Bacon is most commonly cooked on the stovetop or in the oven. If you’re opting for the former, start with a cold pan with the bacon strips touching, but not overlapping. Set the burner on low and allow the bacon to slowly release its fat. As it begins to cook, use tongs to flip the strips and fry them on their opposite sides. Continue to flip and turn until the bacon is browned evenly. Let the cooked bacon drain by carefully placing them on paper towels or a newspaper.
To cook bacon in the oven, simply line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the bacon strips on its surface. If your baking sheet does not have grooved edges, be sure to fold the aluminum corners upwards to catch excess grease. Bake at 400°F for ten to 20 minutes (depending on your texture preference), remove, and place bacon strips on paper towels or a newspaper. The bacon will crisp as it cools.
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Pre-packaged bacon has an impressive shelf life, but not once it’s opened. While it’s best to freeze uncooked bacon, the slices can be tightly wrapped in aluminum foil and stored in a ziploc bag for up to a week. The same storage technique should also be applied to fresh bacon purchased directly from the butcher.
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Next: How to Freeze Bacon
Bacon actually holds up quite well in the freezer, though its peak flavor quality will only last one to two months. To freeze, you may keep the bacon in its original packaging, but wrap around it with another layer of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper. Just be sure to keep your freezer at a consistent zero degrees for optimal freezing results.
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Pork fares best in the freezer if packaged with freezer-friendly materials like waxed paper, aluminum foil, or heavy-duty plastic bags.
Wrap any meat tightly so that air does not escape and freeze at 0°F. Generally, fresh cuts of pork can last up to six months, while ground pork can last up to three.
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Pork is easiest to thaw when placed in the refrigerator in its original wrapping. Small roasts will take three to five hours per pound, while larger roasts can take up to seven hours per pound. Thawing ground pork depends entirely on the thickness of its packaging.
It is safe to cook frozen or partially-frozen pork, but its cooking time may take 50 percent longer. Frozen pork should not be cooked in a slow cooker.
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Sealed pork products can typically last in the fridge for two to four days, with ground pork having a slightly shorter shelf life at one to three. Ham or other smoked pork products like bacon can be stored for up to a week, though this only applies to products that aren’t vacuum sealed or prepared with preservatives. The latter can obviously last a lot longer.
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Pancetta is cured pork belly, the Italian equivalent of bacon. Unlike American bacon, however, pancetta is cured with a variety of herbs, spices, and garlic, and is left unsmoked. Pancetta is usually rolled and tied in a cylindrical shape, then hung to dry. Some versions, such as the variety made in Florence, are left flat. Our pancetta recipe is the rolled kind, and it’s amazing when prepared with our Pasta Carbonara with Peas. If you’re visually inclined, see our illustrated step-by-step guide.
What to buy: Pork belly is the same as fresh bacon. You can order it from a good butcher or buy it online from Niman Ranch. A whole fresh pork belly with the skin on weighs around 11 pounds, of which you’ll need half (a 5-1/2-pound slab) to make 1 pancetta. If you like, you can ask your butcher to remove the skin for you, making the total prep time minimal.
Curing salt, also known as pink salt or saltpeter, contains 6.25 percent sodium nitrite. It is colored pink so as not to be confused with regular salt. Curing salt is available at Butcher & Packer.
We like to use kosher salt in our recipes. It’s especially important to use kosher salt here to ensure that your quantity is correct. We prefer Diamond Crystal brand, available in most grocery stores.
Special equipment: In addition to your chef’s knife, you’ll also need a boning knife to remove the skin.
Be sure to have a spool of cotton butcher’s twine for tying and hanging your pancetta.
We found that giant storage bags, like these jumbo 2-gallon bags by Ziploc, were perfect for holding the pancetta during the curing process.
Game plan: Find a cool place to hang your pancetta, away from windows and direct sunlight. And of course make sure you allow enough time for the curing and hanging processes.