Cooking Great Bacon

Making Bacon
Making Bacon

Today I have another post on basic cooking skills. Learning to cook at home is an important skill if you want to be able to grow wealthy since eating out costs a lot.   Even at fast food prices, a family of four will spend $60 per day, or more than $21,000 per year eating every meal out.  That’s a year or two at college with room and board.  Even if you only eat out once a day, you’re still spending $7300 per day even if every meal is at McDonalds.  That’s enough to fund an IRA and educational savings account for a year.  No wonder no one has money for retirement and college.

Many people today don’t have basic cooking skills because their parents never cooked or they just didn’t help out in the kitchen when they were growing up.  The trouble is that when most people try to learn to cook, they get a complicated recipe that requires all sorts of ingredients and dirties every utensil, bowl, and pan in the house.  They usually agree that the meal was good, but aren’t eager to cook it very often because of the work involved.

I therefore try to provide information on cooking simple dishes that you really can cook daily.  Today I thought I’d cover bacon since we were frying up a pound.  I’ve found that the skill for cooking bacon has disappeared, even at many coffee shops and country diners, which really should know how to cook good bacon.

First of all, bacon should never go anywhere near a microwave, even to be defrosted.  There is no reason to freeze bacon – it’s a cured meat that will last a month or two in the refrigerator.  It would probably last a week of more on the counter, although I wouldn’t try this.  You see, salt and sugar both prevent bacteria from growing, so the heavy salting and sweetening that bacon gets will make it last a long time.

Cooking bacon in the microwave should be illegal.  It comes our red and limp and just sorry to look at.  I am amazed when I go to restaurants and get microwaved bacon.  Cooking in the oven is tolerable if you have a lot of bacon to cook, but it will get grease everywhere and probably result in a lot more work if you include cleaning the oven.

Bacon belongs on the stove, and ideally cooked in cast iron.  Cast iron is ideal for frying, particularly breakfast foods, because it stays hot when you put cold food on it.  It has a lot of thermal mass, meaning there is a lot of energy in it, so adding some cold food to it won’t cause the temperature to drop precipitously.  That’s why you get nice evenly browned pancakes with cast iron and not with a thin stainless steel or aluminum frying pan.  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, get one the next chance you get.

So here is the ideal way to cook bacon:

1.  Get your skillet warming on medium heat.  I usually put the stove on 5 or 6 out of 10, but of course every stove is different.  Don’t let it get too hot before you add food or it can damage the pan.

2.  Place the bacon in a single layer as flat as possible.  Arrange the bacon in opposite directions between slices to fit as much as possible.  I usually get five or six slices per batch.  Do not add too much – it will actually cook faster with enough room than if you overload the pan.

3.  There are two philosophies on when to flip.  Some say to let it cook for about 5 minutes on one side and then flip once.  Other say to flip every couple of minutes.  I usually flip more often, but either way may work.

4.  Pull the bacon out when it is at your personal level of doneness.  If you want crisp bacon, let it shrink a bit and get brown but not too brown.  Leave ti too long and it will burn, so watch it closely near the end.  You must get it to at least 180 degrees to kill all of the germs, even if you like it somewhat limp, so be sure it shrinks a bit and is bubbling hot on both sides.   Also, do not add new bacon to nearly cooked bacon since you could contaminate the cooked food (although this is unliklely since the cooked bacon will be so hot).  Complete one batch before starting another.

5.  Put the bacon on paper towels to dry.  If desired, you can place a plate of bacon in the oven on 200 degrees to keep warm.  Just be careful the towels are nowhere near the element or you could start a fire.

6.  After cooking about three-quarters of a pound, you will have built up a lot of grease, as shown ain the picture bove.  Do not put this in your sink or it will solidify and ruin your pipes.   You can pour this off very carefully into a tin can.  We usually save one for grease.  Note, keep the can away from the edge of the counter since someone would get a really bad burn if it dumped over on them.  In the old days bacon grease, called lard, was very valuable to coat pans for frying and would be saved in a can.  To start a meal, you would scoop some out.

7.  To clean the pan, let it sit while you’re having breakfast.  Once it is reasonable cool so it won’t melt the liner, but still liquified, pour it into the trash can or into your grease can.  Heat the pan with a little water to nearly boiling, then brush it out with a brush.  If using cast iron, make sure you dry it thoroughly or it will rust.

And there you have it.  How to make bacon at home.  At $3 per side order at a restaurant, versus $5 for a pound of bacon at the grocery store, you can save about $12 per package by cooking bacon at home.  Add an egg and some toast, and you’ll have a better meal than you can get most places today for a lot less.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

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