One of the techniques one needs to master before becoming a barbecue professional is how to grill bacon-wrapped foods. Bacon is used to wrap seafood (shrimp and scallops), vegetables (cheese stuffed peppers), and meats such as filets of beef and pork. Wrapping boneless and skinless stuffed chicken thighs in bacon is also gaining popularity.
However, grilling bacon-wrapped foods is not a straightforward endeavor. The two biggest challenges you face when grilling bacon-wrapped foods are preventing grease fires and getting the bacon finished at the same time as the food it is wrapped around.
Grease fires are extremely common when cooking bacon-wrapped foods. If dripping bacon fat comes into contact with lit charcoal or propane flames a flare-up fire is inevitable. The easiest way to deal with the situation is to always cook bacon-wrapped food with indirect heat.
If the bacon is not directly over a heat source then the probability of a grease fire is greatly minimized. When grilling with indirect heat it is a good idea to use a disposable aluminum drip pan underneath the food. The foil pan will catch any grease and make subsequent cleanup much easier.
Once you have taken steps to minimize grease fires you can start working on getting your bacon to cook at the same rate as the food it is wrapped around. This is most easily accomplished by using thinly sliced bacon instead of the more expensive thick-cut varieties. This is not as important if you are grilling food that takes 20-30 minutes to finish such as pork tenderloin but is critical if you are working with quick-cooking foods like shrimp and scallops.
A second trick to employ with quick-cooking food is to partially precook your bacon before wrapping it. You can put a few slices of bacon in paper towels and microwave on high for one minute to get your bacon about halfway done cooking.
The only drawback to this approach is that it is easy to overcook the bacon which makes it extremely difficult to wrap around your food. A better approach is to blanch the bacon in boiling water for one minute. The blanching approach takes a little more work but helps make sure the bacon remains pliable enough to use as a wrapper.
The final tip for grilling bacon-wrapped food is to pay particular attention to your seasonings. Most bacon has a very high salt content. This means that the amount of extra salt you use to season your food should be kept to a minimum.
With a little practice, you can avoid grease fires and get your bacon cooked at the same time as the food it is wrapped around. Master these skills and you are one step closer to becoming a grill master.