Bacon

The Absolute Best Way to Cook Bacon, According to Sooo Many Tests

Our office may smell like bacon forever. You're all welcome.

February  8, 2019
Photo by Ella Quittner

Ask the person to your left and the person to your right how to cook bacon, and you'll likely get two completely different answers. Type the very same into Google, and the search engine will proffer over 250 million results. From stovetop to oven to microwave, each with its own series of endless sub-permutations, there are about as many ways to cook bacon as there are, well, ways to eat it. (Forgive us if talking pork products makes us a little lyrical.)

We put six popular methods to the test, because we had to know: Which way is better than all the others? You can thank us later for consuming only bacon for two days. Of note, we used the same brand of supermarket-accessible bacon at room temperature for each method, as a control. Anywhere we mention a skillet or pan, it was large enough to provide a wide margin around the strips of bacon, such that its shape wouldn't have contributed to any scrunching.

Here's how the results of our tests stacked up:


Stovetop: Cast Iron Skillet

Photo by Ella Quittner

Method: My dad would have you believe using a cast iron skillet on the stovetop is the only way to cook bacon, so we put it to the test first. To ensure the fat rendered as evenly as possible, we began with a cold cast iron skillet, then cooked the bacon over medium heat, flipping as needed.

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Top Comment:
“I put defrosted, bacon strips on a lightly greased or non-stick cooling rack, set in a sheet pan, in the oven @ 365-375 degrees, and just watch it until done to desired crispiness. I think it's a 20-25 min process depending on desired finished results. I only use Wellshire Farms, Sugar-Free Dry Rubbed bacon, it's the BEST. Gets super crispy or if desired, can be taken out a little earlier for less-crisp. Grease just drops into sheet pan, which can then be poured into can for disposal when full. I find the clean-up to be pretty darned easy. Love the resulting bacon. It's the best, @ least as far as me and my family are concerned. Thanks for the article above. Interesting.”
— Tommy
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Outcome: We were surprised by the inconsistency of the cook on the bacon strips, given that we moved them around to ensure each got time in the hottest part of the skillet, et cetera. After about 12 minutes, we ended up with absolutely delicious bacon, with varying crispiness and chewiness depending on the strip.

Pros: Perhaps it was the placebo effect of char spots (which none of the other bacon had), but we thought the flavor of the cast iron skillet bacon was the absolute best of all of the tests. It was also relatively quick—at least, compared to the oven methods, and the skillet-plus-water method.

Cons: Cooking bacon in an open pan on the stovetop produced a bacon grease splatter that wasn't exactly what we wanted to spend 15 minutes trying to clean from the countertop and floor surrounding the oven. Also, the inconsistent rendering of the fat suggested that we'd need to pay even more attention to the cooking strips than we already had (adjusting heat, flipping/moving them around).


Stovetop: Nonstick Skillet

Photo by Ella Quittner

Method: We began with a cold nonstick skillet, then cooked the bacon over medium heat, flipping as needed. (Same exact method as the cast iron skillet, just with a different pan.)

Outcome: In about the same amount of time as it took to cook bacon in a cast iron skillet, the nonstick skillet produced super crispy, consistent, flat bacon strips.

Pros: If you like your bacon crispy as a cracker and you value visual consistency, this is the method for you. One (more obvious) pro: A nonstick skillet is way easier to clean than a cast iron skillet or an unlined sheet pan.

Cons: Our test resulted in bacon with very little chew (just a bit on some of the ends)—mainly just crispiness. Like the cast iron skillet method, this produced an annoying grease splatter.


Oven: No Parchment Paper

Photo by Ella Quittner

Method: We placed the bacon strips directly on a rimmed sheet pan, and baked them in a preheated oven at 400°F.

Outcome: We've proselytized the oven-baking method before, so we had high hopes, and this sheet-pan bacon met them. After about 18 minutes, the fat had rendered extremely evenly, producing a perfectly chewy/crispy specimen.

Pros: This method was very hands-off—we didn't need to flip the bacon midway through, or fiddle with temperature—yet still hugely effective. The lack of stovetop-surrounding grease splatter was so welcome.

Cons: While the actual cooking of baked bacon takes about five minutes longer than the stovetop method, we also had to wait for our oven to preheat for approximately 10 minutes, so this isn't a method we'd recommend for those moments when you need bacon ASAP. (What, like you don't have those moments?) Also, the bacon stuck in one or two spots to the sheet pan, and cleaning the sheet pan was no easier than cleaning the cast iron skillet.


