Absolute Best Tests

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

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

December  3, 2020
Photo by Ella Quittner

In Absolute Best Tests, our writer Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She's boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackles bacon.

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.

Join The Conversation

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

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.


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.


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.

Bring home the bacon

1. The Egg Shop B.E.C. (Bacon, Egg & Cheese)

The only thing better than a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich? A bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich slathered in tangy-spicy tomato jam.

2. Bacon & Egg Ramen

This pantry-friendly ramen combines many of our great loves: Sriracha, lots of garlic, runny eggs, and—of course—bacon.

3. Fig & Bacon Grilled Cheese

Classic grilled cheese gets a sweet-smoky upgrade thanks to the addition of crispy bacon and a heaping spoonful of fig jam.

4. Fiendishly Tasty Bacon Turkey Burgers

Everything you need to know about these bacon turkey burgers—they are fiendishly tasty.

5. Jack’s Pear, Bacon, & Goat Cheese Quesadillas

With crisp pear, thick chunks of bacon, and earthy-tart goat cheese, this isn't your typical quesadilla—but that's exactly why we can't get enough of it.

6. Sheet-Pan Crispy Rice with Bacon & Broccoli

If the crispy bits are your favorite part of any dish, definitely add this sheet-pan crispy rice (which is made up of 100 percent crispy bits) to your must-cook list.

7. Crunchy French Toast With Maple-Candied Bacon

We could go on about this panko-crusted brioche French toast, but they already had us at "maple-candied bacon."

8. Individual Sweet Potato Gratins with Creme Fraiche, Onions & Bacon

These two-serving sweet potato casseroles (extra-luxe thanks to creme fraiche and bacon!) are just as exciting for a cozy brunch as they are for a chilly-weather dinner—just add a crunchy, acidic salad and a side of marinated lentils to round out the meal.

9. Roasted Radicchio & Shrimp with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Salad always tastes better at a restaurant than at home, probably thanks to the extra care paid to assembling various components—not to mention hefty amounts of olive oil and salt. This warm bacon-dressed radicchio and shrimp number is a restaurant-quality salad that’s simple enough to put together at home.

10. Bacon Fat BLT

What’s better than a BLT? A BLT that calls for its bread to be fried in bacon fat! What a gift. Mayo-haters, this is your kind of sandwich. To make this sandwich as perfect as possible, use meaty heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes that you’ve seasoned well with kosher salt.

11. Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels sprouts and bacon are one of those food pairings that just works. Here, we cook the bacon in the oven, so you can toss the Brussels sprouts in that luxurious rendered bacon fat. From there, toss the whole thing with a glug of maple syrup (maple and bacon: another classic combo!) for a touch of sweetness. You should probably make a double batch.

12. Bacon Pecan Meringues With (or Without) Milk Chocolate

Dessert with bacon? Oh heck yes. Here, you’ll need shatteringly crispy bacon and well-toasted pecans to fold into the batter of a batch of chewy meringue. We’re on team chocolate and bacon (if you haven’t tried it, you need to!), but if it’s not your jam, skip the milk chocolate in this recipe.

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 contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


Miriam January 27, 2021
I just bought a air fryer oven and I vote for the air fryer every time. I use thick bacon. It takes 11 minutes at 425 - hands off - while I make the rest of breakfast. I can have bacon, eggs and toast for 2 on the table in that 11 minutes.
W J. January 27, 2021
That works well for me too.

However, the air fryer will ultimately fail, due in part to cooking things like bacon.

Here's what happens: Over time, as the bacon (or other fatty meats) cook, grease will deposit on the roof of the air fryer. It steam distills from the meat in an air fryer just as it does on your stove top.

(Don't be confused here for that is how the majority of that greasy film spreads around your stove top. There are splatters to be sure, but steam distillation is the main culprit.)

There is a calrod heater coil and a fan in the roof of the air fryer. Turn an empty air fryer that has been in use for a while over and look above the coil at the fan. You will see a brown to black hard film of baked on film (oxidatively cross-linked, unsaturated fats). This is the same type of film that forms on your baking trays over time. And though you can't see it as such, it is the same film that coats that wonderful black cast iron fry pan to give the non-stick properties.

It is not easy to remove this material even on things that are readily accessible such as a baking pan. It is next to impossible to remove it from the roof of an air fryer, without disassembly and the use of a product like Easy Off.

Ultimately, owing to grease build-up, the fan motor will seize, then in just a few moments, the thermal fuse on the top of the roof plate will blow and maybe the thermal fuse on the windings of the fan motor as well.

I know. I have replaced both fuses, which is an involved job as they are not easy to get to, but inexpensive as parts go.

Here is a link to a long YouTube video, where the first part is in diagnosing the problem by a guy unfamiliar with air fryers. The last part is the actual repair/replacement of the thermal fuse, which cost about $1 each. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5JLQfxoUmI&t=1056s&ab_channel=FixitFrank After you watch this video, you may realize that the vast majority of oval or egg-shaped, air fryers are all the same design with a bit of cosmetic difference in color, size, name plate, and flashing lights, etc. So don't pay extra, but go for simple when you can.

99% of people just toss the air fryer and buy another one. If you factor in the cost of replacing the air fryer along with the price of bacon, though convenient, it can get to be rather expensive bacon indeed.

Just sayin'...

P.S. Anyone else on this forum have similar experiences with an air fryer?
JoFalcon December 27, 2020
I cook bacon wrapped in baking paper, (which might be like your parchment) on a sandwich press mine is a Brevillle, it has a setting for grill so the top doesn't have to press on the top. it's very fast and easy clean.

Aresverde December 27, 2020
I cook bacon in a pan on a burner on gas stove usually using my large All Clad (amazingly even heat) saute pan on medium heat; & if outdoors I use my Lodge; great food starts with great raw materials-I only use Benton’s bacon; cut package in half and use half pound which fills my pan; preheat pan, spread half pieces evenly in pan, cover with lid and cook; check done-ness, flip pieces with tongs and re-space as needed, re cover and continue cooking; if necessary do a short final flip; if not, turn off heat; using tongs place cooked bacon strips onto a paper plate covered with 2-3 layers of paper towel and place one more paper towel on top then the tongs to add weight to top paper towel so as to absorb grease. Line a paper cereal bowl with foil, pour in grease from skillet and let harden, then i can toss or save easily. Enjoy!
Aresverde December 27, 2020
I cook bacon in a pan on a burner on gas stove usually using my large All Clad (amazingly even heat) saute pan on medium heat; if outdoors I use my Lodge; great food starts with great raw materials-I only use Benton’s bacon; cut package in half and use half pound which fills my pan; preheat pan, spread half pieces evenly in pan, cover with lid and cook; check done-ness, flip pieces with tongs and re-space as needed, re cover and continue cooking; if necessary do a short final flip; if not, turn off heat; using tongs place cooked bacon strips onto a paper plate covered with 2-3 layers of paper towel and place one more paper towel on top then the tongs to add weight to top paper towel so as to absorb grease. Line a paper cereal bowl with foil, pour in grease from skillet and let harden, then i can toss or save easily. Enjoy!
Sara R. December 27, 2020
My prefered method for cooking bacon is on a rack on a sheet pan in the oven.
Excess fat is trimmed off, the bacon is then painted on both sides with maple syrup, and then spaced apart on the rack so as to not be crowded. 400 degree convection oven.

Line the pan with foil, and lightly oil the rack for easy cleanup. Yum.
Amy December 27, 2020
One alternative method not mentioned: I’m also a believer in the oven method when I need more that 3-4 slices of bacon. I line my pan with non-stick foil instead of parchment and turn the pan 1/2 way through cooking to ensure even cooking of the front & back of pan. Bacon comes out perfectly crisp and there’s even less mess on the pan if you line it properly.
Lee December 23, 2020
I use a sheet pan with a cookie cooling rack placed over it, in an oven I preheat while mixing pancake batter. Set to 425 it takes about 20 mins for the bacon to get nice and crispy the way I like it. The fat renders and drips onto the baking sheet. Sometimes I save it in a jar in the fridge for other cooking purposes. Clean up is clean up. You have to do it, and I don’t find it too terribly hard with this method.
Tina W. December 21, 2020
Microwave still works better.
shersie3 December 21, 2020
I use 3 dedicated kitchen hand towels that I place on my stove top prior to cooking anything that may splatter. I put two on the stove top and one over the control panel.I then use my deep electric nonstick fry pan to cook my bacon. Easy cleanup! The towels go in the wash and the stove top is pristine. The electric pan works perfectly and the cleanup is a breeze.
Chef C. November 18, 2020
I've been reading these many ways of cooking bacon and have learned a little, actually. However, my favorite bacon product are Lardons by far. Pieces of thick bacon cut into 1 inch squares or batons and then simply sautéed until crispy, French style. Then added to a salad, possibly frisbee with an egg on it or a wedge.
Mxs777 November 17, 2020
New method we discovered last year... smoking it on relatively high heat on a pellet grill. 325 degrees for 30 min... end result- we call it “meat candy”
Pete M. December 4, 2020
Trouble with grilling is that you lose the delicious fat. Very much worth keeping it (and schmaltz) separate--schmaltz as a sauteeing grease, and bacon fat for soup
John S. November 10, 2020
The best method I have found, hands down, is to lay bacon out on a parchment lined rimmed sheet pan, and put it in the oven cold. Bringing the oven, pan and bacon to temp together during preheat allows the bacon to stay flat and cook evenly without any un-rendered, fatty ripples. I set the temp somewhere in the 325-375° range, depending on the thickness of the slices.
AntoniaJames December 3, 2020
John, this is very helpful. Must try. ;o)
Jessica F. December 27, 2020
Love this. Cold pan salmon changed my life
Klynne October 31, 2020
Greatiest bacon ever is Oven style
eliz October 31, 2020
We love bacon, but hate the mess on the stovetop or over. So I read your Best Ways to Cook Bacon with interest. But found you did not consider my favorite method: On the Grill. I make a foil wide as the top of my outdoor grill. While the grill is heating to medium, lay the foil on a large cutting board, fold up the edges to form a tray, they lay the strips of bacon on the foil, slightly touching. I can easily lay out an entire pound one one foil tray. Gently slide the foil tray with the bacon on it from the cutting board to the grill. Let the bacon sizzle on the first side till it begins to shrink and brown, then carefully, without piercing the foil tray, turn the bacon over. The goal is to turn it over only once.

When the bacon is cooked to desired brownness, remove individual pieces to a paper towel topped plate (again, do not pierce the foil) and bring inside to enjoy. We love that cooking this way on the grill results in a variety of finishes, some crispier bacon, some less browned and chewier. Something that suits all the different tastes of bacon lovers in our home.

Let the grill and grease cool, till the grease is firm on the foil. They you can gently scrape and save the grease in another container, or rollup the whole foil tray, solid grease inside, and dispose. Wha-la! No mess cleanup, no sticky counters, no greasy pans, no hot grease to handle in the kitchen, no bacon smell forever in the oven.
AntoniaJames December 3, 2020
This is a great idea. I always seem to have a lot of life left in the fire, once everything we grilled for dinner is taken off. I definitely will give this a go. ;o)
MF September 27, 2020
What do people do with all the bacon grease?!!?
Jim P. September 27, 2020
Some folks cook with it. I can it and toss it...
W J. September 27, 2020
In the days of yore, everyone had a can of bacon grease on the stove or close by. This was before the sugar monopoly in the U.S. paid for and put out studies as propaganda that it was fat that was bad and not sugar. This was wildly successful and moved the focus of attention away from sugar. Don't believe me? Look it up.

