Monthly Archives: June 2015

Bacon Cooking Methods: Microwave vs Stovetop vs Oven.

There are very few documented cases of people not liking bacon. I’ve witnessed it convert weak vegetarians and it features in a lot of people’s ideal breakfasts.

I’ve been arguing with a friend about the best way to make bacon for years. He maintains that microwave bacon is the best. On the other hand I’ve been trying to convince him that bacon cooked in a pan is much better. After years of back and forth I decided to take a closer look at the most popular ways bacon is cooked. Spoiler alert: we were both wrong.

Microwaved Bacon

Bacon in the Microwave

Pros

Because of the nature of how microwaves cook, your bacon will turn out less greasy than it would in a pan. This however might not be a good thing depending on how you look at it. The dehydration as it cooks in the microwave helps create a crispy texture throughout. This is most preferable as a garnish or in salads as opposed to just eating it on its own as we often do for breakfast.

Shredded Bacon

The most obvious benefit to cooking with a microwave is speed.

Cons

This speed however means that it is harder to time the cooking of your bacon. This problem of inaccuracy is exacerbated by the fact that it is hard to see into some microwaves. Although its impossible to not dehydrate the bacon at all, completely dehydrated bacon is too often the product of the microwave method.

This is probably because we’d rather dehydrated jerky bacon than soggy bacon. The problem is that one changes into the other in a very small window of time.

Undercooked Bacon

Another issue with microwaving bacon is the fact that you can’t add any flavours by way of a marinade or anything like that.  It simply will not take on any of the marinade flavour in the short time that it has to cook. The marinade will also be reduced far more than desired in a microwave. The same issues with timing apply to the marinade as well.

Stovetop Bacon

Bacon in the Pan

Pros

In my opinion, the benefit of speed that the microwave provides is not worth the inaccuracy. That is why the best thing about cooking bacon on a stovetop is the fact that it is the most accurate method.

The process happens slowly and in front of your eyes the entire time. It is very easy to get bacon to the exact doneness that you want with this method.

Cons

Although this was my preferred method for many years, I would always be annoyed by the fact that you could only cook so many pieces of bacon at a time.

More importantly, the fat curls when heated and makes it very difficult to get even cooking. Most of the time you have large portions of the bacon soggy from the steaming that occurred because of the curling while other parts would be burned if cooked any longer.

Curled Bacon

Turning down the heat on the stove for a much longer cook fixes the issues of curling a bit. This however further fuels the problem of not being able to cook that many pieces of bacon at a time.

Oven Bacon

Bacon in the Oven

Pros

Lets start off by addressing one of the weaknesses that the stovetop had. You can cook way more in the oven at a time.

More importantly, because of the fact that the oven provides heat from every direction as opposed to the stovetop, it allows for the bacon to be cooked evenly even if the fat curls.

It also does not take up space on the stovetop and only takes 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the perfect amount of time for you to make eggs, toast, and coffee. You just have to set a timer and forget about it.

Cons

Oven Cooked Bacon

It is hard to find a con for this method. If you really want to get nitpicky I guess it’s not as fast as the microwave.

Bottom Line

I thought microwaved bacon shined with regards to convenience and the stovetop was how you got the best results.

It turns out the oven is only marginally slower than the microwave and if you are cooking a big enough batch it can actually be faster than the microwave.

It also provides you with the best results. It is no wonder why oven cooked bacon is now my preferred method.

 

 

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Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly

Ingredients

  • Trimmed Pork Belly – cut into 2 inch cubes.
  • Coconut Juice
  • Whole Thai Chillies
  • Ginger
  • Scallion
  • Shallots
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sesame Oil
  • Juice of one clementine
  • Soy Sauce
  • Fish Sauce
  • Salt and Black Pepper

Method

1. In a medium heated pot, slowly fry off the shallots in sesame oil.

2. Move the shallots to one side of the pot and make a light caramel with brown sugar.

Pork

3. Brown the pork belly in the brown sugar and deglaze with clementine juice.

Pork

4. Add coconut juice, ginger, thai chilli, fish sauce, and soy sauce.

Pork

5. Simmer on low for about two hours (or until falling apart to a firm touch). Make sure to stir occasionally.

6. After turning off the heat, sprinkle on scallions to let them soften from the residual heat.

Pork

7. Serve over steamed rice.

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Cooking Fried Rice (Some Key Tips)

To make life easier for yourself before cooking anything, its best to prepare all the ingredients first. In french cuisine this is called mise en place which means putting in place. This practise is particularly useful when making things like fried rice.

The actual cooking time for fried rice is quite short so its next to impossible to prepare things while you go.

Rice

Mise en place

Usually, I pick ingredients for fried rice based on what I have left over in my fridge. It is a great way to get rid of the produce you’ve yet to use. For the best results however, its ideal to use the freshest and most vibrant of ingredients.

I often like to use fermented products for seasoning because they add a lot of savouriness without making the dish even heavier than it already is. Soy sauce, fish sauce, and Sriracha are my favourites.

Rice

Photo by Irvin Mai

Some key tips for making fried rice.

1. A good trick is to use refrigerated rice. If the rice is freshly cooked it has a tendency to stick together and become mushy if fried right away.

2. Cook each ingredient separately. Each ingredient takes a different amount of time to cook. It is pretty hard to time everything if you are cooking it in one pan/wok.

3. Cook the rice last and fold in the rest of the already cooked ingredients.

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Using Salad Dressings

Taste buds are always looking to be stimulated. Salad dressings are a great way to make this happen. Some salads are one dimensional in terms of their flavour profile. This is particularly true with simple leafy green salads. Leafy salads are generally bitter but are not much else. Making a complementary salad dressing for these leafy greens would at least involve some sweetness, sourness, and saltiness. The making of each salad dressing will depend on each salad but here is an overview of some of the more popular salad dressing components.

1. Fat.

Salad

Photo by Irvin Mai

If your salad is mostly crisp vegetables, it’s likely that it lacks mouthfeel. This is where fat comes in. If you’ve watched the food network you’ve probably been conditioned to think that olive oil is the first ingredient in any salad dressing. Any fat however, can add mouthfeel, body, and luxuriousness to salads. It is most convenient to use various oils however one of my favourite fats to use in a dressing is brown butter.

2. Acidity.

Salad

Photo by Irvin Mai

Whenever there is fat you’ll want acidity to cut through it. I always feel unsatisfied when I eat a burger without pickles or at least an acidic condiment like ketchup.

3. Sweetness

Salad

Photo by Irvin Mai

This is not as essential as the first two but people generally like salad dressings that have an element of sweetness to them. The same can be said for spices. Dijon mustard is one of the more popular ways to add spice to dressings.

Salad

Boston Lettuce, Red Onions, Tomatoes, Radishes dressed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Dijon Mustard, Maple Syrup, Salt, and Pepper.

 

Salad

Kidney Beans, Corn, Avocado, Tomatoes, and Dill dressed with Avocado Oil, Lemon, Cumin, Smoked Paprika, and Salt, finished with Dill.

 

Salad

Broccoli, Red Pepper, Yellow Pepper, Corn, and Shallots dressed with homemade lemon aioli and finished with grated gruyere.

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My Favourite Three Ingredient Omelette

There was a time when I used to make an omelette every day for breakfast. Those days are long gone.

Everyday for the past few months I’ve woken up to coffee and toast. I believe my coffee addiction has resulted in my inability to make anything more complicated than toast first thing in the morning. At the very least its destroyed any desire to.

I figured I’d give it a try today. To make things easier on myself I stuck to a relatively simple omelette.

Ingredients

  • Eggs.
  • Gruyere.
  • Chives.
Omelette Ingredients

Photo by Irvin Mai

Method

  1. Whisk eggs in a bowl.
  2. Grate the desired amount of gruyere and then some (for snacking).
  3. Heat butter in a pan until it starts to brown.
  4. Toss in eggs and agitate for 10-15 seconds.
  5. Let eggs cook until 30 seconds from completion.
  6. Sprinkle on gruyere.
  7. Kill the heat and fold the omelette in half.
  8. Transfer to plate or cutting board and cut in half.
  9. Garnish with chives and freshly ground black pepper.
Omelette

Photo by Irvin Mai

The result is a delightfully tender omelette with just-melted gruyere. The chives work well as a garnish providing a suggestion of an oniony bite. This compliments the richness of the omelette and cheese.

I used to add a lot of ingredients to my omelette. Over the years I’ve found that my favourite things to eat are generally minimalistic. I can’t think of anything I could add that would enhance this omelette.

A common mistake I used to make was culinarily jumping the shark. Sometimes you just have to recognize that you have the perfect game going. Think of how amazing sashimi can be.

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