Skip to content

Bacon, Mon Amour

I’ve been having a hard time concentrating all day because the house smells like bacon. This is nobody’s fault but my own, since between bouts of “working” at my computer, I’ve been rushing off to fry batches of bacon. All for the sake of seasoning my new cast iron skillet.

For years, I’ve contemplated adding a cast iron skillet to my collection of cookware. Now, this is a serious investment because we live in a small house and the cupboards in my tiny kitchen are bursting with pans and dishes. Collecting kitchenware is a weakness of mine, balanced out by the fact that I buy very few clothes. Who needs clothes when you’re saving up to buy a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker? My husband is unimpressed, saying that he’d rather I bought a nice pair of stilettos instead of some frightening, pressurized pot, so a (second) pressure cooker is currently off limits. Which brings me back to cast iron.

A cast iron skillet is a solid piece of history, from way before things like tri-ply stainless and ceramic infra-red coatings. It’s also incredibly heavy and needs to be seasoned before use. I had been looking for something to replace my nonstick pan and given my space constraints, ended up buying a petite 8″ skillet just right for crisping up some corned beef hash topped with two oven poached eggs. But first, I had to season it.

Chowhound and Cook’s Illustrated were filled with dizzying advice about how to season cast iron. Some people advocated burning off the factory pre-seasoning by sticking it in the oven and setting it on “clean”. Others said you should build a bonfire and leave your skillet in until it turned white hot. Still more purists argued that vintage cast iron was the only way to go. Then there were pages and pages of discussion about the right sort of oil to use, from flaxseed to lard. I felt so overwhelmed that I had to eat some dark chocolate to revive myself.

As a child, I recalled seeing my mother season a new cast iron wok. She slowly fried grated coconut in it, stirring and scraping until the house was full of a nutty aroma and the wok had taken on a glossy black sheen. This seemed like a fairly straightforward proposition, but not having any freshly grated coconut on hand, I decided to make do with bacon.

Pioneer cast ironMy skillet was so small that I could only fry 2 rashers of bacon at a time, but I figured that the long, continuous frying time could only help. And so it was that I was trapped in the house, frying dainty portions of bacon for much of the day. Make sure you scrape often with a metal spatula to ensure a smooth finish. The house was permeated with a sizzling aroma and I was forced to open all the windows plus the front and back doors. Stumbling around in this lard-induced atmosphere, I was beginning to feel a little high and starting to think disjointed thoughts of pioneers who survived on skillets of beans and fat salt pork.

Cast iron is fantastic at making crisp, deeply coloured bacon that looks like it belongs on the cover of a magazine. And at the end of this marathon bout, I drained the fat and tentatively slipped in a sliced tomato. Success! It didn’t stick at all. Then I fried an egg which stuck only slightly. I ate all of them, including several rashers of bacon and part of a baguette. It was very good.

The most interesting development (apart from having a house that smells like one of Three Little Pigs has been smoked in it) has been my personal popularity. Eau de Bacon is apparently a captivating scent. Dogs wandered across the street to greet me. My children rushed to hug me with squeals. “Mummy, you smell so nice today!” And my husband enthusiastically spun me around when he came home. Best of all, I have a giant stash of crispy bacon in the fridge. Ah, bacon, mon amour. The love that keeps on giving.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. hahaha, eau de bacon ^^ that’s hilarious!

    March 7, 2013
    • I’m waiting to see it become a popular fragrance! 😉

      March 7, 2013
  2. you had me at bacon, then you lost me at seasoning cast iron, then you found me again at deeply coloured bacon. as my favorite foodie, homer simpsons says it, “MMMMMM BAAAACCOOOONN!”

    March 7, 2013
    • i meant CRISP, deeply coloured bacon. left out the most important word!

      March 7, 2013
      • Yes, yes, crispy is important (though I know some people who like their bacon a little softer)!

        March 7, 2013
  3. Karen #

    Egg is definitely harder to cook in a “non-stick” skillet – it always leaves some residue. I have an even smaller cast iron skillet. I will consider using it to cook eggs in the future….um, it may need seasoning – I should have brought it over to your place for a bacon seasoning!

    March 7, 2013
    • Very true – I was surprised to find that the eggs in the cast iron skillet actually stuck less than in my (aging) non-stick pan. It might also be because you can use a metal spatula to scrape in the cast iron, which helps. Try it and let us know!

      March 7, 2013
      • Karen #

        Hey there! I did a quick seasoning of my small cast iron pan (I don’t think I had ever seasoned it actually) – I did put oil in it, and “baked” it for 1 hour at 350. Anyway, eggs didn’t stick so much – a little, but it wasn’t nearly as cumbersome cleaning the pan compared to my regular pans used when cooking eggs. Thanks so much for the post and idea of using cast iron pan in this way!

        March 14, 2013
    • Hooray! I’m so glad it worked for you. I’ve been using mine this whole week to fry eggs in and it’s been surprisingly good. I put a little oil and use a metal spatula, and the egg lifts off better than my non-stick. I also made a frittata in it with no problems 😉

      March 15, 2013
  4. Last week I re-seasoned my pre-seasoned (a.k.a. for lazy people) cast iron skillet using the very basic coat of olive oil method. And even THAT made my apartment smell like the greasy back kitchen of an IHOP for three days.

    March 7, 2013
    • Oh dear, I hope you cooked something tasty to make up for it! In the meantime, it’s a good excuse to eat out for a few days 😉

      March 7, 2013
  5. Arboldemacuelizo #

    I understand no soap must be used to wash it. Is it really hard to clean?

    August 24, 2013
    • Surprisingly, it hasn’t been too hard to clean. After I’m done cooking, I use a metal spatula to scrape all the food bits off. Then I rinse it quickly under hot water, scrubbing with a stiff brush. Dry with a dishcloth, and heat it gently on the stove top to warm it and evaporate the water. Then I give it a quick wipe with oil or bacon grease.

      August 26, 2013
  6. missvickyness #

    MMMmmmm! Bacon!! I had a beautifully seasoned cast iron I had kept seasoned for nearly two years and a certain person took the liberty to help me by scrubbing the pan practically clean… I cried. Now its sitting in the garage. Maybe I will try to reseason it again by doing a few packs of bacon.

    September 19, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Doing Author-Type Things | Yangsze Choo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: