Pig Candy – A Great Christmas Appetizer

Christmas brings a lot of opportunities to socialize and throw parties. Whether throwing a party of just going to one, I like to have a few things that I can cook pretty easily in case I need to host people or just take something along with me to a party.

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(obligatory Christmas/Rudolph photo)

I made something the other day that’s nothing new, but I hadn’t made it in a while. It’s not a good item for the Hanukkah events that friends may be throwing, but it’s good for just about any Christmas party. I have tasted pork heaven, and its name is Pig Candy. So what is Pig Candy? It’s actually one of the easiest things to make, but oh-so-addictive and tasty. The ingredients are simple:

  • Bacon. Not thick sliced or peppered
  • Dark brown sugar. If only light is available, adding a bit of molasses helps
  • Ground chiles. I like cayenne, chipotle and/or ancho. Ancho isn’t as hot, but is helped with a touch of cayenne.

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For amounts, I start with about 2 cups of brown sugar for a pound of bacon. I mix in the chiles with the brown sugar; if I use cayenne, I use maybe 1/8 teaspoon. If I use ancho, I go with more like 1/2 of a tablespoon to a tablespoon. This is one of those things that you have to play with to see how much or little you prefer.

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The oven doesn’t get preheated, so don’t worry about that. Start with a cooling rack that fits inside a cookie sheet/half sheet pan, and lay on the bacon in a single layer as tightly as you can. It will shrink up a lot, so just make sure it’s not overlapped. Then place the pan in the oven and turn it to 400 degrees F. I can’t remember why this is done in a non-preheated oven, but Alton Brown told me to do it that way, so I do!

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The one change I make to AB’s method is that I turn down the oven once it reaches 400 degrees. I take the pan out of the oven, turn it down to 350 degrees F, and somewhat carefully layer the sugar/chile onto the bacon.

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Once it’s on the bacon, I just smooth it out a bit. I like to put a good amount on each slice of bacon as it will melt off quite a bit, and I want to be sure to have plenty left on the bacon. Once the sugar is on the bacon, I put it back in the oven, turned 180 degrees from how it started. I then start my timing; every 4 minutes, I turn the bacon again, checking doneness. I like my bacon crisp, but even if you prefer yours less crisp, it needs to be crispy for this. I also turn on my overhead vent, as things start to smoke after a while.

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I cooked this in the oven, but it can also be done on a grill or hot smoker. Once the bacon is crispy, I remove the pan from the oven and turn off the oven. Even if I’m doing another pan, I turn it off to let it cool somewhat before the next batch.

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I immediately remove the bacon from the cooling rack onto paper towels so that it doesn’t stick to the cooling rack. If I’m doing more, I wipe off all the grease and melted sugar and start all over.

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The end result is just ridiculous . I’ve had people at my office offer to buy more, and one person suggested I sell it as a gourmet item locally. Little do they know that it was a bunch of barbecuers that told me how to do this stuff!

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Total time for this is approximately 25 minutes, though your oven could cause things to cook a bit faster or slower. The 350 degree setting is used so that the sugar doesn’t burn.

How does this become an appetizer? Pig Candy is great all on its own, but put it on a festive platter with sliced pears and brie, or figs and cheddar, or all of the above, and you’ll have a high-class appetizer that’s a bit different than anything other people may be bringing to the party.

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So any of you out there trying this, if you do a variation of any sort, let me know what it was, and how it turned out.

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About Curt

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.

40 comments

  1. Curt, this is completely new to me – I love anything with bacon!

  2. Patricia, if you like bacon, you’ll love this stuff.

  3. That is just downright deliciously sinful! I’m making it on Christmas day!

  4. Ang, it’s dangerous… Once you get started, don’t blame me if you get addicted!

  5. Wow this looks fabulous, have to make it soon :-) Thanks for the inspiration!

    Happy holidays!!

    noskos

  6. Yum! How can you go wrong with bacon and sugar?? :-)

  7. noskos… I hope you have a great holiday, too… And this stuff tastes better than it looks!

    Nicole, that’s almost profound :) but oh so true.

  8. This is something I just have to try. I will let you know how it works out.

  9. About the only thing you can do wrong is to burn the bacon… So just keep an eye on it, and it should be great. Too much cayenne can cause a need for milk, but it’s still good. :) Don’t be shy with the sugar.

  10. hey, Curt. sorry to be AWOL for a loooong time. we chatted a bit about Alton Brown back when they were doing the “Feasting” thing.
    lovelovelove this idea. i actually have a little circle of ‘bacon’ loving friends & have passed it on. in return, i’m recommending music. one of my BBQ/bacon fan friends is Colin Linden. good blues guy but he’s in a great band called ‘Blackie & the Rodeo Kings’. check them out & hope you enjoy. adn i promise to be a better blog follower in the new year becuase i always enjoy my visits here.

  11. Christine, it’s good to see you back! I’ll check ou Colin Linden… I’m a blues fan anyway.

    One thing I hope you’ll notice in the upcoming months is better photos… With Nika’s help and a new camera, I should be getting better. :)

  12. I LOVE pig candy! There is a restaurant here in Los Angeles called Lou that serves it. I make sure to get it every time I go. Although now that I know how to make it myself, I won’t be dependent on them to get my fix. Thanks!

  13. Grant, glad to help… Out of curiosity, what do they charge for Pig Candy???

  14. I gotta try this one. Will give it a go after Christmas.

  15. This might be good on the old George Foreman grill. One of the few things it did well was to cook nice crispy and flat bacon.

