1) NEW PORK STATE OF MIND
To paraphrase young internet sensation King Curtis: bacon is good for you (albeit in moderation). So if you’re going to make it count then you’d better make sure you’re buying the special stuff. “There’s an enormous difference between high-quality bacon and the cheaper supermarket offerings, which can be dyed or filled with water,” says Tim Wilson of esteemed butchers The Ginger Pig. If you know your cuts and your sources, a bacon sarnie can deliver meaty benefits.
This Italian cut of pork belly is streaks ahead of most supermarket fare in terms of taste. It’s also rich in selenium, which is an essential mineral for thyroid function, as well as boosting immunity and reducing your cancer risk. Bueno!
So called because of its greenish nitrate burn at the edges, this unsmoked meat remains largely pink thanks to the saltpetre used when curing. It also packs a porky protein-filled punch with 5g of muscle fuel in each rasher.
As the name suggests, this comes with a bit of extra sugar. Thankfully it’s also a top source of coenzyme Q10, which supports metabolism. According to Kyoto University,
a few breakfast slices will fire up morning fat-burning sessions.
All gammon is ham, but not all ham is gammon. To earn its name, this leg cut must be salted on the bone. It’s also high in phosphorous, which is crucial for kidney function. A good reason to pig out the morning after the night before.
B) IN HOG WE TRUST
“Avoid vacuum-packs like the plague,” says Wilson. An investigation by consumer bible Which? found that the water content of some bacon on British supermarket shelves was up to 13% – over the 10% maximum allowed. “There’s no substitute for talking to a specialist butcher,” he adds. “But if you are buying from a supermarket, get the dry stuff from the meat counter. It costs more, but you won’t be paying for liquid.”
When cooking, Wilson recommends tossing the traditional tongs in favour of a thin fish slice (£4 prestige.co.uk) to avoid tearing more delicate cuts. For making surgically precise incisions that run the length of butcher-bought bacon chops or gammon joints , you can’t do better than the purpose-built Wüsthof Classic Granton Ham Slicer (£79 knivesandtools.co.uk).
And finally, a cast-iron, heat-retaining, thick-based pan from Staub (£139 staub-online.com) proves that a flat bottom can be a good thing – in this context, at least – by ensuring crisp fat and an even cook on every single sweet, sweet rasher.
3) FAT OF THE PAN
Fat is what makes bacon so lip-smackingly delicious, but it’s also what puts some people off. Fear not. Nutritional experts have dispensed with outmoded notions that ‘all fat is the enemy’. In fact, the monounsaturated fat – which accounts for half the fat in bacon – reduces blood pressure and your risk of heart disease. So don’t be afraid to cook your rashers in their own juices. You can always trim the fatty edges afterwards, says Wilson, who advises frying over grilling. Now follow these recipes to really bring home the bacon.
A) CHICKEN BREAST, PANCETTA & BEANS
Pancetta, 2-3 rashers
A chicken breast
A shallot, finely chopped
A garlic clove, crushed
Green beans, 50g, trimmed
Small knob of butter
Heat a dash of oil in a griddle pan, fry the pancetta until crispy, then slice into thin strips. Cook the chicken in the same pan for 10-15 minutes, adding the shallot and garlic for the final three. Boil the beans – rich in fibre and bone-building vit K – for a few minutes so they still have some bite. Strain and add butter, garlic, shallot and pancetta. Season with pepper and serve with the chicken.
B) GREEN BACK-BACON SANDWICH
Unsmoked back bacon, 3-4 rashers
Good wholegrain bread, 2 slices, unbuttered
Beefsteak tomato, ½, sliced
Baby leaf spinach, small handful
Your choice of sauce
We couldn’t neglect to include the classic. Fry the bacon in a dash of oil, pressing down to crisp it and squeeze out the fat. Meanwhile, put the bread under the grill until it’s golden but still soft. Layer the bacon on a slice of bread and drizzle any pan juices on top. Add the tomato and spinach (both rich in vitamins C and A to boost your immune system). Now for the crucial question: red or brown?
C) TREACLE-CURED BACON BURGER
Onion, ¼, finely chopped
Lean beef mince, 150g
Fresh thyme, 1tsp, finely chopped
Ground black pepper
A burger bun
Treacle-cured bacon, 1-2 rashers
Buffalo mozzarella, 30g
Brown the onion, remove and cool. Now combine it with the beef, thyme and seasoning before shaping into a patty. Cook the patty in a hot pan with a dash of oil for 8-10 minutes. Remove and place on a warmed bun. Crisp the bacon in the same pan, then pop it on top of the patty with the cheese and avo – it’s rich in folate for tissue repair, and mild enough
not to mask the flavour of the bacon.
D) GAMMON STEAK, EGGS & POTATO WEDGES
Sweet potato, 250g, cut into wedges
A gammon steak
Small knob of butter
Sweet potato is ideal for restocking your glycogen after a tough workout. Drizzle the wedges with oil and bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes. Fry the gammon in a hot pan and flip it every couple of minutes until a crust forms and it’s cooked through. Put it to one side, then use the same pan to fry the eggs with a small knob of butter. Pour any gammon fat over the top. Serve with cress and squeals of delight.
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