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I like to fry and cook cubed bacon for various dishes, but I sometimes have a hard time cutting through bacon, especially where the fat meets the meat. The bacon just tends to move around too much, and it gets trickier at the end of the slice (or chunk). I usually use a 6 inch serrated knife for this task. What knife would be best - serrated, chef's, or filet? Or something else? Is there some special technique I should be using?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Cutting bacon into cubes was a regular prep task for me when I was cooking professionally, so I got very fast at it. Here are the tricks I found:

  • Fully cooked (baked) bacon cuts MUCH faster and cleaner, and you can make perfect cubes
  • Don't use a serrated knife. It'll be easier to cut with, but it will shred and fray the bacon as you slice, eventually making a mess.
  • Use the sharpest knife you have, especially for uncooked bacon. There's already a tendency for it to slip and slide around, and a sharp knife cuts with less back-and-forth motion.
  • You want a deep-bellied knife such as a santoku or Chinese cleaver, because you can slice through multiple stacks of bacon at once.
  • Stack slices of bacon so you can cut multiple pieces at once.
  • Try to work with 4" by 4" blocks of bacon, so the pieces aren't big enough to slip around as much. With this size you're still able to do a lot at once, but it's fast
  • Organize your cutting board. Pick one corner for whole chunks of bacon, then cut into strips and move to another spot, then finally into cubes which goes in another spot.

Now if I were a culinary school, you'd have paid a few hundred bucks to learn what I just told you.

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Back when I used to work at a restaurant, the kitchen would use pork belly, not bacon (which is cured and smoked). The prep was to braise a large block of pork belly, something like 8" x 8" x 2" (thickness) slowly for a few hours. They'd let it cool and refrigerate it. The next day, they'd cut the chilled block with a non-serrated knife as you've suggested. This would result in true "cubes". It's possible to make a pork belly into bacon using this same process, so long as one has the patience to smoke and brine it first. –  Eric Hu Aug 17 '12 at 10:05
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@EricHu Yes, when I say bacon, I mean house-cured bacon. We also started from big slabs of pork belly, cured it in the walk-in, and smoked it. We actually used an improvised smoker made from 2 deep full hotel pans plus a slotted insert, with hardwood below. The whole thing sat on a heat source to char the wood and smoke the bacon. –  BobMcGee Aug 17 '12 at 12:08
    
Cool tip, another culinary school lesson :) Is it feasible to use that setup with an oven without resulting in a smokey kitchen? –  Eric Hu Aug 18 '12 at 6:11
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@EricHu That setup is probably inadvisable without good ventilation. I'd do it outdoors or somewhere with a proper vent hood (what we did). –  BobMcGee Aug 18 '12 at 12:03
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Stack and slice with a large santoku or cleaver (you'll need the weight, depth and relatively flat blade)

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Just use a slicing machine for the first 2 cuts (1st=slices, 2nd=stripes) and a sharp blade for the 3rd cut (the cubes). That's probably the fastest and most precise way to cut lots of them :)

Guess I should mention one trick: put them in the fridge/freezer for a while ... simply because fat on low temperature is way more easy to handle.

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I'm not Kramer, I don't have a deli slicing machine at home. Sorry! –  smcg Aug 17 '12 at 14:14
    
You could ask at the butcher's to get them boned out & sliced there already. –  Martin Aug 17 '12 at 14:16
    
There are no bones in bacon. –  Josh Caswell Aug 17 '12 at 19:30
    
What we have here (as seen on the picture above) ... there's ordinary 2 soft rips contained, which should be removed prior to cutting... even if they're not exactly a bone :) –  Martin Aug 17 '12 at 20:44
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I first remember seeing Melissa d'Arabian demonstrate using KITCHEN SHEARS to cube bacon during her season on "The Next Food Network Star". I tried it soon after and I find that the scissor action of the shears makes it EASY to cube bacon. Clean, consistent easy to use.

enter image description here

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I would say a chef's knife, for sure. Make sure it's sharp! If you've never sharpened your knives (not just honed using a steel) it can make a world of difference.

If you are having troubles, making sure the meat is chilled will help. Straight out of the fridge works okay, but it is even easier if you throw it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so.

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+1 for the freezer tip –  Eric Hu Aug 17 '12 at 10:00
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