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Photo: Claire Lower

Crackers are not something you have to cook. They are a fully realized and finished product, and come out of the box ready for consumption. Put a piece of cheese on a cracker and you have a good snack. Holiday snacks, however, require a little more than “good.” They require a bit of excess, a bit of unnecessary and delicious futzing.

Much like a serving a butter tasting or baking a big ol’ pan of brie, air frying crackers—both saltines and country club style—is excessive. Dipping the saltines in highly seasoned butter and wrapping the club crackers in bacon is almost absurdly excessive, but that is exactly what we’re doing.

Serving sassy saltines

These saltines go by many names, but they are most commonly referred to as “butter baked saltines.” The Pioneer Woman calls them “seasoned buttery crackers,” and Alton Brown calls them “spicy saltines” (because his are spicy). I call them “sassy saltines” because they’re fun and almost a bit “too much.”

The premise for this genre of cracker snack is simple: Dip saltines in butter and bake them until golden brown. You can season the butter if you like. The Kitchn keeps it simple with plain unsalted butter, Alton spruces his up with hot sauce and dry mustard, and the Pioneer Woman favors Italian seasoning and Lawry’s. Honestly, all of these are good options. Me? I like Caldo de Tomate (tomato bouillon with chicken flavor); the Trader Joe’s Everything but the Elote seasoning is also great here.

The seasoned butter infuses the cracker, which can hold a surprising amount of butter without getting soggy. A brief dunk is all you need, but I like to dump and scoop, so a tiny pool of butter forms on the top of the cracker.

You can bake them in an oven for 10 minutes, or you can air fry them for five. The air fryer delivers crisper results faster, which is why I prefer it to the traditional oven prep. To make Sassy Saltines, you will need:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • At least 1 teaspoon of your favorite seasoning, but don’t be afraid to get more than one involved
  • 1 sleeve of saltines

Melt the butter in a small pan on the stove, then add your seasonings. Ranch powder, Italian seasoning, Caldo de Tomate—all are good. Whisk it with a fork and dip a saltine in the mixture. Eat that saltine, and add more seasoning if needed. I usually add a tablespoon of Crystal hot sauce. Raid your pantry and get wild with it. Season and taste until you’re happy with your mixture, then dunk and scoop the crackers in the mixture so a tiny pool of butter forms on top of the cracker. Cook the crackers in a 275℉ air fryer for 5 minutes (or in a 275℉ oven for 20 minutes, or in a 350℉ oven for 10 minutes). Let cool for a couple of minutes, and serve. Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature. (They’re great on their own, with a dip, dipped in soup, or crumbled on salads.)

Makin’ Bacon Crackers

The bacon crackers take a little longer to prepare, because of the bacon. You have to give the fat a little time to render out of the meat and into the cracker, giving a pie crust-like texture (with bacon flavor).

Again, the method is simple: Grab a club-style cracker—I bought the generic brand because, as of last night, the Kellogg’s workers were still on strike— and put a pinch of brown sugar in the center of the cracker, then wrap it up in bacon. Air fry until the bacon crisps and constricts around the cracker, giving it a nice hourglass shape. Again, you can make these crackers in the oven, but the air fryer shaves 15 minutes off the cook time, which is a good bit of time when you’re waiting for bacon crackers.

The best bacon for bacon crackers is thin and flimsy. A thick-cut bacon won’t wrap around the cracker as easily or crisp up as well, so grab the cheap store brand and save the thick-cut bacon for breakfast. You’ll need 1/3-1/2 of a strip, depending on how long your bacon is. My bacon was very long, and 1/3 was the perfect amount. You want the bacon to wrap around the cracker one and a half times—the overlap is what keeps the bacon wrapped around the cracker while cooking, but too many layers of bacon means at least one layer will be chewy, not crispy. To make bacon crackers, you will need:

  • 1 or more sleeves of club-style crackers
  • 12-15 strips of bacon, depending on long your bacon is
  • About a tablespoon of brown sugar

Cut the bacon into halves or thirds (enough to wrap around the cracker one and a half times, then set a cracker at the end of the strip, place a pinch of brown sugar in the center of cracker, and roll it up in the bacon. Repeat until you are out of crackers.

Place the bacon-wrapped crackers in a 250℉-air fryer—don’t worry about leaving a bunch of space in between them, it’s okay if they’re touching a little. Cook for 30 minutes, until the bacon has crisped and constricted around the bacon. (You can also cook them in a 250℉ over for 45 minutes.) Let cool to room temperature and enjoy.

   



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