Chef Wendy

Brilliant Bacon: Ten Top Tips

Bacon is one of the world’s favourite ingredients because it has a wonderful smoky taste that adds so much flavour..

Crisp, crumbled bacon is excellent for adding a crunchy texture to a variety of dishes, ranging from salads to soups, and whole rashers can be used for covering or wrapping roasts, sausages, vegetables, fish fillets, and more.

Bacon is so versatile as an ingredient, and you don’t need much of it to add a special touch to your cooking. Here are ten top tips for cooking with bacon:

Frying bacon 

When you’re frying rashers of bacon, there’s no need to add oil or any other fat to the pan (except if you’re using a very lean bacon; see below). Make sure your pan is very hot, then add the rashers, a few at a time, placing them flat. 

Leave them, undisturbed, until they’re brown and crisp underneath, then flip them over and cook the other side. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook the remaining rashers. Avoid ‘stirring’ or poking the bacon strips (or turning them often) while they cook, as this may break them up and/or cause them to stick. 

Baking bacon

Bacon cooks beautifully in the oven, and this method produces nice flat slices. Place the rashers flat on a baking sheet lined with lightly oiled tin foil, in a single layer, and place them in the cold oven. Turn the heat on to 200 ºC. Leave the slices for 12-18 minutes, or until they are crispy and cooked to your satisfaction. How long they take to bake will depend on how thick they are, and how long the oven takes to come up to temperature.

Microwaving bacon

Place a plate on the microwave turntable and cover it with a piece of kitchen paper. Place a few bacon slices on top, in a single layer, and cover with another piece of kitchen paper. Microwave on high for 2-5 minutes (depending on how many slices they are) or until the bacon is cooked.

Cutting down on fat

If you’re watching your waistline, buy lean bacon, such as back bacon, and remove any excess fat before you cook it. You will need to add a little oil to the pan to prevent it from sticking when you fry it. If you’re using streaky bacon, you can drain the cooked rashers or ‘bits’ in a sieve to remove excess fat. 

To make crunchy bacon toppings

Cook your bacon until it is very crisp, then drain it on kitchen paper. Crumble the cooled bacon over soups, salads and stews. Alternatively, you can cut the bacon into bits before you fry it. Here are three lovely salads topped with bacon: Creamy Pasta Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon and this creamy Watercress Soup is transformed into a gourmet treat with its crunchy bacon topping! 

Bacon in stews

Adding a few diced rashers of bacon to a stew imparts a lovely smoky flavour to your dish. Here are two recipes for you to try: Beef Stew with Bacon, Beans and Onions, and Chicken, Bacon and Rosemary Stew

Use bacon as a wrapper

Wrapping meatballs, sausages and chicken pieces with bacon rashers adds interest to the finished dish. Try wrapping pork bangers to make this traditional Toad in the Hole, or enclosing cheesy meatballs in strips of bacon. In this luxurious dish, a whole pork fillet is stuffed with apples, onions and walnuts, wrapped in bacon and then roasted in the oven. And how about wrapping your baked potatoes with bacon

Use bacon to cover your roasts

A few strips of smoky bacon over the top of a whole chicken will help to keep the breast tender and succulent. This fabulous roast chicken recipe, for example, uses bacon both in the stuffing and as a topping for the bird 

Pep up your pasta

The easiest way to add a touch of real luxury to a quick pasta dish is to introduce bacon. Try this delicious Broccoli and Bacon Pasta Bake, and this incredibly simple Smoky Alfredo with Bacon and Chives

But I don’t eat bacon

If you’re not a fan of bacon, or you don’t eat pork, try using macon instead. This substitute, usually made with mutton, is available from the Kosher section at bigger supermarkets, and at Halaal butchers. Smoked chicken rashers are another good substitute for bacon.