When you fry traditional pork bacon in a skillet, the fat that melts out as it cooks remains in the pan — the bacon cooks in its own hot fat. Even after the grease has cooked out, regular fried bacon contains high levels of cholesterol. While limiting your intake or controlling portion size are ways to cut cholesterol, other options for healthier bacon are to prepare it using a method that reduces the amount of fat that remains in the meat after cooking, or to use alternative bacon products.
You can cook bacon in the oven on a shallow, flat pan with raised sides such as a jelly roll pan. Some cooks place bacon strips on a rack in the pan to allow the fat to drain away and cover the pan with foil to keep splatters to a minimum. Starting bacon in a cold oven allows it to warm gradually as the temperature increases to 400 degrees F, which allows a longer opportunity for fat to melt before the bacon begins to brown. Thin-cut strips of bacon need about 10 minutes to cook. After cooking, drain the bacon strips on paper towels to remove as much grease as possible.
You’ll find many inventive gadgets on the market for cooking bacon in a microwave oven. They typically share features such as elevating the bacon so the grease drains away, and they may be lidded to limit grease splatters. Some chefs recommend simply microwaving bacon on a dish lined with paper towels to absorb the grease. The thickness of the bacon slices and the number of strips you are cooking can affect microwave results. Try microwaving bacon on high for 2 minutes, then in 1-minute intervals, checking after each minute.
Not all bacon is made from fatty pork. Turkey bacon is a leaner choice, and because there is less fat to cook away you’ll end up with more edible meat per pound. You may need to use cooking spray when you prepare turkey bacon to keep it from sticking to the pan. Another meat alternative, Canadian bacon is lean pork loin that is cured like bacon so it has a similar taste. The fat is trimmed to a uniformly thin outer layer of about 1/8 inch or less, which cooks away when you heat the thinly sliced meat.
Vegetarian products, such as soy-based bacon, are a healthy alternative to meat. Firm tofu is the protein base, with smoke flavoring added. You can prepare cholesterol-free meatless bacon by cooking it in a trace of flavor-neutral oil, such as sesame oil, and enjoy it in a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich or other meal that features bacon.
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Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.