There’s a burgeoning trend of revile and distaste for something common in every kitchen. The one tool you have in your drawer that is only meant for one thing. The monotool. Something, anything in your kitchen that is perfectly designed for one expressed purpose, and can’t really be used for anything else. From the apple corer to herb scissors, they might do their job well, but most of the time they just take up space.
One such example is the Bacon Press. Usually fashioned out of cast iron and featuring a Suicide Food-worthy image of a pig, the bacon press is used to keep your bacon flattened and uniform during cooking. That’s it. Flat bacon. At an awkward 5” x 5” that doesn’t store in any generic kitchen space and made from heavy metal, it just doesn’t seem worth the space and clutter considering its primarily aesthetic-driven purpose: curl-less bacon.
Which is why I find it confounding that my father has one. When it comes to food, presentation isn’t too high up on his list of priorities. He’s renamed his tuna croquettes “Tuna Turds” and prides himself on his very own “Cooked to Death Chicken.” What the food lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in flavor. It tastes great, but it looks pretty terrible. So why the Bacon Press if its primary purpose is to make bacon look good? I had to find out.
Me: So tell me, Pop, why do you have a bacon press? What does it do for cooking bacon?
Pop: A what? A bacon press? I don’t have one. If I do, I don’t use it, because it’s a pain in the ass to clean.
Me: What are you talking about? Of course you do. It’s on your counter. It’s been there for about 20 years.
Pop: Really? What does it look like? Is it electric?
Me: What? No. This thing you have, that you own, that I remember, it’s about 5 x5, made of cast iron, has a pig on it, has the words “Bacon Press” on it, and is on your counter right now.
Pop: Huh. Let me go look.
(shuffling away and back to the phone)
Pop: Ha! I see. Yeah, I do have this Bacon Press, but I use it for everything but that.
Me: What do you use it for?
Me: Yes, now. Or whenever.
Pop: Well, it’s right now it’s holding up some cutting boards, but maybe if I make a burger or a grilled sandwich-
Me: Oh! Like a grilled cheese. You make a really good grilled cheese.
Pop: Well, sure, I guess I do use it, now that you call my attention to it, but I didn’t think of it as a bacon press, but yeah, there’s a pig right on it.
So as it turns out, this mono-tool is actually a multi-tool after all, and it does do a lot more than flatten bacon. But when it comes to cooking pig, is there a purpose? Because family had been so helpful up until now, I asked my brother, the other bacon-lover in the family.
Me: Pop’s losing his mind. You remember the bacon press, right? Do you use one?
Him: Yeah, of course, I won’t cook bacon without it. You can fit a lot more in the pan, it cooks faster, keeps bacon grease from splattering everywhere, and the flattened bacon drains a lot more evenly. I think Pop taught me that.
Me: Unbelievable. Time to up the old man’s ginko.
So the conclusion? Inconclusive. It might just come down to preference. Maybe you’re like me, and you like your bacon curly and unpredictable. Wild little slices of fatty meat that might hold small pools of greasy flavor in the dents and pockets. On the other hand you can turn to the bacon press for uniform slices of bacon, ready to pile up for a breakfast platter or lie flat between lettuce and tomato for a sandwich. Or you can just use it to make a damn good grilled cheese or prop up your cutting boards.
You can find all kinds of bacon presses online or in your local kitchen supply store. Keep an eye out for them in antique stores too. There are some pretty cool ones out there.