so convenient and efficient yet it produces excellent bacon. That's why I prefer the method to the stovetop even when cooking for a small group. As Maggie has written, even if you're just cooking six slices they're not going to fit well in a single skillet on the stovetop (though I have a an old square Griswold skillet that can just handle that many slices -- not that I'd ever cook just six slices of bacon), so the oven method is preferable in all normal bacon cookery scenarios.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Bacon in the oven is my favored way of cooking it, especially for a large group.

I always put down a sheet of parchment paper on a lipped baker's half sheet for easier cleanup.

It always comes out great.

Buen provecho, Panosmex
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I do bacon in the oven any time I need more than six slices. (I can fit six slices on my microwave bacon cooker.) I use a rack over a half sheet pan, lay the bacon on, and start in a cold oven that I turn up to 400 degrees F. I've tried it both with the convection fan on and without, but haven't reached any conclusions on which way is better.

I'll have to try the parchment down below. Anything to make cleanup better is a plus in my book.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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I wrote about this a couple of years ago in a Bacon and Eggs story in "The Daily Gullet." And I stood by it today: spread bacon in your most disreputable sheetpan, put it in a cold oven, set the oven for 400, and pull when then timer goes off. Never fails.

Then pour the grease into a frying pan and cook yourself a fried egg.

I thought we'd discussed this somewhere previously on eG....

That's the way I first learned to cook bacon some 50 years ago in my grandmother's kitchen. She used to own a restaurant, so she was accustomed to cooking in large batches. But as has been pointed out, cooking bacon in the oven works just great for smaller amounts as well. The only caveat is that I do want to cook a large enough amount to make it worthwhile to heat up that big oven.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I have done bacon in the oven, using a rack and sheet pan, for years. After experimentation, I prefer a rack to allow the fat to render and the bacon to crisp easier. This also gives me cleaner drippings which I save in a jar in the fridge. I put the bacon into a cold oven, heat to 350, and pull the bacon at about 15-20 minutes or so. The bacon seems to shrink less at this temperature and time.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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Another benefit is that bacon in the oven seems to be a tidier way to cook.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Another benefit is that bacon in the oven seems to be a tidier way to cook.

Yes, that (plus the ease of cooking) is the big benefit as far as I'm concerned: no grease to clean off the stovetop! Unless I'm only cooking a couple of slices, I never bother with cooking bacon in a pan.

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Since I rarely cook bacon for a crowd, I just can't see turning on the oven to cook 6 or 8 slices of bacon...I get pretty darn good results just from cooking the bacon very slowly on the stove top, turning it frequently, and making sure I don't overcook it.

And I'm betting that the brand of bacon makes a difference.

Never any complaints from my wife on the quality of the finished product...and she is bacon-demanding.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Does anyone know about the science of nitrosamines as it relates to cooking bacon?

I know that these substances form when bacon is cooked at high temperatures (e.g. in a pan on the burner). I was wondering if cooking it at the lower temp in the oven (such as described above) reduces or inhibits their creation?

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We always baked the bacon in the Marine Corps, can you imagine cooking bacon on the griddle for 1200? I once burned a whole industrial convection oven of it. I carefully panned it all off in a perforated insert and put it in the big steamer for 5 seconds and it saved the whole mess from becoming bacon bits on the salad bar and me being in the hot seat.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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I cook a lot of bacon, and nearly always in the oven, but I use a slightly different strategy, one that amounts to culinary torture when you are hungry... I put the bacon on a wire rack over a baking sheet in the oven at 200 F. It takes many hours to achieve perfection, and the smell of bacon permeates the house the whole time, but it makes the best bacon I have ever had. My theory on this is that more of the flavoring compounds seem to stay attached to the bacon, rather than dripping off with the rendered fat. When you cook the bacon this way the fat that renders off is perfectly white, with little to no discoloration or flecks. I have no idea if this theory makes any scientific sense, but give this method a try: it's delicious.

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Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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There is an oven-cooked-bacon trick that I attribute to Gary Rhodes.

Cook the bacon between two identical, nested pans.

You grease the underside of the 'lid' before putting it in place.

Result: no need to turn, and the bacon doesn't crumple up as it cooks.

This technique gets extended by some people to ham, Parma ham even.

http://www.churchhouseconf.co.uk/rotm/2003-05.shtml

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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The bacon flow chart is so wonderful! :biggrin:

Even though I'd heard of cooking bacon in the oven several years ago, I just recently started doing it that way, and I will never go back. We've tried several brands of bacon this way, and even the cheap, thin stuff does much better than in a frying pan. When I cook it on top of the stove, I always seem to miss that magic window in which it's just done enough, but not overcooked. This method allows much more room for hitting the mark, and it cuts down on shrinking and curling.

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Chris, have you noted any food safety issues with your multiple-hour at 200 degrees approach? Or is bacon so loaded with nitrates and what not that it is inhospitable to bacterial growth?

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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Chris, have you noted any food safety issues with your multiple-hour at 200 degrees approach?  Or is bacon so loaded with nitrates and what not that it is inhospitable to bacterial growth?

200 degrees is not much lower than what I smoke bacon at when I am making my own at home, so I don't think there would be an issue. Of course, the only evidence I can proffer for this is that I'm not dead yet :smile:.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Chris, have you noted any food safety issues with your multiple-hour at 200 degrees approach?  Or is bacon so loaded with nitrates and what not that it is inhospitable to bacterial growth?

200 degrees is not much lower than what I smoke bacon at when I am making my own at home, so I don't think there would be an issue. Of course, the only evidence I can proffer for this is that I'm not dead yet :smile:.

Hmmm !

200F is much higher than the temperatures used in sous-vide cooking, and is higher than the the temperatures used for poaching ("boiling") ham. Cooking at 200F (93C) for long enough to 'cook' the bacon should be no health hazard at all.

Regarding MGLloyd's mention of "nitrates and what not", two points could be clarified.

Nitrate can be used in bacon-curing (in Europe and elsewhere) BUT the nitrate's action requires bacteria to be present - otherwise the cure never gets started. The first stage is nitrate reduction to nitrite by bacteria!

However, because of entirely different food safety concerns (nitrosamine formation), the US FDA doesn't like nitrate in bacon. So US cures start with nitrite (bypassing the need for specific bacterial presence and thereby making the cure "more reliable") ...

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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200F is much higher than the temperatures used in sous-vide cooking, and is higher than the the temperatures used for poaching ("boiling") ham. Cooking at 200F (93C) for long enough to 'cook' the bacon should be no health hazard at all.

Good point: I'm sure you're right. Compared to normal sous vide temps, 200 is very high, so you have far exceeded the FDA pastuerization time/temp guidelines by the time the bacon is fully cooked. Plus, bacon is loaded with salt, which is the primary preservative (the nitrite helps, but for short durations salt is good enough). I'd be hard-pressed to imagine a scenario where cooking bacon at 200F could be significantly riskier than any other cooking technique.

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I love the oven method. I'll do just a few slices that way. I'm also a no rack bacon baker. The rack is just one more thing that needs to be cleaned. Also, I don't have a rack with small enough spacing to fit my quarter sheet pans. Being single and usually cooking for one, a quarter sheet pan is large enough for me most of the time.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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When I'm cooking large batches of bacon I use the oven, but when I'm cooking smaller ones (6-8 pieces or fewer) I actually use the microwave. I just stack one layer of bacon each between paper towels and microwave until crispy. It usually takes about 6-10 minutes depending on if I'm cooking one or two layers of bacon.

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