24 Aug
2009

Cooking Bacon, Part 2

?The taste of Bacon is the taste of Freedom.?
  — unknown

I hope you read that in Leonard Nimoy?s voice, from his work on Civilization IV.  ?Our scientists have unlocked the secrets of Bacon!  Now we can cook bacon!?

So after attempting to cook bacon in carbon dioxide, the next logical step was to repeat the experiment in a vacuum.  Would the absence of an atmosphere (more or less) alter the taste of bacon?  If this worked, this could be another alternative to having robots cook bacon unattended without the risk of fire.

Fortunately Dave Gapen over at The Reuseum happened to have a working vacuum chamber, and was willing to let us experiment with it as long as we cleaned up the mess afterwards. 

The plan was simple: insert Foreman grill into chamber.  Remove air via a hand pump.  Cook bacon.  Eat bacon.

What a Vacuum Chamber Might Look Like The grill just barely fits.  Yay

First thing: the chamber has holes for connecting pumps and other handy scientific devices, one of which we need to run the grill power cord through.  And then manage to seal up the remains of the whole.  And to do that, the power cord needs to come off the grill, be threaded through mentioned hole, and then seal the hole up with copious amounts of silicone caulk.

Preparing the Chamber Power Goes Here Removing Power Cord

This is what SCIENCE looks like

With the box wired for sound, and some time to kill waiting for our sealant to hold, it was time to cook the Control Bacon.  One comment with the previous attempt was that the grill was colder cooking the CO2 bacon than the control bacon, which could explain the lack of crispiness.  So this time, we allowed the grill to heat up for 2 minutes sans-bacon, and then cooked the control bacon first.

Bacon in Open Container Its MORE Bacon!

The control bacon cooked for 15 minutes.  It was good, as one expects from control bacon.   Hail, Bacon!

Control bacon eaten, now it?s time to set up our vacuum.  Uncooked bacon was placed on the grill, the chamber cover was placed and sealed, and I started using the hand pump to get as much air out of the chamber as possible.

The Bacon Chamber Bacon Chamber

Here?s the part where things start to go wrong: cranking the hand pump is hard work, and I didn?t have access to (and sure wasn?t going to buy) a compressor or electric pump or something that would have been more efficient.  I was able to get the gauge up to 200 mmHg and maintain it there, but getting more of a vacuum than that was a lot of work.  And since it didn?t seem like this setup was going to get much better than that, I flipped the switch to apply power to the grill.  Commence bacon!

Pump Gauge Condensation

After 5 minutes, I could begin smelling the bacon cooking through the hand pump ? along with a smell sort of like industrial grease.  Not very pleasant.  Would the bacon flavor be tainted?

I had to pump continuously to maintain pressure, at one point I was able to get the gauge up to 300 mmHg, but then the silicone seal developed an audible leak. 

15 minutes elapse ? vacuum bacon removed.  It appeared to have suffered no side effects from its exposure to low pressure.  The taste and other qualities of the bacon was as you?d expect from any other sort of bacon.  Bacon is stronger than it?s environment.

Results

The gauge is measuring the pressure difference between the outside and the inside.  STP is defined as 760 mmHg at room temperature.  If we assume that the outside is STP (and we haven?t been very rigorous with numbers up to this point, so why start now?) then that?d mean that the pressure inside was 760 ? 200 mmHg = 560 mmHg, or 0.74 atmospheres.  Not the sort of vacuum I was hoping for?

The preheating and cooking order seems to have controlled for temperature, so that?s one less problem.  If I were to repeat this experiment, I?d let the seals set overnight (at least) so we could get less pressure in there.  Also, this really calls for a more powerful pump than what we had ? unfortunately that just wasn?t going to happen with the time and money available. 

But, it was an excellent excuse to eat more bacon, visit the Reuseum, and DO SCIENCE!

13 thoughts on “Cooking Bacon, Part 2

  1. I hate to say this and I’m sure I’ll be flamed for saying it, but I read this site for the “Code” in Elegant Code. I really don’t see where your bacon experiments fit in with the site. It seems this should have been a a most a mention and a link to your personal site or perhaps youtube were a number of such food experiments can be found…
    Please stop “cloging the arteries” of this site and let it return to code rather than cooking.

    A loyal fan of Elegant Code.

  2. @Terry
    First, thank you for expressing your opinion in a polite manner. I appreciate that.

    Second, yes this is very much ‘esoterica’, and not having to do with ‘code.’ I’m sorry that somebody forced you to click the link and read the article, that’s just not cool of them. Myself, when I see an article on Los Techies or elsewhere that I’m not interested in, I skip it.

    But I think for now the bacon experiments are over, so these posts won’t be in the way of the other 1 or 2 posts per week that are much more relevant and informative than this one.

  3. Get friendly with your local refrigerator repairman: they use vacuum pumps to pull the air out of the system before re-gassing.

    A buddy of mine – a refrigeration mechanic – used the vacuum pump to make pickled onions. Instead of soaking the onions for a week or so he put them into a container & extracted the air. Hey presto: almost-instant pickled onions 8)

  4. Do you think the expanding air inside the less than vacumm vacuum might have hindered your attempts as well? Do you have one of those little pumps that come with the air mattresses? They can also be used to remove air…

  5. I’m not a coder at all and frankly can’t even remember how I got here, however, Terry, Tony’s readership is up one more person because of the bacon.

  6. @Steve Syfuhs
    I would love to do that. If anybody knows somebody who’s got access to this sort of thing (professional grade) — AND you could eat the bacon after it was in the chamber, since it hasn’t been irradiated or anything like that… let me know! (anybody know anyone over at Boise State?)

    I’m thinking that the next time around, I’ve GOT to retry the vacuum experiment with a better vacuum.

  7. The type of vaccuum pump used for air con servicing would be ideal for this, they come up on ebay quite regularly, and can be rented for relatively little cash from tool hire stores.

  8. Ok, everyone has convinced me that this experiment *must* be repeated, using a slightly more rigorous process! I’ll start putting the pieces together and report back when I’ve got some results.

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