Bacon, among meat lovers, is something of a fetish. It’s the sexy meat, the naughty-but-nice, the flesh with phwoar.
Non-meat eaters crave bacon above any other meat. I know, I used to be one. There’s even a kosher bacon flavour mayonnaise. I kid you not.
Yet, for all the fantasising about the perfect fry up or the ultimate bacon sarnie, the reality is often so disappointing: pallid slices leaking milky secretions in the pan and shrivelling to a tough, hideously salty (and as you know, I love salt) sliver with all the appeal of a trainer insole.
Much of the problem comes down to added water, injected into the meat to make it weigh more (and so generate bigger profits), often held in by adding phosphates to the mix – avoid any bacon which lists them in the ingredients. Using a “wet cure” (a brine bath) rather than a “dry cure” (a salt rub) also makes for bacon with a higher water content, which seeps out as it cooks.
This isn’t just annoying (who wants to pay for water when they thought they were paying for meat?), it also affects the flavour. The browning of the bacon, what food geeks call the Maillard reaction, is what makes the gorgeous umami or savoury flavours that we crave. As water-logged bacon effectively steams and boils in the pan, the “browning” ends up stuck to the pan instead of the meat. Even grilled bacon never seems to turn satisfactorily crisp and golden. . .