  16. Paula, let me know how it goes… Once you try it, you may find variations you prefer, too.

    Gary, I like this best in the oven on a rack, so the grease and melted sugar drip below the bacon. The oven is also my favorite way to make bacon that’s crispy and flat.

  17. My girlfriend and I tried this tonight, and it was pretty good, but it smoked far too much and I honestly think bacon and maple syrup tastes just as good. And we’re still figuring out how to clean the pans up …

  18. Tamer Brad,

    I get some smoke, but not so much that my overhead vent doesn’t handle it just fine; you may have overcooked it a bit. I also like maple syrup on the bacon, but it’s just personal preference that I like this better… partly from the crunch the sugar gives it, as well as the bit from the pepper and the molasses flavor.

    For cleanup, I just ran hot water over the pans, which seemed to help melt the sugar again.

  19. We didn’t overcook, for sure; we actually had to abort it. I think we may have used too much brown sugar though, as that’s what was smoking, not the bacon.

    Still, I’d definitely be willing to try it again under different conditions.

  20. inre: cleaning the pans after the bacon? let it soak a bit(even overnight) with a fabric softener sheet. no seriously. it works:)

  21. this sounds great.I had something similar at my sisters for Christmas eve.She wrapped her bacon around Tiny smoked sausages before adding the brown sugar.These were fantastic.I could eat them like popcorn.The smoked sausages only added a “little” more fat to my evening meal.HA…thanks,I’ll be giving the pig candy a try for new years eve.

  22. We always microwave our bacon to avoid smoke:

    cook bacon laid out on platter covered with double layer of paper towel, then cover with one layer until reached desired crispness.

    Then transfer to cookie rack on parchment covered cookiesheet to cover with sugar.
    Before placing in over, pull out parchment and shake off excess sugar. Put parchment back and place whole assembly in oven.

    This is ONE good receipe!

    Thank you very much!
    Happy New Year!

  23. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe. I took it to a New Year’s Eve party where it was quickly devoured! I will definitely add this one to the recipe box!

  24. Tamer Brad, let me know if you find a way to get it to smoke a bit less.

    Christine, great tip on cleaning the pans. I forget to line with foil sometimes, then I’m stuck just scrubbing.

    shelly, I’ve heard of the sausages, too… nice addition, though I like the crunch of the bacon.

    hampton, microwaving should work just fine, too. Good idea!

    Sarah, I left a note on your blog; I’m always glad to hear when things go over well.

  25. I made this as my contribution to the Super Bowl party I went to last night and it was a HUGE hit. I followed your recipe and method almost exactly– the only change was, I think I tripled or quadrupled the amount of cayenne (my crowd loves spicy food, so that amount was just enough to be a little zingy). I didn’t have any special presentation, I just broke the bacon slices into pieces and dumped them into a tupperware container. (We’re college students, we aren’t too worried about classiness or anything.) It was the first thing to get eaten up!

    One thing people started doing was taking a cracker, putting a slice of cheese on top of it, and then putting a piece of bacon candy on top of that. Delicious!

  26. Emily, the amount of cayenne is very easy to change, as you found out… all based on who is going to eat the stuff. I like it with more at times, too.

    I like the idea of the cracker and cheese with the pig candy on it. Sounds great! I’m glad you and your friends enjoyed it.

  27. Thanks for the awesome recipe. I was looking for something unique to take to “PigFest” this weekend. I have made 4 batches tonight & have a few more to go. I’m not a pork lover, but have to say this is yummy stuff. Your instructions were great…so easy & I think it will be hit. Enjoyed visiting your blog. Look forward to coming back soon.

    Thanks again….

  28. Deb, I hope they all enjoy it. It’s a bit addictive, so be careful!

  29. Thanks for the reminder. I do a variation of this but you just can’t miss with bacon & brown sugar.

    Cheers,
    Braddog

  30. Hey Curt – I’m totally going to give this a try, cooking bacon in the oven is one of my favourite things. Quick question – do you put more brown sugar on it every time that you turn it or just the one time?

  31. Braddog, bacon + sweet is just good, whatever variation.

    Wannietta, I put the bacon in a cold oven, then turn it up to 400. When it reaches that, I turn the oven down to 350 and put the sugar/cayenne on. That’s that only time the sugar is added; the baking sheet just gets turned every few minutes until it’s crisp.

  32. I found your blog on Google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Bacon News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  33. I do a slightly different version of this…Oven fry the bacon til crispy. Let cool and dip into melted chocolate. Then sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds, or chopped toasted pecans.

  34. Curt, super simple; I’ll give this version a try.

  35. Teresa, chocolate covered bacon is a lot different, in my opinion. I like both, but I prefer pig candy.

  36. I made this on March 24 for a bacon-themed party and it overwhelmed all other entries. You instructions are so thorough I linked back here from my blog and from the bacon thread on the BNL message board. very nice!

  37. TheQueen, I’m glad to hear it was a hit! I have yet to bring any home when I take it to a get-together.

  38. I’m a newbie to the wonderful world of bacon as an appetizer. I took dates wrapped in bacon to a party recently. I left the tray on the table, went to get a margarita and when I got back, there was ONE left…so I ate it.

    I’m SO doing the Pig Candy for Christmas Eve. The in-laws will have a new found respect for me. :o)

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