Thick-cut vs. Regular Bacon

by Elizabeth Skipper | April 14th, 2015 | Ask the Chef

bacon (400x400)I’ve seen thick cut bacon at the butcher’s counter. I’m not sure how I’d use it in my cooking instead of the regular bacon that I buy. My concern is that the thickness of it would affect the final product.  Any suggestions?

How do you use regular bacon in your cooking? If it’s just for “bacon and eggs” for breakfast, it makes no difference whether you use regular or thick-cut bacon. You’ll just need to cook it a bit longer. Thinking of the various ways I cook with bacon, here are some thoughts:

For anything wrapped – think asparagus spears, chunks of sweet potatoes, or a piece of protein like fish or chicken livers – you’ll need to stick to thinner slices of bacon. Thicker bacon isn’t flexible enough and will take too long to cook for it to work well. 

Once cooked up, strips of thick bacon won’t crumble into bits easily because it’s meatier and won’t cook up as crisp. You’ll have to chop it with a knife. Thinner bacon can be torn or crumbled by hand. 

If you’re going to cut up the bacon first and then cook it for bacon bits, ask yourself how substantial you want those bacon bits to be. In salad, good size bits (is that an oxymoron?) can be delicious if they’re in keeping with what else goes into the mix; if it’s a delicate salad, maybe not. If you put bacon in biscuits, cornbread, or stuffing, do whatever you like.

Any time bacon is going into a mixture that’s going to be piped – a dip, deviled eggs, or cream puff dough – stick with thinner bacon. It’s needlessly frustrating when the pastry bag clogs up with chunks of something; and I’ve had deviled eggs where the fillings were so chunky you couldn’t make two bites of them (and, sorry, even if you can stuff the entire thing in your mouth at one go, you shouldn’t.)

Quiche Lorraine is classically made with bacon, which can be difficult to cut when slicing through the custard. Use either; just be sure the bits are fairly small. In omelettes and frittatas, the same applies.

Sometimes people use bacon in chowders rather than the usual salt pork. If you like the extra smokiness thicker bacon will impart, go for it. It will definitely have a stronger presence in the chowder. The same is true of baked beans, which also are traditionally made with salt pork.

These are some of the ways I cook with bacon which come to mind. I hope this answers your question. And whatever you do, save the bacon fat!

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