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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“I cook my bacon in the oven on a wire rack on a cookie sheet and it comes out awesome. It’s not super greasy or super dry it’s perfect. I also glaze mine with maple syrup. ”
— Laurie N.
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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!

321 Comments

allen March 15, 2019
Oven 400F. Bacon on an aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Turn after about 8 minutes. Total time varies with the brand of bacon, fat content, etc., about 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove bacon to a plate, then fold foil carefully to form a spout and pour that incredible fat into a jar for later use! Throw foil into the trash. Place the STILL CLEAN and now barely warm sheet pan away in storage!
 
Corey H. March 11, 2019
You forgot regular steel skillet which I find to be between how you described cast iron and non-stick. And a little water after cooking will take any stuck bits off after a few minutes of soaking without the worry of rusting.
 
Sheqer Z. March 10, 2019
Bake it at 325. Less burning, but takes a little longer.
 
Craig A. March 10, 2019
You failed to try the double cooked Sous Vide method; absolutely the best bacon I have ever had. I set the Sous Vide to 155 -160 & cook for at least 4 hours, finish in a pan as usual. It is by far the most uniformed way to cook bacon, no more crisp with soft fat. Speaking of fat, this double cooking renders far more fat than other method making your bacon almost seem like a low fat health food; Almost being the key word Lol
 
W J. March 10, 2019
I am intrigued. I have a sous vide machine, so I might give this a try sometime. But I wonder if you are willing to put some numbers to your assertions?



You can search below for an earlier post of mine in which I have done just that. That is, I have weighed on a digital scale the uncooked, cooked and fat rendered. This way I was able to determine the moisture loss as well on cooking. I believe that sous vide or not, you will end up with very near the same weight loss on sous vide, then frying as you would with just frying alone. But we would need some data to show, if this supposition is true or not.



The texture differences between the two methods, i.e., deep frying and sous vide and finish frying, may be different. So if you decide to take me up on this, please record the final cook temperature and describe the color and texture, viz., dark brown, brown, light brown, very crispy, crispy, lightly crispy, not crispy, etc.



The final cook temperature will be extremely important as that will determine color, texture, moisture loss, and total fat rendered, I think.

 
Craig D. March 10, 2019
W J. As much as I wish I was that into cooking, I am not the guy to do this. I found the Sous Vide bacon by a Google search & several food scientist did all of this research. Cooking for different times & temps in the Sous Vide and recording the results. I took their info and did a little experimenting of my own. They recommended lower Sous Vide temp 145-150 & a 1 min one side frying pan time. I didn't like this so tried raising the temp by 5 deg each time & keeping in the frying pan 2 min min & flipping to get both sides.
As far as how much fat is rendered I did do a little messuring. I can't recall the exact amounts, I do know if you cook at 165 you will end up dry as hell bacon with almost no fat. Lol, j settled on liking the 155 deg the best as I'm not a big fan of chewy gristle.
As far as how much more fat is rendered I noticed this because when I usually cook 1 pound of bacon I get 2/3 of an frozen orange juice container full of fat. When I did just the Sous Vide the fat was more than the container could take. Then in the pan it was about 2/3 of a container. I assume some of the fluid from the Sous Vide cooking is moisture that would normally escape during normal cooking so it seems like both processes render about twice as much fat. Remember I wasn't paying close attention as I was only interested in the final product. It would be interesting to see scientific results, all I know is everyone who has tried it so far says it's the best bacon they have ever had. Please note I also used $10 a pound no perservatives no nitrate grass feed bacon which i am sure had something to do with it ;)
 
W J. March 10, 2019
Craig D. Thanks for your further comments as they are enlightening.



Here are the data in comment form from the link which I inserted in my comment on this thread back on Feb 11, 2019. The data below are from my work on cooking bacon back in 2011 in a comment on a Walmart site for Wright's Ends and Pieces



"I have been buying Wright's Ends and Pieces (48 oz) at our local Walmart Super Center for sometime now. This fits perfectly into my low carb diet as both a tasty treat and as a hunger stalling snack (in moderation). I generally cook a whole package at one time using a deep pot (to prevent splattering and to minimize clean-up).


As a scientist (retired), I like to know certain things. So I did some measurements on several cooks to determine the net cooked weight of the bacon from a full 48 oz package, and to determine just how much fat weight loss occurred in cooking and how much water loss (by difference) occurred.


I separated the pieces of the wad by hand and cut or sliced thicker pieces largely to make them easier to eat. I dropped the separated pieces into my deep pot one at a time as unfolded and as separate as possible. I also have an electronic probe thermometer and have determined that cooking to a temperature of 250°F gives an optimal product in terms of crispness for my tastes.