So fat became evil and to be avoided. That always slightly greasy can of drippings got pushed further and further away until it disappeared in most kitchens altogether.

But the truth is that fat is not bad. In fact, one must have some fat in the diet to provide essential fatty acids, where "essential" means that your body can't make it. It's energy dense. As far as calories are concerned weight for weight, it has a little more than twice the calories of carbs and protein. A little goes a long way in that department. On the plus side, foods with fat in them provide both mouthfeel, flavor, and satiety. Ever wonder why potato chips and other foods taste so good? They are about 35% fat, that's why. So portion control is needed.

As to what to do with it, besides making homemade soap? Well, if you feed birds in the winter where it is cold, you can mix it with seeds and put it in those special suet feeders. But most of all you can cook with it.

Here are 20 things to cook with bacon grease from The Pioneer Woman's blog. https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/cooking-tips-tutorials/a101372/20-ways-to-use-bacon-grease/ These tips include roasted and fried potatoes, hash browns, eggs, biscuits, homemade mayo, pizza, gravy, roasted vegetables, hamburgers, pop corn, and on and on.

Jim P. September 27, 2020
Soooo Stealing that! HAHA
galpalsal November 1, 2020
My grandma and her sister were from the Ozarks, and they put bacon grease in EVERYTHING. (Though I wish they had not put it on green beans and boiled it all to mush). My husband was horrified that I continued this method, but I did. New research indicates it's not as unhealthy as first thought. Especially good in baked beans.
AntoniaJames December 3, 2020
A little dab with a generous piece of butter in the skillet makes French toast super delicious. I also use bacon grease when sauteing aromatics for many winter soups. ;o)
Pete M. December 7, 2020
Add it to soup for flavor. (E.g.
use it to make the aromatic vegetable base.) Baconfat has a ton of flavor. So does chicken fat (schmaltz.)
cd1600 September 8, 2020
Foil lined, rimmed baking sheet with a cooling rack laid inside of it. Bake at 350* and start checking it after 15 minutes.
Baconist October 28, 2020
Same here, works great. Have experimented with convection cooking and that can make it faster. I never can remember what temp I use for convect though. Cleaning the grids is messy as I won't put them in the dishwasher without some pre-cleaning. They hold enough grease that it can overwhelm the dishwashers capacity to dissolve it, leaving everything with a film. At the very least wipe them down with paper towels before adding to dishwasher.
[email protected] August 30, 2020
Cast iron griddle with foil covered bricks used as weights, cuts fry time in half and keeps rashers long and flat.
Seattle G. June 27, 2020
Cook in the propane grill outside on a double layer of aluminum foil folded with edges to contain grease over low heat. Works just fine. Cleanup is so much easier - wait for grease to solidify, wrap up the mess and toss. Bacon can be cooked as crispy as you'd like. The biggest downside: none of that wonderful lingering bacon smell in the kitchen the next day.
Jim P. April 27, 2020
Depending on thickness and fat content I bake mine on a baking sheet of course w/ raised edges... BUT I use tinfoil to line the pan. Zero mess when done pouring the renderings into a can. Peel foil and toss in trash. My oven it's 425° for 15 mins (+-) and keep an eye on it after 15 mins. On the average I can fit 12 slices per pan. When done drain and move slices to paper towels. While oven is still going keep cooking bacon. I've cooked 3 lbs. this method. When done put left over (haha) bacon in baggies and refrigerate.
zzoopy April 14, 2020
I like to use bacon confit. lay the bacon in a cold deep cast iron skillet with a lid, (chicken fryer) you can make several layers, spoon several spoonfuls of your bacon grease stash on top. turn the heat on medium low until the bacon grease melts. add more bacon grease if it doesn't cover the bacon. when the bacon is covered stirr it up so the bacon is floating. you can turn the heat up to medium or leave it medium low. then wait until the bacon is just short of the doneness you want and fish it out with tongs and lay ir straight on a rack or paper towels. let the grease cool and put it back in your bacon grease stash. enjoy.