Bacon is a delicious, salty, fatty gift that’s full of flavor. But not only is it a food that stands alone, bacon is so versatile that it’s an actual culinary tool in its own right. Plus, of course, there’s its starring and supporting role as an ingredient in so many dishes. So as our very own ode to its porky, smoky goodness, we’ve gathered up a list of the ways we love to use bacon, from techniques to recipes that are worth your time and attention.
Save your bacon grease for future use
It’s always so tempting to start cleanup right after a cooking project, but in the case of rendered bacon fat, don’t throw it away. In fact, you don’t even have to drain it out of the pan: Just crack some eggs right in the bacon grease, fry them up until they’re crispy around the edges, and you’ve got breakfast with an extra dimension of flavor. Save any remaining fat for roasting potatoes or vegetables.
Try air-frying your bacon
Calling all air fryer fanatics: Bacon does well in these countertop appliances, as the convection heat of an air fryer does a great job of crisping entire slices at a controlled temperature. You’re limited to the size of your air fryer basket, which in some cases, is likely pretty small. However, if you twist up your bacon, you can fit way more in the basket all at once, plus you’ll get nifty little fried swizzle sticks that you can just grab to snack on when the mood hits.
Cook your bacon in the oven
We all have our favorite ways to cook bacon. There are the basics, like pan-frying, microwaving, and air-frying, but we swear by baking it in a conventional oven. With most of the other methods, you can only cook smaller batches at a time, which is fine for one or two people, but sheet pan bacon can feed a bigger crowd. The strips cook much more evenly, and elevating the bacon above the pan on a baking rack keeps it out of its own grease, letting you control the level of crispness. Plus, no stovetop splatter. Are you convinced yet?
How to cure your own bacon at home
For those of you who really like a hands-on experience, you can absolutely cure your own bacon at home. With some guidance from Chicago-based butcher Rob Levitt, we learned how to make DIY bacon, and though the process takes nine days, the end result is arguably better than anything you can buy at the store. Plus, you always have the bragging rights of having done it yourself, from start to finish.
Make Bacon Shortbread cookies
It may come as a surprise to you that bacon fat is excellent for baking desserts. If you think of it as smoked lard, that might put things into perspective. Now that you’ve been dutifully storing leftover bacon fat in your refrigerator (right?), you can use some in this recipe for Bacon Shortbread Cookies, which comes complete with little shards of crispy meat to round off each cookie with a not-too-sweet yet not-too-salty balance.
Make Pig Cookies with both bacon and ham
These Pig Cookies, like bacon fat shortbread, dance along that line between salty and sweet. But unlike the shortbread, this cookie comes topped with a special spiced glaze reminiscent of Christmas for that extra bit of seasonal flavor. This recipe also includes ham alongside the bacon to provide little chewy bits in each bite. It might sound strange at first, but trust us, they make all the difference.
Bacon Jam is the best homemade condiment
Sure, bacon strips are perfect on a burger, but have you ever tried homemade Bacon Jam? This condiment is oniony and sweet, and unlike strips of bacon, it won’t fall off when you take a bite, since you can spread the glorious stuff right onto a bun. It’s not just for burgers, either: Feel free to slather it onto sandwiches, put a little on pizza before you bake it off, fold it into an omelette... the world is yours. This basic recipe is easy to tweak based on your preferences, so feel free to add a dash of your your favorite herbs or spices.
Treat yourself to Candied Bacon
Treat yourself and make a batch of Candied Bacon. It couldn’t be easier: Sprinkle brown sugar, black pepper, and whatever spices you like on top, and bake it in the oven for that added layer of sweet-and-savory flavor. Obviously eating candied bacon all by itself is marvelous, but think of the possibilities. How about a candied bacon BLT? Or a wedge salad with the sweet crunchy goodness sprinkled on top? Candied bacon is one of our favorites for a good reason. Make it your new favorite too.
Bacon-Wrapped Pot Roast
Steak Birds is an unusual name for a dish that contains neither steak nor poultry in it. Instead, it’s actually bite-sized pieces of pot roast wrapped in bacon, which is served in its own gravy. The dish has sort of a murky origin, but might be related to German rouladen, Italian braciole, or Belgian oiseau sans tête (veal bird without a head), but no matter where it’s from, these bacon-wrapped morsels are well worth a try.
Drink your bacon in a cocktail
We’ve covered many ways to cook and eat bacon, but how about drinking it? With a little help from bartender Laura Kelton, we made a Shortstack Old-Fashioned using a bacon simple syrup. This couldn’t be any easier: simmer demerara sugar and water, then let strips of bacon steep in it afterwards for a few minutes. Finally, incorporate it into your cocktail so that you can eat your breakfast and drink it, too.