Mtn Remedies: 6 Steps to Perfect Pocket Bacon
Bacon. Just the word conjures delectable thoughts of that familiar crackling sound and the flavorful smell of a delicious breakfast. Bacon, while always being delicious, has been trending in American pop culture in recent years and is found as a key ingredient in an increasing number of menu items. Everyone knows how good it is when fresh off the griddle, but how about as a portable snack? If you haven't heard of pocket bacon, it's time to get learned.
Pocket bacon is just bacon that has been pre-made and packaged in a way to be made highly portable when you're off for a hike in the mountains, ski touring in the backcountry, or going for a long trail ride on your mountain bike. Sure it's delicious, but snacks for mountain athletes are about more than taste.
Bacon offers a decent source of protein and natural fats, about half of which are healthy monounsaturated fats. Protein helps rebuild muscles that are broken down as we exercise, and fats provide a good source of long duration, slow burning energy. This is opposed to simple sugars which provide a spike in energy often followed by a crash where we feel suddenly tired and depleted. This combination is clutch and really hits the spot when spending long days adventuring in the winter months where we need to cram in calories wherever possible.
All of that being said, I'm not a doctor or nutritionist, and if you want to learn more about the good and bad of bacon and where it fits into a balanced diet, please consult a medical professional. We just know how to cook and eat the stuff. On to making pocket bacon!
Step 1. Pick Your Bacon
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to this delicious meat candy. Thick or regular cut? Cured or uncured? Peppered or Maple? While everyone has their preference, my go to pocket bacon has been Oscar Mayer Natural Selects Uncured Bacon. There are no added nitrates (read: excess sodium and preservatives) and a relatively thin cut means that it cooks quickly and evenly. If you're looking for something with a thicker cut, check out Wright's Applewood Smoked Bacon. You can also drizzle on a little maple syrup for a sweeter taste and some more calories!
Step 2. Preheat!
Before you do anything else, get that oven pre-heating to 425 degrees. If you are wondering why we are heating up the oven and not a stove top burner, it's because you can cook more bacon with less effort and more evenly by making it in the oven. Plus, you don't need to watch or flip the bacon while it's cooking which leaves you free to throw some wax on the skis, re-order your rock climbing rack, or tie another dry fly. Trust us, it's legit. (for Wright's bacon try a slower cook, cooking longer and at a lower temp brings out the flavor. 375º for 28 to 30 mins depending on oven and thickness of cast iron pan.)
Step 3. Pick Your Pan
We are big believers in cast iron for all things cooking, so it's no surprise that we use a large cast iron skillet for pocket bacon production. That being said, if you want to make more pocket bacon than what your cast iron will hold, break out a baking tin or cookie sheet. Make sure that the tray or tin has an upturned edge so that bacon grease doesn't drip all over your oven, and use aluminum foil to cover the pan for easy clean up. Lay out the bacon uniformly across the skillet or pan and you're good to go!
Step 4. Bake that Meat Candy!
With the oven up to temp and your pork strips ready to go, place the skillet/tray of bacon in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. Some thicker cut bacon will take longer than this, but it's always better to check and put it in for a few more minutes if need be. Nobody likes burned bacon. If you like your pocket bacon chewy, you may even want to set a timer for 12 minutes to check your cooking progress, so as not to over crisp the bacon.
Step 5. Cool and Package
Remove the bacon from the oven and place the perfectly cooked strips on a few sheets of paper towel to soak up any excess fat drippings. Let the bacon cool off for a few minutes, then place it in a zip-lock bag or wrap it in tinfoil, careful to stash it for easy access when you're out on the trail. It also helps to wrap the bacon in paper towel before bagging it or wrapping it in tinfoil, as the paper towel will help cushion the bacon and keep it from crumbling. (Leaving your pocket bacon in the fridge over night allows the flavor to come alive, give it a try.)
Step 6. Enjoy Responsibly
You've done it! You're fully equipped with portable bacon, fit for any adventure that comes your way. But please remember, with this great power comes great responsibility. You should pace yourself, allowing bacon to be snacked on throughout the day. You should share, offering a few pieces to friends, and even to the stranger on the chairlift who will be your new friend when you offer them some pocket bacon. And you should enjoy in moderation, balancing your bacon intake with other snacks and adequate hydration. Enjoy!