How to make the best bacon ever

Bacon-obsessed cook and food writer Jack Campbell reveals the dos and don'ts of cooking bacon 

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Jack Campbell doesn’t just know how to make a killer bacon sandwich, he knows how to candy the mean, make onion rings with it, and even weave the stuff. 

So when he offers his advice on how to make the best fried bacon you’ve ever tasted, you better listen up. 

“One of the most common mistakes when cooking bacon is to drop chilled bacon into a super-hot pan,” Campbell told The Independent. “Please don’t.”

Instead, let the bacon settle to room temperature and add each rasher to a medium to low heated pan. 

“This lets the fat render slowly without burning the meat – giving the bacon a beautifully even cook. Don’t crowd the pan either – doing so will give you something akin to steamed bacon. It’s not great.” 

“The number one 'do', however, is to start with good bacon in the first place," he adds. "Don’t go for the cheapest cut – it’ll end up being a pale, watery slice that tastes like pork essence on cardboard."

“Bacon is the greatest, most delicious, food in the world," he adds. 

His dedication begs the question – why are so many of us addicted to it? 

“Our brains and bodies are hooked on fat, salt and sugar released when we cook bacon, which are three distinct bacon-y qualities it has in abundance. 

“Bacon is also one of those foods that is both common (filling up supermarket shelves) but feels special – like a treat – every time we eat it. We do not feel the same way about kale,” he says, and we think he might be right.  

Try some of Campbell's recipes from his book The Little Bacon Cookbook below. 

Vanilla bacon monster shake

bacon-shake.jpg
(Billy Law)

This is the last word in over–the–top ridiculousness – When too much sweet and salty bacon just isn't enough, it's time for a monster shake. bring it on, I say. 

Serves 1 (or 2 if you want to share)

50 g (1¾ oz) dark chocolate, melted

2 scoops Bacon and pecan brittle ice cream or vanilla ice cream

400 ml (13½ fl oz) chilled full-cream (whole) milk 

canned whipped cream, to serve

1 Bacon donut 

Honey caramel, bacon and macadamia popcorn, to serve 

1 piece Dark chocolate-covered candied bacon with sprinkle

Drizzle the melted chocolate around the inside of a mason jar or tall glass. Set aside. Put the ice cream and milk in a blender or milkshake maker and blend until combined and frothy. Pour into the prepared jar or glass. Top with whipped cream, the donut, more whipped cream, a sprinkling of popcorn and the candied bacon. Serve immediately.

Bacon-wrapped sriracha onion rings

onion.jpg
(Billy Law)

The holy trinity of savoury: bacon, sriracha and onion. These are a hit at parties (just make it a small party, you don't want to have to share) or serve in a pile with burgers or mac and cheese.

Makes 8

4 large onions, peeled

3 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce

16 slices rindless streaky bacon,

halved lengthways

 125 g (4½ oz/ ½ cup) sour cream or Sriracha mayo

Line two large baking trays with foil and place a wire rack on top of each. (There’s no need to pre-heat the oven for this recipe. It’s better to start with a cold oven.)

Cut two 1.5 cm (½ in) wide rings from the widest part of each onion, being careful to keep the slices intact. Carefully pop out the centre two-thirds of each large ring, leaving two or three layers for each ring. You should have 8 onion rings. Save the leftover onion for another use. Brush each onion ring with the hot sauce. Carefully wrap each coated ring with bacon, overlapping the bacon slightly as you wrap it around. You will

need 4 strips of bacon for each ring. Secure the ends of the bacon strips with toothpicks as you go. Place the wrapped onion rings on the wire rack and place in the oven. Set the oven to 140°C/275°F (fan-forced) and bake for 30 minutes.

Increase the oven temperature to 160°C/320°F (fan-forced) and continue baking for a further 20–25 minutes until the onion is tender and the bacon is crisp.

