The smell of bacon frying will get any sleepyhead out of bed in the morning. But its crisp, smoky flavor turns any meal into one that's simply irresistible.
Bacon 3 Ways
Most sliced bacon in the United States comes from the pork belly. It's cured with salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate or nitrite (to preserve the pink color), then smoked. Uncured bacon, which is becoming more readily available, does not contain the added preservatives. Both types are available sliced thin or thick.
Slab bacon is simply bacon that has not been sliced, so you can cut it into cubes or thicker slices. It still has the rind, which is very tough and must be removed before using. Try roasting thick slices of slab bacon in the oven, or dice it small to season braised greens or to use as a soup garnish. Double-smoked slab bacon will give you more smoky flavor.
Canadian bacon, cut from the eye of the pork loin, is tender, lean, and more similar to ham than bacon.
Perfectly Cooked Bacon
Lay bacon slices in a skillet (slightly overlapping is okay) and cook over medium-high until fat is rendered and bacon is browned on one side, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on underside, 1 to 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain (reserve fat for another use).
Rendering is the process of melting animal fat over heat. It's key for cooking bacon. As the fat liquefies and separates, the meat becomes brown and crisp. Fat can be reserved in the refrigerator and used to cook vegetables or eggs.
Slow-Cooker Bacon Jam
Spread this savory bacon jam on bread for a holiday appetizer and send your guests home with a jar.
1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
2 medium yellow onions, diced small
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup brewed coffee
1. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and stir to combine.
2. Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.
Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Tenders
Serve these chicken tenders with a side salad and roasted potatoes for dinner.
8 fresh sage leaves
8 chicken tenders (about 1 1/4 pounds)
8 slices bacon
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1. Place a sage leaf on each chicken tender, then wrap each with a bacon slice. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add tenders, sage side down, and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is browned, about 6 minutes. Flip and cook until tenders are cooked through, 6 minutes. With tongs, transfer to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet to drain.
These bacon pancakes satisfy both the sweet and savory senses. Surprise your family with this breakfast on Saturday or Sunday morning.
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
8 slices bacon
Pure maple syrup, (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, and egg. Whisk flour mixture into buttermilk mixture just until moistened, with small to medium lumps remaining.
2. In a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet or on a griddle, cook bacon over medium-high until fat is rendered and bacon is browned on one side, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and cook until golden and crisp on underside, 1 to 3 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels; pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use).
3. Heat skillet over medium. Pour 1/4-cupfuls batter into skillet and top each with a bacon slice. Cook until some bubbles appear on top of pancakes and a few have burst, about 2 minutes. With a spatula, carefully flip pancakes and cook until browned on underside, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter, bacon side up, and loosely tent with foil. Keep pancakes warm in oven and repeat with remaining batter, adding more bacon fat if needed. Serve with pure maple syrup if desired.
Add a sweet note to savory bacon with a glaze of pure maple syrup. Rather than frying on the stove-top, this bacon cooks easily in the oven.
8 slices bacon
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, arrange bacon in a single layer. Bake until fat is rendered and bacon is beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Carefully remove from oven and brush with pure maple syrup. Bake until bacon is browned and sticky, 3 to 5 minutes. With tongs, transfer to a wire rack, then set rack on baking sheet and let bacon drain. Serve warm.
To serve these bacon-wrapped potatoes as an appetizer, simply leave in the toothpicks they were secured and baked with. Remove them to serve as a side dish.
8 bacon slices, cut in half crosswise
16 small potatoes
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each bacon piece around a potato and secure with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish and bake until bacon is crisp and potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 40 to 50 minutes.
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