Who doesn’t like bacon? It seems that we are a bacon obsessed world sometimes. What makes bacon even better, how about candied bacon? My friends have always joked that I should write a cookbook called “Jan’s bacon on everything”. We all know it’s fatty, we all know it’s salty, and we know it is a processed food, however, we like it anyway. I have a friend who even wraps his Thanksgiving Turkey in bacon before smoking it.
Growing up we always had a coffee tin filled with the white grease with the brown speckles sitting on a shelf in the refrigerator. Mom used that grease in cooking most things in her cast iron fry pan. Which brings me to the smell of cooking bacon. It is one of my favorite smells in the world. There is nothing better than waking up to the smell of someone cooking bacon in the kitchen. What it is about this smoked pork product that makes our tummy growl, our saliva glands activate, and when we crunch into it makes us so happy? Yes, Bacon is the ultimate comfort food.
It is in the spirit of our love for bacon that I decided to kick it up a notch and make some candied bacon also called pig candy in the Southern BBQ world. It comes from the belly and once it is smoked and or cured it becomes bacon. These amazing Barbecue experts will prepare it over smoking wood charcoal which kicks in even more flavor.
How to Cook Candied Bacon
This recipe does not require you to be a pitmaster or even cook it on a smoker. it can be made in your own oven. It is a bit messy as the sugar and fat melt off the strips of bacon. If you are using the oven be sure to line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and maybe even a little aluminum foil. Why both? I have no scientific proof of this but I think the aluminum foil helps to brown the bacon a bit more, and the parchment paper keeps the pan clean. So I line the pan with parchment first and then place a smaller piece of foil on top of the parchment.
To flip or not to flip is the question? I cook my bacon for 15 minutes and then flip it, add a bit more of the sugar mixture, and cook for another 15 minutes. Since we are talking dos and don’ts here I will never, ever, ever do this in a frying pan as the bacon never crisps, it just gets sticky and makes a big mess to clean. Always use good quality thick-sliced bacon, avoid those thin store brands that shrink up to nothing when you cook it. If you can get it from a butcher’s market that would be advisable, however, there are some thick cuts that will work just fine from the grocery stores.
When your pan is lined properly, find the rack that you cool the holiday cookies on and place it on top of the lined pan. This is what will allow the bacon grease and sugar to drop from the slices and will keep the burning sugar off of your bacon. Yes, some of the grease and sugar will turn black on the bottom of your pan. To avoid infusing the smell of burnt sugar into your kitchen and your food, set the over rack on the mid to upper-level position before you pre-heat.
You will know when the bacon is done in approximately 15 minutes after flipping it, as you see it become a nice light brown color. Not a blackish brown, if it is blackish-brown you have burnt the sugar and it will not be good. Do not worry if it is not yet firm as you let it cool it will become more firm sitting on the rack. give the bacon 15 minutes to cool. Do not be tempted to pick it up before it cools as the sugars will stick to your fingertips and cook them like bacon. This will hurt, they will not taste like bacon, just burnt skin. I have learned from experience. Patience is a virtue!
Below is a recipe that I have adapted over time and think this will give you a result your family and friends will rave about. It is the perfect combination of salty, sweet, and a little spice. You can serve this as an appetizer or as an accouterment. Picture this bacon crumbled sitting on top of a wheel of warm brie cheese. I like to make the candied bacon an option for my brunch guests on the Bloody Mary bar. It makes a great accompaniment to a Bourbon cocktail or even adds just a little extra something in a glass of apple cider. Speaking of apple cider and bourbon, I used a quarter of a slice of this candied bacon on top of my Halloween Apple Cider Bourbon Jello Shots. That sure did make the adults trick or treating happy this year.
Whichever way you plan to enjoy candied bacon just know that your family and friends may be spoiled forever, you may never be able to serve them just plain old bacon again.
A Recipe For Pig Candy
1 Pound of Thick-Sliced Bacon (I prefer applewood smoked)
1 Cup of Brown Sugar
2 and 1/2 Teaspoons of Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon of Course Black Pepper (more for sprinkling optional)
Set the oven racks to the middle of the oven as cooking too low or too high will not yield the desired result.
Prepare the cookie sheet by placing the parchment in the bottom, with a small layer of aluminum foil over the parchment, then place the cooling rack directly on top of it. If you are making the full pound you will need a second pan also set up and or plan your time to make these in batches.
Decide if you are serving whole strips or if you are serving a half or quarter strip. (For a tall drink you will need a full strip, but for a bite as an appetizer, a full strip may be a bit much.) Cut the raw bacon to the size needed.
In a large bowl combine the brown sugar, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and black pepper
Add a few slices at a time and coat well with the sugar mixture
Lay the coated slices out on the cooling rack, do not crowd them, give them room to brown and crisp up properly.
Place in the oven and check after 10 minutes to see if they are ready to flip, if not give them 3-5 more minutes. Remove the pan from the oven do not try to flip in the oven or you will have a mess.
If you see any bare spots you could carefully spoon a tiny bit of the mixture on top of the flipped bacon or you could sprinkle some of the ground black pepper for a spicier taste and a more textured effect.
Place them back in the oven for 15- 20 minutes more, until browned. Do not let them overcook. They will harden when cooling. Below are some pictures of the placement of my bacon on the various rack and differing amounts of time. The bottom rack burnt the sugars on the bacon at 30 minutes, however the top rack at the same time with the lower quality bacon cooked just fine. In the second test with better quality bacon, the top rack seemed slightly under cooked. That is why the middle rack is perfect.
Remove from the rack after 5 minutes and let cool on a plate for approximately 10 minutes before handling