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Why does bacon curl...

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... when fried?

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  1. Not 100% but I think the answer has to do with the fact that a piece of bacon consists of part meat and part fat. When heating, the fat melts away and shrinks at a different rate than the meat, thus the curling. I'd draw an analogy to a coil thermostat, which is essentially two different kinds of metal bonded together. As the temp changes, the metals expand at different rates, making the coil tighter or larger.

    3 Replies
    1. re: AlanH

      I believe the meat part is muscle fibers, which lose water through evaporation, making the muscle contract, pulling tighter. The fat part doesn't do this. It melts instead.

      1. re: snackish

        I agree, I think it is the meat that shrinks.

        Lately I have been draining off the fat and leaving the bacon in the skillet a little longer without the fat, and it ends up much crunchier, but not too overdone. We keep the fat, of course, in a bacon-grease keeper with strainer on top, right next to the stove. Third generation on the canister by now. I just used a touch of it tonight in fact.

        When cooking for a crowd, I agree, the oven is perfect.

        1. re: Betty

          Protein contracts when heat is applied. Bacon curls because the protein in the meat contracts, at different rates, depending on the ration of muscle to fat in the slice.

    2. p
      Professor Salt

      The death throes of bacon? Don't know the reason why, but I notice it curls less using lower heat. Wondering if you lay your bacon in a preheated pan, or in a cold pan? The searing effect of laying cold bacon in a hot pan may increase curling.

      I bake my bacon in a 300 F oven. Lay the sheet pan of bacon in a COLD oven, then turn on the heat. While it takes longer than on the stovetop, the results are crisp, defatted, and flat bacon. Remember to flip the bacon several times as it cooks. You can also cook several sheets at once in the oven, so it's actually faster than stovetop if you're cooking bacon for a crowd.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Professor Salt

        i do mine in the oven too. but i lay the slices on a rack that i set on a cookie sheet, which eliminates the need for turning, and, of course, the curling. i use a fairly high heat -- about 400-degrees; i also use thick cut, which may give me a little more wiggle room in terms of oven temp.

        if it's just me, i do a few slices in the toaster oven.

      2. I was always told that if pork of any kind curled (as opposed to wrinkled) it was because the hog was butchered in the dark phase of the moon rather than (properly) in the light phase and was therefore trying to match the crescent shape. Sort of like planting potatoes when the signs are in the feet.