Perfect Baked Bacon
We all know about the conventional way to make bacon. Slaving over a hot frying pan while trying, usually unsuccessfully, to dodge the flying droplets of scalding fat that spit from said pan destined for your forearms. You can only cook so many slices at time, depending on the size of your pan. The more you fry, the more the grease pools until your latter slices are swimming in it while your former slices sit on a nearby plate getting cold. That is, if they last that long and don’t get eaten before they make it to the table at all. All this, just for some bacon. If you want to skip this hassle, many opt for the microwave where you zap your little strips of pork layered between paper towel sheets for a fraction of the time, but it leaves you with a fraction of the flavour!
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy salesman, have I got the solution for you! It’s easy, it’s low mess, and you get perfect bacon every time!
Let me introduce the oven! Oven baking my bacon has become my secret weapon to cooking large batches of bacon to perfection every single time.
Fat is our Friend
Contrary to “conventional” wisdom, bacon is not going to clog your arteries, spike your blood pressure, or send your cholesterol readings off the charts. It can actually be part of a healthy, healing diet when eaten in moderation (like anything else) and free of nasty chemicals, preservatives, and sweeteners. Those things are not food; therefore, you shouldn’t be eating them, whether they are in bacon or not.
While bacon is high in fat, it’s mostly oleic acid – the same fat for which olive oil is praised and considered “heart healthy”. Bacon also has a higher level of saturated fats, which we know they are healthy and necessary to the body. It also contains some cholesterol, which is used by seratonin receptor sites. Seratonin is your “feel good” chemical. Yes, that’s right, bacon can actually improve your mood! And not to worry, cholesterol in your food does not equal cholesterol in your blood. Bacon is also high in protein, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, and other important trace minerals.
Omega-6 fatty acids comprise only a small amount (about 10% of the total fat) of the fatty acids found in bacon fat, which are really the only “bad” fats in bacon. Omega-6 is not inherently bad, but we tend to eat too much of it which puts it out of balance with Omega-3’s. Ideally, an anti-inflammatory diet should consist of around a 2:1 ratio of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s. Be sure to buy bacon made from pastured, free-range hogs as their Omega-6 levels will be much lower than their conventionally-raised, grain-fed counterparts.
What about the Sodium?
Bacon is also high in sodium due to the curing process it undergoes. Bacon is soaked in a brine (salt water, often with various spices, sugars, and other additives) to create an inhospitable environment for bacterial growth. The salt is necessary for preservation. Salt is also necessary for our bodies. Too much or too little sodium can create serious health problems, including heart disease. Processed foods are the biggest culprits of excessive dietary sources of sodium. While bacon is a processed food, if it’s the only processed food you are eating, indulging now and then is not going to do you any harm. I know for myself, I often have a hard time getting enough sodium in my diet since going AIP.
When shopping for bacon, usually the fewer ingredients, the better. The bacon I buy from a local producer contains only pork and salt. That’s it. Often bacon contains “spices”, which may or may not be AIP-safe. If you can, ask the butcher or company for a list of exactly what spices are in there. They are ususally happy to provide the information, though some may not want to disclose their “trade secret”. “Spices” can also be code for gluten, MSG, or soy, so do your homework before deciding they’re safe. Your best and safest bet will be to purchase locally-produced products from producers you know and trust.
Now, aren’t your curious about how to attain this perfect bacon? Well, let me tell you!
- Line an oven-safe cookie sheet with parchment paper. Or several cookie sheets if you are doing a bigger batch. Arrange your bacon in a single layer on the sheet(s). One pound of bacon usually fits onto one standard sized cookie sheet.
- Preheat your oven to 325F. You want it hot enough to cook the bacon in a reasonable amount of time, but you don’t want it so hot that it causes the bacon to spit fat all over the inside of your oven. This can be a serious fire risk! Please note that I live at a high elevation which usually means I end up using slightly lower oven temperatures for longer periods of time. You may be able to turn your oven to 350F or higher before risking fat spatter if you live at a lower elevation. Another option to prevent spatter is to cover the bacon with another sheet of parchment paper, but I’m not sure how or if this would affect the cooking time.
- Place bacon in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes. For thinner slices or bacon on the chewy side, you will want to stay closer to 20 minutes. If you have thicker slices or prefer crispier bacon, go the full 30 minutes. Using a higher temperature than 325F will result in your bacon likely taking less time.
- Remove bacon from oven, remove from cookie sheet with a fork or tongs, and serve while hot. You can save the bacon fat for cooking over the next couple days. Never pour bacon fat down the drain as it will solidify and eventually cause a blockage in your plumbing.
That’s it! That’s all there is to getting perfectly cooked bacon every time!