It’s been decades since my husband and I decamped from Metropolis and moved to the countryside, which means one thing: we’ve had our fair share of power outages. In 1996, just three months after acquiring our first home, the power went out in a freak snowstorm that kept us in the dark for 11 days. We were younger then That’s about all I can say about how we got on. Fortunately, this single snowstorm still holds the record; most of our power outages since then haven’t lasted more than a few days (which is still a lot). With the exception of the freakish August 2003 blackout that knocked out power to 55 million people in the North East, all of our blackouts were in the winter, and for the most part we were prepared.
Recently, on a beautiful, quiet Saturday morning, as we were starting to make breakfast and put the bacon in the oven, we heard a huge crash outside the house and saw a flash of light. Then, the radio suddenly went off (the only immediate evidence on a sunny day that we had lost power). When I looked out the window, I could see the power lines dancing on the poles in front of the house, then I spotted the tree branch across the street. One of the old maple trees near the road had to tear out a line.
Decades ago, after that 11-day blackout in our first home, and even though at the time it seemed like an extravagant expense, we justified buying a gas grill on the assumption that in the event of Power outage, we could at least cook a few things. This theory, however, generally did not work, as the main reason for most power outages was bad weather. This made it easy to transfer to the stone garage where the grill was kept and drag it out in the open to cook in the rain, sleet or snow. It’s one thing to hang around in bad weather when you know a hot shower and a warm bed are waiting for you at home; doing it in a power outage isn’t as appealing. Instead, we just lit a fire in the fireplace, wrapped ourselves in blankets, and ate crackers. Rule number one in the event of a power outage: do not open the refrigerator.
But this calm morning, with no time to get in the way, and the grill now conveniently located on a terrace in front of the kitchen door, we could happily continue to prepare breakfast.
I had been making bacon on a baking sheet for a long time. Rather than frying a few pieces at a time on the stovetop and getting grease all over the place, I liked that I could put almost a pound of bacon on a baking sheet, put it in a hot oven, and switch to other tasks at breakfast. The only problem was that you really had to keep an eye on it. At 400 degrees, it could go from not nearly finished to black as coal in no time.
The power went out 10 minutes after I put the bacon in the oven, and a quick glance determined I was still in the safe zone. So I decided to leave it in the oven and cook everything else on the grill. (I know there are people who cook bacon on the grill, but it worried me how easy it would be to drop a few slices of meat on the grates and have flare-ups for ages. days.) I popped a cast iron skillet on the grill, let it heat up for a few minutes, and with a nice pat of butter, over-easy eggs were a breeze. The robust country sourdough bread was easy to toast on the grill, and a little char was even desirable. Even better, it was possible to do them all at the same time without having to go back and forth between the stove and the toaster oven. Even the coffee maker in the automatic drip machine had retained sufficient heat to arrive on the breakfast table at a reasonable temperature.
By far, however, the best treat of the morning was the bacon. Sitting on that griddle with the heat slowly decreasing results in perfectly crispy, perfectly stiff slices of bacon. This is now the only way I cook my bacon – Canadian, hickory smoked, thick, regular and (dare I say) turkey bacon are all good game.
Even though I’m a chef here, with decades of experience, breakfast is kind of the meal that often takes my breath away – and not in a good way. During the week it is usually an English muffin or a granola. But on the weekends, we like to make variations of eggs and toast with the breakfast meat (ideally bacon) on hand. It still surprises me how many times I find it stressful. Maybe it’s my total obsession with making sure the eggs are perfectly cooked. Eggs should be served as soon as they are cooked – they cannot be parked at all or they will continue to cook, or worse, get cold. Toast is best when it’s hot out of the toaster and the butter is melting on it. With us, it is impossible to grill more than four slices at a time, in some cases two; So unless you can delegate the duty of toasting to someone else, and they toast and butter efficiently, you’re going to end up with hard, greasy bread that tastes like it’s been sitting around for days. Some breakfast meats can sit on a tray for a few minutes, but that’s definitely not ideal, especially not ideal for bacon. In 10 minutes they’ll be sitting in a pool of blackened grease.
Baking bacon in the oven
My accidentally discovered technique for cooking bacon helped reduce stress and gave me some legs in the air. I now put the bacon in a 400 degree oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. I turn off the power when the bell rings; I can forget about it and everything will be fine. 20 minutes and a packet of bacon later, breakfast is served.
- After resting for 10 more minutes once the oven is turned off, you’ll have slightly chewy but crispy bacon; it’s my preference.
- Five more minutes gives you more crunch and less chewing.
- Five more deliver that insanely crispy bacon that I love so much. (As long as you don’t leave it there for an hour, when the bacon grease might start to congeal, you’re fine.)
Baking bacon this way means you’re reducing the fat slowly and ensuring maximum crispiness.
An added benefit is that the bacon grease seems less likely to burn, and once the slices have been moved to a paper towel-lined plate and the pan has cooled for a few more minutes, it’s pretty easy to go without. fat, or better yet. , pour it into a heat-proof container to keep in the fridge to sauté other foods and add a touch of smoky flavor to anything and everything. Oh, and you’ll never have to avoid bacon grease splattering near and far in your kitchen like you do when frying bacon on the stovetop. Baking bacon is a neat freak’s dream!
Bacon in case of power outage
Yields one pound of bacon, depending on thickness.
I prefer thick cuts and think the texture is better for this technique, but I also tested the recipe with standard thin cut bacon. Also thick bacon is more delicious (don’t try to tell me otherwise).
- Preheat the oven to 400°F with the rack in the middle of the oven. (Note: It is important that the rack is in the middle; if it is too low, the bacon could burn. If it is too high, the cooking will be uneven.)
- Place the bacon on a heavy aluminum half pan. I do not line my molds with foil or parchment paper. While this makes cleanup slightly easier, I find the bacon isn’t as crispy and can even stick to the foil. Some home cooks may line a rimmed baking sheet with a baking rack so that the bacon grease drips off the bottom and both sides of the bacon actually get crispy, but I like to see each strip cook in its own shallow pool of fat. (The bacon can be quite close, even touching, but not overlapping. It can be a bit like playing with a puzzle depending on how uneven your bacon is, but I turn the pieces around until they fill the plate. Sometimes that means one or two strips don’t fit and I put them aside for another use.)
- When the oven reaches 400°F (feel free to use an oven thermometer to gauge accuracy), place the baking sheet in the middle of the rack. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- When the timer goes out, turn off the heat, leaving the bacon in the oven with the door closed. (It’s okay at this point to take a quick peek, but too many peeks will let the heat escape too quickly and the results won’t be the same. If your oven cooks unevenly, do rotate the plate before cutting the fire.)
- I like to leave it for another 15 minutes, at least – sometimes more – and I won’t start my eggs or toast until then to keep everything warm when it comes to the table. I left it in the oven for 30 minutes before, and it was still crispy and warm. This is handy if I have a lot of guests over for breakfast or brunch and don’t want the oven to reach room temperature.
- Because it makes flat crispy bacon, leftovers (What is that?) can be stacked and stored, taking up very little space in the refrigerator. Store cooked bacon in an airtight container for 4-5 days in the fridge, or up to a month in the freezer (yes, you can freeze it!).