Breakfast, slowly

A late breakfast today, with slow-cooked hickory-smoked bacon – or thinly-sliced pork belly if you don’t call this bacon – homemade buttermilk waffles, and a couple of eggs over easy.

The remaining waffles will freeze nicely – about four times nicer than supermarket frozen waffles, in fact.

Slow-Cooked Bacon

With a little experimentation some years ago, I determined that this is the best way to slow-cook bacon: Preheat your oven to 260-275 F (125-135 C). Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil, taking care not to rip it or get holes in it (for easy cleanup). Put a fairly close-mesh wire rack in the sheet pan, then place your rashers on the rack in a single layer, just touching each other. A half-sheet pan will hold about 3/4 lb, 1/3 kilo, or about 16 rashers of regular cut.

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You can cook more than you need, because these will reheat very nicely with 30 seconds in a microwave. I use a regular (not thick) cut, cured, hickory-smoked bacon for this method; smoked or not is a personal preference, but I’ve found uncured bacon doesn’t work as well. Now, slow-bake it for 90 minutes – yes, 90 minutes. (Because bacons vary considerably, you should start taking a look at the 75 minute mark and maybe every 5 minutes thereafter so it doesn’t get too dark. I also look at the wetness: When the rashers start to look not completely dry but more dry than wet, they’re perfectly done.) What happens is magical. You end up with slices that are about 90% of their original size and about one-fifth of their original weight, and about a half-cup of perfectly clear bacon drippings in the (lined) pan. The bacon is a deep color with no burned parts at all, has very little grease (it’s all in the pan), and absolutely melts in your mouth. In fact, the cooked bacon is so delicate and wafer-like that some pieces will probably break in two from their own weight when you remove them from the rack to paper towels to drain.

The best part is that the bacon is now reduced to almost pure flavour, and it will be the most intense bacon flavour you are ever likely to encounter. It may be difficult to restrain yourself and actually make the rest of your breakfast or BLTs instead of scarfing down the whole lot straight out of the oven. It’s also probably a bit healthier for you, since 80% (or so) of the fat is gone and sitting in the pan.

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You can bake chicken skin in a similar low-and-slow manner, but between layers of parchment paper, with a second pan sitting on top to keep it flat.

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