Remove from the oven and carefully remove the toothpicks. Serve with the sour cream or sriracha mayo on the side for dipping.

shake.jpg
(Billy Law)

Bacon-wrapped mac & cheese burgers

Mac & Cheese in a burger? Why the hell not. We might as well wrap it in bacon while we're here.

Try making the patties on their own for a fantastic snack (Obviously, you'll need to add some chopped fried bacon though

Makes 6

250 g (9 oz) macaroni

40 g (1½ oz) butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

1½ tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for coating

250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) full-cream (whole) milk

125 g (4½ oz/1 cup) grated Gruyere or smoked cheddar cheese

75 g (2¾ oz/¾ cup) finely grated parmesan cheese

2 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten 80 g (2¾ oz/1¹⁄

³ cups) panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) sunflower or vegetable oil

6 slices middle (long-cut) bacon

(about 40 cm/16 in), rind removed

6 rolls or brioche buns, halved and toasted

dijonnaise, good quality aioli or smoky tomato sauce, to serve

Line a 33 cm x 23 cm (13 in x 9 in) baking tray with baking paper.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook the macaroni according to the packet directions or until al dente, stirring often to prevent sticking. Drain. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the shallots and cook for 3–4 minutes until soft. Stir in the flour. Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the milk. Return to the heat and gently bring to the boil, stirring until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses until melted. Season with salt and pepper then stir in the macaroni until well combined. Pour into the prepared tray, pressing down with a wooden spoon to compact the macaroni mixture. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to set.

Turn the macaroni out onto a clean work surface and cut into six rounds using a 9 cm (3½ in) cutter. (Save any leftover mac and cheese and reheat as a snack.)

Place the extra flour, egg and breadcrumbs into three separate shallow bowls. Coat each macaroni patty in the flour, shaking off the excess,followed by the beaten egg, then into the breadcrumbs, pressing on to coat well. Place onto a plate.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan until very hot. Shallow-fry the patties, three at a time, for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Discard the oil and wipe out the pan. Wrap a rasher of bacon the whole way around each patty and secure the ends with a toothpick. Heat the pan. Cook the bacon-wrapped patties, three at a time, for 3–4 minutes on each side, or until the bacon is golden.

Remove the toothpicks. Serve on the toasted buns spread with dijonnaise, topped with lettuce. 

Honey caramel, bacon & macadamia popcorn

popcorn.jpg
(Smith Street Books)

Crunchy, sweet, salty, bacony...this popcorn is the ultimate movie snack or party food. It also makes a great gift, but someone would have to pry it out of your greedy little hands first.

Serves 8–10

2 tablespoons olive oil

125 g (4½ oz) rindless loin (back) bacon, diced

75 g (2¾ oz/¹⁄³ cup) popping corn 

3 tablespoons honey

150 g (5½ oz/²⁄³ cup) caster (superfine) sugar

125 g (4½ oz) unsalted butter, chopped

100 g (3½ oz/¾ cup) salted

macadamia nuts, roughly chopped 

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a frying pan over medium–high heat and cook the bacon for 6–8 minutes, or until very well browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Pour the bacon fat from the pan, plus the remaining olive oil, into a large heavy-based saucepan and place over medium heat. After a minute or so test if the oil mixture is hot enough by adding a couple of grains of corn to the pan – they should spin slowly. Add the corn, shake the pan to coat in the oil mixture, and cover. Shake the pan regularly until the popping ceases. Remove from the heat and tip into a large heatproof bowl.

Discard any unpopped corn and set the bowl aside. Stir the honey, sugar and butter in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium and boil for4–5 minutes without stirring, or until the caramel is golden brown.Remove from the heat, stir in the macadamia nuts and bacon, and pourover the popped corn. Working quickly, fold the mixture gently until the corn is well combined (a silicon spatula is really useful for this task). Spread over the prepared tray and set aside for 30 minutes or until cool and set. Break into pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3–4 days (if there’s any left by then).

The Little Bacon Cookbook is out now

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