Bacon Shrinkage?

Bacon shrinks as it cooks, and one technique promised to produce perfect bacon with less shrinkage. That sounded like an excellent thing to test, the with added opportunity to eat bacon.

Initial observation:

Cook’s Illustrated had a small set of instructions for “How to Make Perfect Bacon”. While baking bacon has been widely proposed (see related works), here we will only examine wet vs dry pan-based techniques.

Question:

How much shrinkage happens to bacon when it cooks, and how do different cooking methods impact this?

Equipment & Materials:

  • bacon (we use bacon from a local company)
  • water
  • tape measure
  • pan
  • stopwatch or cell phone timer
  • ideally, a helper to take notes… bacon grease, while delicious, doesn’t mesh well with paper and pen
The basic equipment other than a pan + heat + bacon hunger.

The basic equipment other than a pan + heat + bacon hunger.

Procedure:

  1. measure the length and width of each bacon strip
  2. mass and each strip
  3. place 3 strips in a pan
  4. cook via the wet below (see below)
  5. repeat steps 1 & 2 for the cooked bacon
  6. remove strips to an oven on warm
  7. repeat all, but cook via the dry method (see below)
  8. alternate methods until all bacon is cooked

Wet Method:

  1. add 50 mL of water to the pan with the bacon
  2. cook with high heat until the water boils
  3. reduce heat to medium
  4. cook until all the water simmers away
  5. turn heat to medium-low
  6. continue cooking until desired doneness is reached

Dry Method:

  1. cook bacon over medium heat
  2. avoid getting burned by the leaping bacon fat
  3. cook until desired doneness is reached
If desired, wine can be included as an optional equipment set. It will not impact the bacon experiment, but could make waiting for bacon more enjoyable.

If desired, wine can be included as an optional equipment set. It will not impact the bacon experiment, but could make waiting for bacon more enjoyable.

Data:

Due to the wonders of modern food production, all bacon slices were initially the same size (10″ long and 1.5″ wide). Length2 and Width2, given below, are the measured dimensions after cooking.

Mass start (g)

Mass end (g)

Mass loss (g)

Length2 (in)

Width2 (in)

Method

Cook time (min)

34.7

13.7

21

6.5

1.5

Wet

12.5

39.4

14.0

25.4

6.5

1.25

Wet

12.5

40.3

13.8

26.5

6.0

1.25

Wet

12.5

40.8

11.6

29.2

5.5

1.0

Dry

6

40.4

11.1

29.3

5.5

1.0

Dry

6

39.9

11.5

28.4

5.75

1.0

Dry

6

35.5

16.5

19

6.75

1.25

Wet

9

39.5

16.0

23.5

6.5

1.25

Wet

9

39.3

16.4

22.9

6.5

1.25

Wet

9

38.1

11.1

27

6.0

1.125

Dry

4.5

39.0

12.4

26.6

6.0

1.0

Dry

4.5

37.4

12.7

24.7

6.25

1.0

Dry

4.5

Plot 1:

Plot showing the Length loss and Mass loss (as a % of initial mass) of bacon cooked by different methods.

Plot showing the Length loss and Mass loss (as a % of initial mass) of bacon cooked by different methods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plot 2:

The % of mass loss by cook time. The wet method took longer than the dry method and resulted in less mass loss. Overall, the last two batches took less time (9 minutes for wet and 4.5 minutes for dry)

The % of mass loss by cook time. The wet method took longer than the dry method and resulted in less mass loss. Overall, the last two batches took less time (9 minutes for wet and 4.5 minutes for dry)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

An interesting observation is that the time needed to cook the bacon seems to decrease significantly with the later batches. The table above shows the batches in the order they were cooked, and Plot 2 shows mass loss versus cooking time. Overall the wet method was slower (12.5 and 9 minutes) than the dry method (6 and 4.5 minutes), but the later iterations took significantly less time for both methods. This could be a combined function of the pan and burner being fully up to temperature as well as the bacon being pulled at a slightly less done state (represented by reduced mass loss).

As for testing the claims of texture and taste: Taste testers A and B preferred the wet-cooked method, while Brownie Master P preferred the conventional dry technique. However, this “boiled down” to basic bacon preferences (medium vs well done). It was much easier to overcook (in my opinion) the bacon via the dry method. While the wet-method bacon did indeed suffer less shrinkage, they seemed to be less done in general. The promise that the wet-cook method would render out most of the fat during the first step did not seem to be the case, as the resulting bacon seemed under-rendered. As the locally procured bacon was on the thick-side, that may have contributed to that result. Potentially even longer cook times would be required to produce well-done bacon via the wet method.

The long cooking time of the wet-method could be a benefit by allowing more time to fine-tune doneness (or for getting distracted without resulting in burned bacon), but I am unconvinced that it is the bacon-cure-all.

Future Questions:

How do these techniques compare if you cook the bacon strips to the same mass loss?
How does bacon thickness alter the various cooking processes?

Bacon cooking steps using the wet method. Raw bacon at the top, bacon as the water is cooked away, and then nearly finished bacon at the bottom.

Bacon cooking steps using the wet method. Raw bacon at the top, bacon as the water is cooked away, and then nearly finished bacon at the bottom.

Related Works

Bacon on Amazon

Think Geek “Bacon”

How to bake bacon like the pros!” (Aug 26, 2009) HOMEMADEWITHLOVE’S WEBLOG: MAKING FOOD AND SHARING LOVE

joejhorn “Baking Bacon (Oven Frying)” (June 16, 2008) My Cooking Quest

Pittman, A. et al. “Solutions for Everyday Kitchen Mistakes” Cooking Light

Walsh, D. “The 4 Most Common Bacon Cooking Mistakes” (Jan 12, 2012), BON APPÉTIT

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One thought on “Bacon Shrinkage?

  1. Pingback: Bacon Shrinkage (revisited!) | Doing Science To Stuff

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