Why It Works
- Thick-cut bacon stands up to the intense sweetness.
- Brown sugar and maple syrup layer the sweet notes.
- Cayenne adds a contrasting flavor.
Last summer I helped at a couple New York barbecue competitions, which wet my whistle to go full steam ahead and start entering myself this summer.
The sense of community is strong at these events, with many teams willing and eager to have you taste-test their meat. While the required categories (like ribs, pulled pork, and brisket) are top priority, many grillers also choose to add their own creations, and one of the most prevalent is pig candy (that's candied bacon for the uninitiated).
As I'm looking into competitions for myself, I thought it best to figure out a recipe for great pig candy, so that I, too, can be so generous with impressive snacks for my expanding barbecue family.
The process is simple: bake bacon and sugar together. But of course it's never that simple when it comes to barbecue and grilling. Debate rages in the details—one or two sides of sugar, regular or peppered bacon, add cayenne or not, and so on.
I found my pig candy in a recipe from Patio Daddio BBQ, where the requisite brown sugar gets an added layer of sweetness with maple syrup. It can be done equally well on the grill, smoker, or oven.
This was everything I wanted pig candy to be: a thick bacon that stands meaty as its saltiness combines with the rich sweetness of caramelized sugar, while a touch of spice creates a little bite within the sea of sugar.
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound thick-cut bacon
1/4 cup maple syrup
In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cayenne pepper.
Lay bacon strips on a wire rack set inside a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle 2/3 of the brown sugar mixture on top of the bacon strips.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to medium-high heat, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Place entire baking sheet with bacon on grill rack, cover, and cook until sugar starts to caramelize and bacon begins to crisp around the edges, about 15 minutes.
Brush bacon slices with maple syrup, flip, and brush second side with syrup. Sprinkle on remaining brown sugar mixture, cover, and continue to cook until bacon fully crisps, about 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from grill, let cool, then serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 13g||17%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||23%|
|Total Carbohydrate 13g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 11g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|