Tools of the Trade: Wire Racks, and Baked Bacon

28 Aug

bakingsheet4The hardest thing about going paleo was learning to cook–and I mean really cook–for the first time in my life. No one in my family cooks (or, at least, not well), so I had to teach myself from scratch using books, websites, tips from friends, and Gordon Ramsey cooking shows (wherein I learned the most important part of cooking is yelling at people). Luckily, somewhere along the way I discovered I have a real passion and creativity for cooking. One thing I’d to do with this blog is share some interesting tips and techniques I’ve come across in the hopes that they help others who also starting from nowhere. Maybe by pointing out the paths that I took, it will lead other people to similar passions of their own.

Anyway, one of the key things I have been learning about along the way is kitchen tools that are essential in a paleo kitchen. Most guides to kitchen supplies out there are written by people who assume a certain minimum of baked goods and pasta in the average kitchen and underestimate the amount of rendered animal fats I have building up on my cooking surfaces. I am also a kitchen minimalist and dislike buying so-called “unitaskers” to clutter up my drawers. So I intend to only recommend supplies that are particularly useful to our unique needs and are an efficient addition to your kitchen.

Today I am discussing one of my first unique purchases, and still one of my favorite: my wire baking racks.

I do love a good rack.

I know what you’re thinking. The listing says “cooling” racks, and the action shots show them covered with glutened baked goods. But somewhere along the way I discovered that these racks can also go into the oven. The genius move comes when you pair them with a short-lipped baking sheet underneath them, as shown here:

Believe it or not, this is the cleanest of my racks right now.

Believe it or not, this is the cleanest of my racks right now.

The rack holds food items up off of the baking sheet surface, allowing air to circulate on all sides. What’s really great about these racks is the fine mesh which holds up small or soft food items like kale chips, fruit slices, chicken pieces, bacon-wrapped dates, and–last but not least–bacon slices themselves. The additional great thing about cooking fatty things on the cooking rack is that instead of simmering around the food, the fat drips down to the baking sheet, allowing all sides to get nice and golden crispy.

But why would you want to bake bacon, you ask? Well, if you’re asking that, I know that you’ve never tried it before. It’s kinda like the Matrix. You can’t really be told why it’s amazing. You have to see/try it for yourself. Basically the bacon is slower cooked so that the meat parts become tender, the fat parts become crispy golden, its cooked evenly, there’s no burnt bits, and overall it’s amazing.

If you want to try baking bacon yourself, this is the protocol I use:

1) Preheat oven to 300. (Or don’t preheat, sometimes I just turn it on and throw the bacon in and it works out fine.)

2) Place butcher-cut bacon on wire rack on top of a baking sheet. As I indicated above, these 10×16 wire racks fit on most 10×15 cooking sheets. Place ensemble on an oven rack placed in the center position of the oven.

bakingsheet2

3) Cook for about an hour. Yes an hour. Sometimes less if it’s not a thick cut piece of bacon. What I usually do is go throw this in the oven first thing in the morning, then putter around showering and getting ready. It’s usually done by the time I have to leave for work. Or, if it’s a weekend, I put this in first thing and then ignore it while I cook other things on the stovetop. Some similar protocols out there will have you cooking at higher temps for shorter periods of time. These are fine, but I find that I get burnt edges more often that way. I much prefer the low-and-slow approach.

4) The bacon is ready when the fat is glistening gold to your liking:

bakingsheet3

As an extra bonus, this method renders a lot of clean, white lard off the bacon, which collects in the pan below. If I want to save it, I simply tilt the warm pan towards a corner and pour off this fat into a jar. I didn’t bother with that this time because my pan had some dirty bits in it I didn’t clean ahead of time, and these pieces didn’t generate a lot of fat anyway.

To clean the racks, I scrape off as much crud and fat as I can with a paper towel, then either wash them by hand with warm soapy water, or toss them in the dishwasher. Some Amazon reviewers have complained about them rusting at the corners a little when they’re put through the dishwasher too often, so I try to only do it when they really need it. But in all honesty, sometimes I reuse these over and over again for days without cleaning them.

And that’s pretty much it! Stay tuned in the future for more recipes or ideas using these racks, and feel free to share your own!

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3 Responses to “Tools of the Trade: Wire Racks, and Baked Bacon”

  1. Mike August 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    I use wire racks all the time but I avoided them for a long time because I hated cleaning up after using them. Here’s some strategies I’ve discovered to make the cleaning process easier. First, I line the cookie sheet with foil. Once you are done cooking, pour off the fat (I filter it through a paper towel), let the sheet/rack cool, and throw the foil away. The cookie sheet will usually be totally clean unless some of the fat leaked below. Even so, it’s easy to clean and the chance of any significant amount of fat getting into your drain/sewer is minimal. Next, flip the rack upside down and place it in the cookie sheet. Place it on a flat surface, or in the bottom of your kitchen sink if it’s large enough, and fill it with hot, soapy water. Come back in an hour or so and most of the mess on the racks will wipe right off with a kitchen sponge and some DW detergent. I never put either the sheet or the rack in the dishwasher and the ones I have now look nearly new after two years of use.

    • Colleen August 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      Excellent tips! I especially love the tinfoil suggestion cause yeah, even though I go to lengths to scrape all the fat I can off of dishes with paper towels to throw away in compost, our drains are always a mess.

      • Devilbunny September 5, 2013 at 9:04 am #

        Boiling hot water and dishwashing detergent will clean your drains.

        I prefer to foil line a pan and lay the bacon on the bottom so it fries in its own lard. Drain on paper towels. Lard can be poured off the foil and your cookie sheet remains clean.

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