When you focus on cooking whole food from scratch for yourself and your family, you end up spending a lot more time in the kitchen than the average person. A lot more. Which leads to spending more time than you would like scouring the internet looking for ways to help you spend less time in said kitchen. At least, I know I did.
One of the best strategies I’ve employed has resulted not only in a satisfying time savings, but also in discovering how to cook perfect bacon every time. If you’ve never oven baked your bacon before, you are missing out. No, really, you are missing out on time you could spend doing something else. And you’re missing out on amazing, perfect bacon.
Is Bacon Good For You?
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 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 now know are healthy and necessary to the body, and some cholesterol, which is used by serotonin receptor sites. Serotonin is your “feel good” chemical. Yes, that’s right, bacon can 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. (1, 2, 3)
There is a small amount (about 10% of the total fat) of Omega-6 fatty acids found in bacon fat, which are really the only “bad” fats in bacon because we tend to eat too much of these as it is. Ideally, an anti-inflammatory diet should consist of around a 2:1 ratio of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s. If you are worried about the Omega-6’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 Sodium?
Bacon is also high in sodium due to the curing process it undergoes. To cure bacon, it is typically 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. That being said, sodium is necessary for our bodies. Too much or too little sodium can create serious health problems, including heart disease. The biggest culprits of too high dietary sodium intake are processed foods. While bacon is a processed food, if it’s the only processed food you are eating, only indulging now and then is not going to do you any harm. For myself, I often have a hard time getting enough sodium in my diet since switching to an AIP lifestyle.
What to Look For
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 safe for those on diets like AIP or with various food sensitivities. If you can, ask the butcher or company for a list of exactly what spices they use in their bacon. They are usually 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 option will be to purchase local products from producers you know and trust.
How to Cook Perfect Bacon Every.Single.Time
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. Arrange your bacon strips in a single layer on the sheet. I can usually get a pound of bacon 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! 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. If you have thinner, smaller slices of bacon or prefer your bacon on the chewy side, cook for a shorter amount of time. For thicker slices or if you prefer crispier bacon, go for longer. If you are using a higher temperature than 325F, your bacon will take 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 delicious, bacon-flavoured dishes by pouring into a glass jar and storing in the fridge. Never pour bacon fat down the drain as it will solidify and stick to the insides of your pipes and eventually cause a blockage.
That’s it! That’s how you cook perfect crispy bacon every time!