The other day I had an idea: what if I could compress all the flavor and texture of bacon down into a tiny little cube? I set out to make what I initially thought would be "bacon bars," little perfect Platonic prisms of bacon that would pack our beloved pork belly down into a flavorful singularity of crispiness and fat. It didn't quite turn out like that, though. Instead, I ended up by accident making bacon nuggets -- that is, little packets of bacon that are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside with something of a recognizable geometry. Sort of like chicken nuggets, but with bacon instead of chicken. And they turned out delicious. Here's how to make them!
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Step 1: Ingredients
To make bacon nuggets you will need:
- Chocolate syrup Maple syrup (or any other dipping sauce! I started with chocolate syrup but ended up deciding to use maple syrup in the end.)
- Transglutaminase (aka "meat glue")
- A scale
- An ice cube tray
- A blender
Transglutaminase is what makes the magic happen in this Instructable. In order to force bacon into an unnatural shape such as a rectangular prism, we need to blend it up, mold it, and then have some way to make it semi-solid so that it keeps its shape. (If the blended bacon remains as a paste, it will fall apart easily when it cooks -- try frying up some blended bacon, you'll end up with bacon bits instead!) Transglutaminase acts as a binding agent for meat, and so we add it into our blended-up bacon in order to make it solid. Once we mold our bacon and transglutaminase mixture, we let it sit in the refrigerator for a while so that it can set. You can read more about the science of how transglutaminase works here.
Step 2: Weigh Out Transglutaminase
Weigh out enough transglutaminase to make a 1% by weight mixture of bacon and transglutaminase. E.g., if you had 500g of bacon like I did, you'd need 5g of transglutaminase.
Step 3: Blend the Bacon and Add the Transglutaminase
Blend the bacon until it's a smooth paste. It should be homogeneous in color and nearly homogeneous in texture. For me, the bacon turned into a thick, salmon-colored paste. (Unless you have a really powerful blender like a Vitamix, you may not want to put all the bacon into the blender at once like I've done in the photo.) Once the bacon has been blended to a paste, add the transglutaminase and blend a short while longer to get the transglutaminase dispersed into the paste.
Step 4: Mold the Bacon
Scoop out the bacon mixture and place it into the ice cube tray to give the bacon paste a shape. You can try whatever other shape you want, but keep in mind that the bacon will shrink and change shape when you cook it.
Step 5: Refrigerate
Refrigerate the bacon and transglutaminase mixture for at least 4 hours -- the longer the better. When you take it out, the bacon should be at least somewhat solid. It's okay if it's a little pasty as long as it can hold its shape.
Step 6: Bake
Once the raw bacon nuggets are done refrigerating, place them on a baking sheet and bake it at 400F / 205C for 5-10 minutes. Once the bottom has gotten crispy, flip the nuggets and allow them to cook until they opposite side is nice and crispy, too.
Step 7: Serve!
You should end up with bacon nuggets that are crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside. Drizzle maple syrup over them to make a delicious snack. Enjoy!