Alton Brown's Sugar Trick For Ridiculously Crunchy Bacon

Our collective love of bacon has put the cured pork product on everything from donuts to ice cream and chocolate bars. However, there's a way to transform each slice into the delicious salty-sweet treat we crave without waiting for dessert. Alton Brown's sugar trick turns each slice into ridiculously crunchy, candy-like bacon by sprinkling it with muscovado sugar, black pepper, and red pepper flakes for heat. While some recipes call for brown sugar, Brown prefers muscovado for its complexity. The two sugars have a similar sandy texture and molasses flavor, but muscovado's flavor is deeper and less refined, with more intense caramel notes..

To ensure each inch of the bacon receives the same sugar treatment, Brown uses a piece of parchment paper to spread the topping evenly. After sprinkling half the sugar mixture, he lays a sheet of parchment over the bacon and gently rubs it, pressing the sugar onto the slices. Since parchment is non-stick, none of the sugar is removed when he gently lifts the paper.

The sugared bacon is baked on a rack and cooked in two stages to ensure both sides are coated in a caramel lacquer. As the bacon cools, the coating hardens, allowing you to display the bacon standing up in a drinking glass, making it the perfect bar snack.

Tips to make candy-like bacon

Although the lacquered bacon will harden as it cools, avoid using very thin, cheap bacon that won't hold up to the sugar coating or might burn before the sugar has caramelized. Regular bacon works well, but extra thick bacon will give you a meatier, smokier flavor that contrasts nicely with the sweet lacquer. Cooking times and techniques will vary slightly according to the bacon's thickness.

For extra thick slices of bacon, it's best to render most of the fat before adding the toppings, as the sugar may burn before the fat has a chance to melt. Roast the bacon on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet to your desired crispiness, remove it from the baking sheet, and allow it to drain on a wire rack until it hardens (just make sure to drain the bacon grease into a container for another use). Use a fresh sheet of parchment before coating the par-cooked bacon with the sugary topping. Since you are creating a candy coating, it will stick as it cools, so make sure the strips aren't touching, and immediately transfer the bacon when it comes out of the oven. Avoid placing candied bacon on a paper towel to drain, as it will stick.

Different bacon candy flavors

Using Alton Brown's sugar trick as a jumping-off point, there are other ways to flavor your bacon candy. Varying the types of sweeteners and spices can completely transform your bacon into something new.

For a sweet and spicy combination, try making spicy candied bacon using maple syrup, bourbon, dark brown sugar, and cayenne pepper. A no-salt-added chili seasoning would also work well. For an Asian flair, combine sriracha, honey, and lime zest to coat the par-cooked bacon, and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on it as it comes out of the oven.

To add a slight acidity to the candied bacon, try using a balsamic glaze or make some by reducing balsamic vinegar to a syrup. Brush the par-cooked bacon with a mixture of balsamic glaze, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar for a complex salty and sweet flavor.

Leftover candied bacon (if there is any) can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week. For longer storage, place the bacon in the freezer. Candied bacon is delicious when tossed on salads and roasted vegetables: just cut the slices into lardons and sprinkle them on everything, including desserts.