Category Archives: basic tips

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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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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Cutting Boards 101: What makes a good cutting board?

This article is reposted from Spoon University of Guelph.

If you don’t normally require a microwave when cooking, it’s a safe bet your cutting board gets a lot of use. Too often, cutting boards are warped, split, flimsy, or just dulling your knives at a ridiculous rate.

What makes a good cutting board?

1. Stability

Cutting Board

Accordion Slices. Photo by Cheryl Ching

Nothing is more annoying than a board that doesn’t sit flat on your table. Even a slightly uneven board means that your knife can never make perfect contact with your cutting surface. The most flimsy boards have your vegetables rolling all over the place.

2. Durability

A good board should last you a long time. You can get the plastic OXO Good Grips cutting board, which will last you forever for $25. It doesn’t make sense to buy a $10 cutting board if it means you’ll have to buy another one in a year’s time.

It’s also annoying when wooden cutting boards split or warp since they are relatively expensive. If something that is $25 can last forever, you are going to want your much more expensive wooden board to do so too.

3. Not damaging to your knife

If you’ve put money into good knives it doesn’t make sense to use a cutting board that dulls your knife. Glass cutting boards have been shown to significantly dull knives after as few as 10 slices. Marble boards don’t do too much better.

You Only Need 2

Wood and plastic are the two most popular choices in terms of materials. Whatever you end up going with, it is still recommended that you own at least two boards; one for fruits and vegetables and one for raw meats. Cross contamination will ruin your day.

Suggested Materials

Wood

Cutting Board

Wooden Cutting Board. Photo by Cheryl Ching

There are many types of wood, as well as many different construction methods. In the end it’s up to you. It’s really your choice whether you want a “softer” board or a “harder” board.

Softer woods result in your knives sinking into the wood or being “gripped” more. Harder woods feel great under your knife but are sometimes more susceptible to cracking.

Another thing to think about is the fact that wood absorbs the smell of the liquids it absorbs. This is especially true with fats. This is why many opt to exclusively cut fresh fruits and vegetables on their wooden boards.

Plastic

Cutting Board

Plastic Cutting Board. Photo by Cheryl Ching

Plastic boards are the most popular material. A good plastic board is very durable, requires little to no effort to maintain, and in some cases are dishwasher safe. They are the best material in terms of convenience and cost. The only con is that they don’t feel as nice as wood.

Most people prefer to cut raw meats on a plastic cutting board because it does not absorb the smell of liquids and they are easy wash.

Suggestions

Two cutting boards stood out after America’s Test Kitchen’s rigorous tests were performed. For the wood category, the Proteak edge grain cutting board faired best. The OXO good grips plastic cutting board won the plastic category.

Ultimately, everyone values different things, but at $25, the OXO good grips plastic cutting board is the best reason to not have a crappy board.

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Timing

The tricky thing about cooking more than one ingredient is that they often do not take the same time to finish cooking. For instance, in this dish I serve carrots, asparagus, and potatoes along with the steak and all three cook at different times. This makes timing difficult as the goal is to have everything finish around the same time. This way nothing becomes dry or gets cold.

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Little things to note when calculating when to start what ingredient are things like the time it takes for meats to rest, the time it takes for potatoes to reach an edible temperature, etc. When everything finishes at the same time you get the maximum flavour out of every ingredient. Timing is often overlooked and underrated. Getting it right makes a massive difference.

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