Introduction: Make a Bacon Soup Bowl
At work, I'm known for occasionally trying (and making) some odd things. A while back, I brought some bacon cookies to work and a lot of people liked them. Then one day, a coworker, remembering the bacon cookies, sent me a link to the bacon contest. I didn't want to enter the bacon cookies, as the recipe was not originally mine. After thinking about it for a while, I decided I wanted to enter something edible, functional, and somewhat challenging. (Without the chance of complete and utter failure, it wasn't that interesting to me.) What popped into my head was a soup bowl... made entirely of bacon.
The main challenges were twofold: 1. it had to have enough structural integrity to stand on its own while holding a full serving of soup; 2. it had to be leak free for at least a few minutes - enough time to actually consume the soup. My basic idea for the bowl was to have three layers.
The outer layers would be cooked crisp to provide the strength and maintain the shape. Crisp bacon is by no means leak proof, which necessitates the middle layer - cooked but still soggy bacon. This layer would provide the leak resistance. Now all I had to do was create it and try it.
For a bonus, I decided to make a spoon out of bacon as well.
Step 1: Equipment and Materials
Here's what I used.
- Three 500g packages of bacon (regular thickness)
- A bowl
- A heat gun
- A cake pan
- A chopstick
- Tin foil (not shown)
- Toothpicks (not shown)
- Several skewers (not shown)
- Scissors (not shown)
- A mini-torch (optional)
- A can of soup (should be a thick soup)
Although a spoon is in the picture, I didn't end up using it to make the bowl.
The soup shown is Smoky Bacon Clam Chowder.
The cake pan is used solely to catch the runoff bacon fat. A cookie tray or pie tin will do just as well.
One note regarding the chopstick: I ended up not using the one displayed and instead used a disposable wooden one - the heat gun does very bad things to chopsticks so use an uncoated, unpainted, disposable wooden one.
Warning, this bowl takes several hours to make (3-4) so be prepared.
Step 2: Preparations
Line the cake pan (or whatever you're using) with tin foil. The foil is because I wanted an easier clean up. You can double up on the layer if you're worried about puncturing it during bowl creation.
Put the bowl upside down on the pan.
Step 3: Covering the Bowl
Cover the bowl with bacon, making sure the bacon slices overlap. It's hard to see but in the first photo, there are three slices of bacon on the bowl. The third slice is underneath the two visible slices, with half overlapping each slice. I vary the angle, making sure that all the slices go through the base (as shown in the next two photos) in hopes of providing better strength. Continue until the entire bowl is covered.
Note that I've made sure the bacon goes beyond the edge of the bowl. This will become important later.
Step 4: First Layer, Final Preparations
Tuck the extra bits of bacon underneath the bowl. Put some tin foil around the base. This tin foil is to provide some protection from the heat gun, to try and ensure the bacon at the bottom isn't cooked as fully as the rest of the bacon.
Step 5: Cooking the First Layer
Use the heat gun to cook the bacon, making it as crisp as possible. I concentrated on partially cooking small areas, until the whole layer was partially cooked, then I crisped the bacon. Don't worry too much about small gaps. If any visible gaps look worrying, add a slice of bacon (tucking the ends under the bowl) to cover the gap and crisp the added slice. My heat gun had two seeings - low and high. I used only the high setting. If need be, use the mini-torch to do spot crisping.
The tin foil protecting the bottom doesn't have to remain for the entire step. It's just there to make sure the bottom isn't crisped. If you're careful, you don't need it at all.
Step 6: Assembling the Second Layer
For this layer, I first put a ring of bacon around the bottom, followed by a slice of bacon across the top, making sure the bacon overlapped the ring. Then I added the next ring, making sure about half of it overlapped the bottom ring. This was followed by another strip of bacon across the top. Then another ring and strip across the top. The final pieces of bacon were a bit more of a jumble, as the curvature of the bowl didn't lend itself to another ring. Make sure there are no openings and there's a fair bit of overlap between the pieces added and the ones below. This is the layer that should provide the water resistance so it is very important there are no gaps.
Step 7: Cooking the Second Layer
Start cooking the bacon. Make sure not to crisp the bacon (having the edges a bit crispy isn't a big deal). If the bacon curls, as shown in the first photo, you can cut the bacon (2nd photo), then pin it in place with toothpicks while you cook it. I ended up using a lot of toothpicks. Don't push them in too deep. If possible, use a skewer to hold the bacon in place while cooking instead of using toothpicks. The fewer punctures the better.