Oven: Parchment Paper

Photo by Ella Quittner

Method: We placed the bacon strips on a rimmed sheet pan that we'd lined with parchment paper, and baked them in a preheated oven at 400°F.

Outcome: Despite taking a little bit longer than the no-parchment method (about 22 minutes in the oven), this test resulted in equally delicious bacon with a nice chewy/crispy balance. It was curlier and more inconsistently crisped on its ends than the no-parchment batch.

Pros: This method had all the same pros as the other oven bacon test—plus, it had a way easier clean-up, because we were able to simply toss the parchment paper. (Shockingly, there were no leaks onto the actual pan, so it just got a quick rinse for good measure.)

Cons: It took about five minutes longer to fully cook this batch of bacon than the batch we baked on a sheet pan sans parchment paper-lining. Also, if your goal is flatter, more consistent bacon, you'd be better off baking without parchment paper.


Microwave

Photo by Ella Quittner

Method: We microwaved bacon on a plate between sheets of paper towels for about five-and-a-half minutes; for the last minute or so (once a fair amount of the fat had rendered), we took the paper towel sheets off the top.

Outcome: This test produced eerily crispy bacon—even crispier than the nonstick pan.

Pros: The microwave method was by far the quickest, and had the easiest clean-up. If you love crispy bacon and don't have a nonstick skillet (or care to save your bacon fat), this is a great option.

Cons: The bacon had a slightly odd taste we couldn't quite put our finger on; one team member described it as "kind of stale-seeming." (Perhaps this was user-error from microwaving for too long.) And because we microwaved the bacon on paper towels to minimize in-microwave mess, we weren't able to save the rendered bacon fat. There was no chew on the final bacon, just crispiness. Maybe too crispy?


Stovetop: Water Method

Photo by Ella Quittner

Method: We placed bacon into a cast iron skillet and added just enough water to cover the strips, then brought the water to a boil over high heat. Then, we lowered the flame and let the water simmer until it had fully evaporated, then lowered the flame a little more and cooked the bacon (flipping as needed) until crisp. (This method comes courtesy of Cook's Illustrated.)

Outcome: After about 22 minutes, we had bacon that was pretty inconsistently cooked, with crispy, thinned-out middles and less-cooked ends. One strip was less thin, but fairly shriveled.

Pros: The goal of this method is to help the bacon retain moisture as the fat renders, so it's tender rather than brittle. (This wasn't really our experience, though—while the ends of the bacon retained moisture, they didn't render perfectly. Meanwhile, the middle of the strips were a bit brittle.)

Cons: See above. Also, there was a fair amount of grease splattering, and this took almost twice as long as the regular-way cast iron skillet and nonstick skillet stovetop methods.


Conclusion

The absolute best way to cook bacon depends entirely on how you like your bacon—though some methods produce more consistent results than others.

  • If you love bacon with some good chew and crispiness around the edges, opt for baking it in the oven on a rimmed sheet pan with no parchment lining. (Or, if you're very concerned about minimizing clean-up and don't mind a little waviness, go ahead and line it.)
  • If, like me, all you care about is that classic bacon-y flavor and you don't care about appearance, go cast iron skillet on the stovetop.
  • If you're after super crispy, flat bacon, nonstick's going to be your best friend.

Whatever you do, just be sure to save that bacon fat.


How do you like your bacon? Chewy? Crispy? All of the above? Let us know in the comments!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches.

460 Comments

jbleague June 24, 2019
I have bought the Kirkland brand thick sliced bacon for a few years now. Love it. I cook the bacon in the microwave on a bacon pan that is ribbed and the bacon lies flat. To keep the splatters contained I use a cover designed for microwave use. Each package is a little different so I may have to adjust the cook time to get my bacon crispy but there is no additional flavors added by the pan.
 
Rob L. June 23, 2019
Though I am not the absolute bacon lover as some are I do appreciate (crispy) bacon.
I was surprised that you didn’t try baking on a wire rack to keep the bacon from deep fat frying. Place it over a rimmed sheet of course.
I would be interested to see your results!?
 
Marietta June 22, 2019
The very best way to cook bacon is to buy PRECOOKED BACON. Consistent, all excess Fat is cooked out and used for flavoring and in pet food, and you can get variety of bacon flavors by selecting different brands and thicknesses. After accounting for water and grease cooked out, price per strip is probably comparable.
 
