Maple candied bacon is so delicious, it makes me want to cry with joy every time I cook it! Flavours direct from the heavens, flashed together in just 5 minutes flat!
Maple candied bacon is quite possibly the tastiest food in the world. Being a young lad from London, I’ve had my fair share of sore heads on a Sunday morning – the type that can only be cured by a Best-of-British greasy fry-up.
When I was a wee nipper, barely out of college aged 18, we were deemed to be spoiling ourselves if our fry-ups contained sausages. Usually, our enthusiasm at that time of the morning got little past eggs, and a mountain of bacon. The quality was rarely any good, and our cooking skills even less so. Dining out at local cafés was even worse – crimes against food, coffee like cigarette ash, and we were charged valuable drinking dollar for the privilege.
Sadly, little has changed. I still succumb to a poorly head on Sunday mornings, I still have an insatiable yearning for the greasiest of cuisines, and our local cafés are still an embarrassment. Thankfully, as the greys on my head have multiplied, so has my skills in the kitchen. So while I may not have learnt any lessons from my tender Sunday mornings, I have at least learnt how to ease the difficulties with some excellent nourishment.
Bacon, smoke, and maple sweet are a marriage made in heaven.
Not meaning to be too controversial, but unsmoked bacon is somewhat of a crime in my house. Bacon without the smoke is just ham in my eyes. And a good quality, properly smoked streaky bacon is a beautiful thing. Salty, smoky, slightly sweet perfection that needs nothing else – not even an oil or butter to lubricate it while it dances in the frying pan.
But forgetting my overindulgences for a minute – you don’t need a blood alcohol level that could make an off license jealous to enjoy some excellent bacon for breakfast. So when Mrs Why and I fancied some Scotch pancakes, we turned to our smoky bacon for an all-American treat.
The premise is pretty simple. We dry-fry the bacon until it is well browned and starting to crisp, then we add butter, sugar, and maple syrup right at the end to give the bacon its glossy sweet crunch.
As simple as this might be, it’s not a lazy dish. The sugars in that pan will burn into a ruin in the blink of an eye, so be careful and be conservative. If it starts looking dark, or you smell anything even remotely acrid, get the meat out of the pan – left any longer, and everything will be ruined.
The bacon starts to crisp up when the sugars start to cool and crystalise, not while its in the pan. All we need is the sugar to have melted and mixed to give us our beautiful candied bacon. If you prefer your bacon crispier than this, reduce the maple syrup, remove the butter entirely, and up the sugar. But be extra vigilant as it burns even faster!
Maple Candied Bacon
- 1 Pack Streaky bacon smoked (approx. 16 rashers)
- 1 Tbsp Brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp Maple syrup
- Small knob of butter
- Place a large frying pan over a high heat until smoking hot, then slowly add the bacon one rasher at a time
- Fry until the bacon is fully cooked, all the fat has started to take colour, and it is beginning to look slightly crispy
- Add the remaining ingredients and fry quickly, moving the bacon constantly, until all the sugar has melted and everything has a delicious looking gloss
- Remove from the pan immediately, before anything starts to burn or turn acrid
- Enjoy with pancakes, homemade hash browns, or as part of an excellent fry-up
Why does the bacon crisp up when we fry it? Two reasons. First, we’re removing all the water inside, so the fibres will toughen and dry up. Secondly, our best friend the Maillard Reaction.
Why do we add the bacon to the pan one by one, slowly? To keep the pan as hot as possible!
Why do we dry fry the bacon first before adding the sugar, syrup and butter? Two reasons again! Firstly – streaky bacon has plenty enough of its own fat, so we needn’t add any extra just yet, but we do need the Maillard Reaction to take place. This won’t happen with the other ingredients in the pan as they will coat the bacon and create a barrier between the heat and meat. Secondly, and much more obviously, is that the sugar, syrup and butter will take just a few seconds to start cooking, and not much longer to start burning. That simply isn’t enough time in the pan to cook the bacon! So we do this first.
Why does the sugar candy the bacon once it is out the pan? Hot sugar is molten, and therefore liquid. Once it leaves the heat, its crystals start to reform and harden up.
Why sugar and maple syrup? Can I use just one or the other? The maple syrup is just to add a different flavour profile, so this recipe works perfectly well with just sugar. Increase the sugar quantity slightly to cater for this. Just maple syrup will also give a delicious bacon, but the bacon won’t candy as there isn’t any sugar crystals there to reform (hence maple syrup is liquid when cold!).
Why brown sugar? You could use white sugar if you wanted, but the darker the sugar, the richer the flavour. You could try for a really deep, robust flavour by trying something intense like muscovado sugar! This small change would open up different flavour profiles – rich muscovado sugar will pair with aniseed, so a large potato rosti made with caraway seeds running through it could be an excellent pairing with muscovado glazed bacon.