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Cooking bacon in a cast iron skillet

Melanie Lee


Joined: Jan 16, 2012
Posts: 9
Hi everyone! I'm new to posting but have read often here before. I know that sometimes people have trouble cooking bacon in a cast iron pan because it "candies up" from the sugar in it. I have a way of cooking it that works out GREAT and seasons your pan like nothing else can. Try this and you'll see why some "old timers" said to season your pan with bacon. I'm assuming you're already using a fairly seasoned pan here. Don't do this with a new unseasoned pan.

First and foremost, forget about the idea of cooking bacon straight and flat. You need a giant pan to do it, it takes forever, and results are so-so. Take a whole one-pound package of bacon and a regular 10.5 inch cast iron skillet. I like the thick cut bacon best. Separate each piece of bacon and just dump it in the pan all willy nilly. Don’t worry about it being balled up. It’ll taste fine and cook up evenly, I promise. Start cooking at medium low heat. Use your spatula to flip and swirl the bacon around now and then so all parts get to the heat. You’ll notice the “gummy feeling” starting fairly soon. Don’t worry about it. Keep cooking. When you get about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of fat rendered, continue to swirl and flip the bacon, but use your spatula at the same time to gently scrape the gummy parts of the skillet – all done at the same time while cooking. Just gently scrape back and forth, back and forth. You can feel the gummy stuff coming up, and the grease is all right there immediately filling up the spaces that you scrape free. You’ll have to do this a few times but as you get toward the end of cooking, you’ll notice that eventually the gunk just goes away and the pan feels smooth as silk. I cook my bacon until it’s nicely browned with about 3/4 of the fat rendered off. Some people like it black and some like it half raw. If you’re a “half raw” person, you can remove the bacon when it’s to your liking and just continue to scrape the pan until the gunk is gone (assuming you have enough pork fat rendered off in there--if not, add some fat), and then turn off the heat. I find that this process seems to “super season” my pan like nothing else can. I pour out most of the grease when I’m done and scramble some eggs with the remaining grease. Not one bit of egg sticks to the pan! The scraping (cleaning) while there is very hot pork fat in the pan seems to be the key.

By the way, I do this with other things too when I'm cooking. As long as something isn't stuck rock-hard on the pan and as long as there's a fair amount of grease in the pan, just scrape your spatula back and forth while you're cooking. You'll soon find out just by the "feel" how to do this and whether it's working or not with whatever's stuck to your pan.

Hope this helps all the bacon lovers out there. You won't believe how CRISPY your bacon will come out this way with your cast iron pan!

This is a great site. Thanks to everyone for sharing their knowledge.

Mel
Erik Lee


Joined: Sep 21, 2011
Posts: 104
Location: Zone 6 - Missouri
    
    6
Nice, that's pretty similar to what I do except I cook such a small amount that I can lay it all flat. I cut my bacon in half too, which makes it fit better and makes it feel like you're eating two pieces of bacon when you're only eating one, which is easier on the budget. Also, I save the black gunk from the scraping separately, because it's like distilled essence of bacon flavor. Add a couple teaspoons to a pot of beans and a whole new world of flavor will be revealed.


Permaculture will save civilization: http://www.human20project.com
Melanie Lee


Joined: Jan 16, 2012
Posts: 9
Yipes Erik! I don't know if I could eat just ONE piece of bacon, LOL. On the other hand, it has gotten awful expensive lately, hasn't it? In my house we call the scraped gunk "pan scrapies," and they are very coveted, indeed. I save them too, except I don't save them separately like you. I just pour them right out with the bacon grease and don't filter it. Then when I get to the "pan scrapie" layer in the grease cup on some other occasion, it does imbue whatever I'm cooking with a most DIVINE flavor! Mmmmmm mmmmmmmm, pan scrapies are the best! Well, that and cracklings from just-rendered lard. Yum!
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
Hmm... My father taught me to season pans with pork chops, heavy on the fat. Bacon should work too. Most of all, use the pans frequently and then wipe them out, don't wash them and don't over heat them dry.
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10
This is super, thanks for sharing your experiences.
Melanie Lee


Joined: Jan 16, 2012
Posts: 9
Thanks, Jami.

Walter, my mother has told me stories of how pork USED to be a good 50 or 60 years ago. It was LOADED with good fat, not bred to be thin and the "new white meat." She said she'd start out with a frying pan and some chops and when she finished frying, the pan would be LOADED with good grease that she could save and use all week. I'm sure it seasoned cast iron pans well too. And just imagine the flavor. Ah, progress.
Ivan Weiss


Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 157
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
I have never had trouble frying bacon in cast iron pans. I use low to medium heat and just take a little longer, so that the strips will remain flat. If necessary, I mash down on them with a spatula. If I'm in a hurry, I just lay the strips on a paper towel on a plate, fold the paper towel over the strips, and microwave it.

When I use the pan, which is most of the time, I save all my bacon grease in a can in the fridge, to flavor refried beans. Now that I am finishing hogs again, I'll have all my own home-raised bacon and high-quality home-rendered lard, with no hydrogenated additives.

Pastured poultry, pork, and beef on Vashon Island, WA.
Melanie Lee


Joined: Jan 16, 2012
Posts: 9
I love the taste of bacon from a cast iron pan! I don't know if it's my imagination or not, but somehow it seems to come out crispier and tastier to me.

I so wish I had my own pigs but I don't. I'm lucky to get high-quality pork fat from a good farm near me. I make great lard . . . but someday I will do what you are doing, Ivan. And then I'll made even better lard.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6498
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
I think bacon and cast iron is "a marriage made in Heaven". Nothing seasons cast iron like bacon, and nothing cooks bacon like cast iron.
Throw the hash browns in while the pan/fat are still hot. Yumm!
 
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