Claudia June 21, 2019
I am sold on the oven method. I line my pan with foil. Easy cleanup and cooks while I make eggs, etc. the length of time determines crispy or chewy bacon-I cook mine at 375 degrees. Sometimes I spray it with oil and sometimes I turn it once during cooking. Not necessary though. 👍🏼
 
Anita S. June 21, 2019
I use cast iron skillet but not a cold one. I let it heat up before I put the bacon in
 
Sharon R. June 21, 2019
I swear by electric skillet, it is the only way I will cook it.
 
Jeanmarie T. June 20, 2019
I prefer the oven method, but there is absolutely no need to preheat the oven. Start that bacon in a cold oven, just as you did with a cold pan. Also, for a different treat, if you're not in a hurry, cook the bacon slowly in a lower over, say 325 or even 300. So. Good.
 
Vincent K. June 19, 2019
Regular cut takes less time than thick cut bacon.
 
Vincent K. June 19, 2019
Your oven method was to hot - the oven is the "low and slow" method - 325 to 350 maximum. Flip at least once at the half way point. I flip at each 10 minute mark. 350 usually takes just about 30 minutes.
 
Sally B. June 19, 2019
I agree with the microwave bacon, it does give it a funny taste, maybe it absorbs the flavor of the paper towel. Wondered about the oven method, wasn’t there a lot of grease spatter?
Ovens aren’t the easiest to clean, I would hate to make a mess in the oven. I watched a YouTube video on baking in oven, he flipped it every ten minutes. The first time it stuck he used a spatula, but after that it didn’t.
 
Teresa M. June 18, 2019
Wine morning my husband prepared me a BLT for breakfast. The bacon was exceptionally good. I knew he had done something different. It was crisp and chewy but, not dripping with grease. It was excellent. He used a bacon rack made for the outdoor grill.
My house didn’t smell like bacon and my stove was still clean.

I have tried making bacon in all of the methods described (except the water method). The grilling option is bu far the best tasting and the least amount of clean up.
 
Tina A. June 18, 2019
If you are wanting crispy long strips of evenly cooked bacon then cook it in an iron skillet with an iron bacon press on top. You’ll be please!
 
Mike D. June 18, 2019
I agree!...I use the same method.
 
Roger June 18, 2019
Wire rack in the broiler. Optionally glaze with maple syrup and dusting of cayenne.

Boom!
 
Joan June 21, 2019
Or a little brown sugar & spices - pumpkin pie, or chipotle, or black pepper...
 
Carl C. June 18, 2019
I use a small sheet pan with a grill laid on it. Place the bacon strips across the grill and bake at 375-degrees until done to your taste. All strips turn out pretty much the same. Plus you have ample fat to fry eggs.
 
Mary H. June 18, 2019
We like crispy bacon and our preferred method is cover a cookie sheet with foil, place bacon strips and put in a cold oven. Cook at 400 or 425 degrees for ~20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon. We like Wright’s bacon which is a thicker slice bacon. Easy cleanup. Never again will i cook bacon on top of the stove unless it is part of a recipe. We planned our bacon cooking!!!
 
Lynette H. June 19, 2019
Agree totally. Line a small cookie sheet with foil for easy clean up. Place in cold oven set to 400 for 20 minutes. If very thick go for 25 minutes. Never have to turn or look at it, just prepare the rest of your meal while your bacon cooks itself.
 
Ken T. June 18, 2019
We cook ours on the outdoor grill on a sheet of non stick foil. Comes out perfect, and the house doesn't smell😜
 
Lisa M. June 18, 2019
My husband and I cook bacon in our Air Fryer. Cooking it for 10 to 12 minutes at 400°. Although it does curl up it also tastes great.
 
Susan L. June 18, 2019
Hi. I am surprised you didn’t try grilling the bacon. I find it makes for a deliciously crisp and flat strip when cooked on a cold non-stick grill pan with holes. It lets the grease drip out and you also get the benefit of the added Smokey flavor!
 
Jennifer June 18, 2019
My grandmother always deep fried her bacon. It’s by far the best tasting bacon ever! You should try it.
 
Ken June 18, 2019
You say you started with a cold cast iron skillet? In my experience cast iron should ALWAYS be preheated. I’ll leave mine on “4” (electric stove) for at least 10 minutes before cooking anything. Food (especially bacon) comes out great and clean up (of the skillet) is easy. Glass top stove make the mess pretty easy too.
 
Sally B. June 19, 2019
I’ve seen chefs cook it and they say start out with cold cast iron pan so it doesn’t stick.
 
Jeanmarie T. June 20, 2019
The reason to start with a cold skillet is to let the fat render slowly and evenly, and it cooks more evenly as well.