Bacon Cooking Basics
Bacon is a bargain when it comes to adding flavor to quick weeknight meals. Its smoky-sweet taste livens up everything from salad to pasta.
Bringing Home the Bacon
- Thin-sliced bacon has about 35 strips to the pound. Quick cooking and extra crispy, it's the perfect choice for bacon-wrapped appetizers. Regular bacon is almost twice as thick, and has 16 to 20 slices per pound. Thick-sliced bacon has 12 to 16 slices per pound.
- Lift the flap on the back of the package to get a good look at the bacon's lean-to-fat ratio. Look for thin streaks of meat evenly distributed in snowy-white fat.
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- Check the expiration date. Bacon has a limited shelf life, even when frozen. Once opened, store in a zip-top plastic bag for up to 1 week. Unopened packages of bacon can be frozen for up to 1 month.
- One pound of bacon yields about 11⁄2 cups of cooked and crumbled bacon.
- Cooked bacon is great to keep on hand in the freezer. To freeze, slightly undercook the bacon, removing from the heat a minute or so before it's done; drain on paper towels, and cool. Wrap individual portions in clean paper towels to cushion. Place in zip-top plastic freezer bags, and store in the freezer for up to 6 weeks. Frozen cooked bacon can be warmed in the microwave at HIGH for a few seconds, or place directly into a hot skillet from the freezer. Cook 1 to 2 minutes over medium heat or until crisp and golden brown.
- Canadian bacon, with a taste and texture similar to ham, is actually cured and smoked pork loin. At 3 grams of fat per serving, it makes a terrific low-fat substitute for American bacon when pan-fried in a nonstick skillet. Coat sliced or coarsely chopped Canadian bacon lightly with vegetable cooking spray, and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown.
Cooking Bacon for a Crowd
The traditional method for cooking bacon calls for placing the slices in a cold skillet and pan-frying over medium heat, but if you're cooking for a crowd, oven baking is the way to go. Arrange bacon slices on a wire rack; place the wire rack over a shallow pan to catch the drippings. Bake at 400° for 10 to 15 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
To microwave bacon, use a microwavable rack; or place a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate, and arrange slices of bacon on the paper towel. Cover with an additional paper towel to prevent splatters. You can alternate several layers of bacon and paper towels. Cook at HIGH 45 to 60 seconds per slice.
If you're pressed for time and want minimal cleanup, pick up a package of microwave-ready bacon, or crisp-and-serve fully cooked bacon.