Step 8: Adding the Third Layer
Now it's time to add the last layer. For this layer, I added a few strips of bacon (overlapping of course), then added a few strips crossing the first set. After this, I added a strip to either side of the first set of bacon strips, then a strip of bacon to either side of the second set of strips. I repeated this several times until the bowl was covered. I ended off using strips of bacon to form a ring around the bottom.
Step 9: Cooking the Third Layer
Cook the third layer in the same way as the first layer. Make sure the bacon is as crips as possible. The bacon below the ring at the base isn't too important. It should be cooked but doesn't need to be completely crisp. You'll notice these bits may curl and stick up. Don't worry about that at the moment.
Step 10: Forming the Rim
Flip the bowl and the bacon right side up. Be careful while doing this. The layers of bacon aren't firmly cemented together so they may feel loose. The bits of bacon tucked underneath the bowl at the beginning should now be visible. Now it's time to take care of the curled bacon ends from the last step. Cut off any excess bits from the bacon ends from the last step (leave the ends tucked under the bowl alone). Then take the tucked in ends and wrap them around the bacon at the edge of the bolw. Use toothpicks to hold them in place.
Step 11: Final Cooking
Crisp the bacon that forms the lip of the bacon bowl (the pinned down bacon ends). Now it's safe to remove the bowl. The bacon underneath the bowl is not crisp. Cook the newly exposed bacon with the heat gun until crisp. Once this is done, put the cake pan with the bowl into the fridge. This would be a good time to make the spoon. The steps for making the spoon are given after the steps for the bowl.
Step 12: Final Touches
Once the bowl has cooled, take it out of the fridge. When you look at the lip of the bacon bowl, there's probably bits of bacon sticking out, similar to that of the first photo. Take a pair of scissors and cut off the excess. The bacon bowl is now ready.
Step 13: Spoon Creation
To make the spoon, wrap bacon around a chopstick as shown. Wrap only about half of the slice, making sure there's some overlap. When half the slice is wrapped around the chopstick, fold the remaining half such that it makes a rough spoon shape. Now start cooking the bacon (I started with the portion wrapped around the chopstick. When the handle portion is partially cooked but not crisp, partially withdraw the chopstick.
The spoon handle should still be wrapped around part of the chopstick. Crisp the bacon, making sure you remember to flip it over at some point and crisp the other side. I overdid mine somewhat so it's a bit burnt. Once the bacon is crisp, you'll notice that it's still flexible.
Remove the chopstick and adjust the shape, especially that of the handle. Place the bacon spoon in the fridge. Cooling it down will strengthen it. An additional slice of bacon can probably be used for the handle for a long handled spoon but may make the spoon more prone to breaking.
Step 14: Time to Eat
Cook up the soup. Leave it in the saucepan to cool a bit. Keep the bowl in the fridge until the soup has cooled somewhat. Once the soup is very warm but no longer hot, take the bowl (and spoon) out of the fridge and pour the soup into the bowl. Then dig in. Note that the spoon won't last long, probably no more than three or four spoonfuls. You could theoretically cool the spoon again to regain some of its strength but your soup will probably be cold well before you're done. Best to switch to a normal spoon after one or two spoonfuls.
Step 15: Food for Thought
Use only a thick soup or stew. After I finished the soup, I poured in water as a test and the bowl leaked. The thick chowder I used was adequately held in by the bacon bowl.
There was a fair gap between my inner (first) layer and the middle layer. There were some gaps in the inner layer. This meant that I didn't have enough bacon on the first layer or that there were spots where the overlap between strips was too small. This didn't matter too much, as the middle layer was resistant enough to not leak.
Adding very hot soup would probably heat up the bowl enough that the middle layer would fall apart (due to the bacon grease holding the slices together melting). So, make sure you let the soup cool a bit before adding the bowl.
Once done, you'll essentially have the equivalent of 2.5 lbs of bacon (uncooked weight), which is far too much for most people to eat without requiring a triple bypass and/or a cure for salt overload. The crisp layers are probably fairly easy to separate from the non-crisp layer. You can give the bacon a rinse, then chop it up to use as bacon bits. Freeze in separate portions (ZipLocs or vaccuum sealers are really helpful here).