To cook 48 oz takes about 20-25 minutes. The cooking bacon will begin to foam as the water cooks out starting about 220° and continuing on until I stop the process at 250°F and remove the bacon with tongs and a strainer basket. (I discard the cooked fat, but in the winter, one can mix with bird seed and place in a suet cage. Birds love it.)


Here are my figures: 48 oz (1362 grams) uncooked Wright's Ends and Pieces will produce 13.7 oz (390 grams) of crisp cooked bacon for a yield of 28% of the initial uncooked weight. The fat loss on cooking is 37% or 17.8 oz (504 grams) and the water loss on cooking (by difference) is 34% 16.5 oz (468 grams).


The package label gives the following information: Serving size 2 oz (56 g) Servings per container 24 Calories 300, calories from fat 280 Total fat 31 grams Saturated fat 11 grams Cholesterol 35mg Sodium 390mg Total Carbohydrate 0g Protein 5 grams Based on 24 2oz servings per container for a total of 48 oz, I conclude that the label information is for the uncooked product.


According to the label, then the original percentage of fat is 55% (31/56) and protein is 9% (5/56). Summing the remaining components and subtracting from 56, we note that the original water content is about 20%.


I removed 37% of the fat (by actual weight) in cooking to 250°F. All of the protein would, of course remain, and would amount to 120 grams total.


So from my cooked weight of 390 grams, I can subtract 120 grams leaving 270 grams of fat and water. Assuming the remaining water content is 5% (it is crisp bacon) then water would account for about 20 grams leaving 250 grams fat or 64% fat in the final product.


While this last figure may seem odd at first, the relative fat content went up on a percentage basis since the water content went down.


Assuming 64% fat (9 kcal/gram) and 5% water (0 Kcals/g), and 30% protein (4 Kcals/g) in the cooked product, the total caloric value resulting from 3 lbs (48 oz) uncooked weight of the cooked product is about 2,730 Kcals +/- or about 198 calories per ounce (28 grams) of cooked weight. When cooked, virtually none of the salt is lost, so that the cooked product is fairly salty (~195 mg sodium or as expressed as sodium chloride 509 mg NaCl per oz) as well as fatty, which is why bacon has such appeal in general.


If eaten in moderation and by several people over several days, the caloric impact of the bacon is minimized, especially, when the bacon is used as a replacement substitute for other foods and to assuage hunger. Several expensive diet products do exactly this, but believe me bacon tastes much better!"



So net, net on simple frying, the fat loss (by rendering) is 37% and the water loss is 34%! On the surface, it seems hard to believe that uncooked bacon is a third water as generally it doesn't look wet, and we tend to think fat and water do not mix. But remember virtually all commercial bacon is injected with flavor components, nitrites, nitrates, before being subjected to smoke.



In your sous vide method, the water loss would be contained in the rendered fat and could be measured by pouring off the liquid from the sous vide pouch, weighing the pot, and cooking that down until it no longer foamed, and then reweighing the pot when cooled. That would give you the amount of water produced in the sous vide method and which when you correct the original weight of uncooked bacon before sous vide would tell you how much water and fat were lost in the sous vide bag.



The sous vide method may also result in less overall loss of volatiles, particularly, if one doesn't overcook it (too high a final temperature) in the Maillard reaction to create the browned and crisped final product.



Finally your last sentence made me laugh..." also used $10 a pound no [preservatives,] no nitrate grass feed bacon"! I am not sure where you got that bacon, but as far as I know most pigs are not raised on grass. It may not have contained nitrates, but it certainly was injected with salt, maybe sugars, flavorings and then smoked.

 
Craig A. March 11, 2019
Hello J. W. My bad about the grass feed part! I'm even laughing. (Long night) Supposedly feed 100% organic veggies I'm assuming. My friends pig loved hot peppers mixed in to the rest of the garden trimming he would feed it. Watching a 300 pound pig jump & do a 360 & go right back to eating was very entertaining. Lol

You can Google Naked Bacon & see they use no chemicals except Sea Salt, no injected water or flavorings. I didn't see it mention what they smoke it with. I'm on mobile, I'm sure it's easier to navigate on their full site. Thanks for the interested info. I have a brother who is a food chemist, well his days in the lab are way behind him as he's some big shot now. But maybe I can get him interested in this ;)
 
Chef C. March 13, 2019
Brilliant suggestion !
 
EDC February 25, 2019
Uh, NoooOooo. Frying it in a fryer is the best method. You didn't even cover that! 😃👍
 
John V. March 8, 2019
Do you mean deep frying it? I have noticed that a lot of restaurants do that now. You can tell they do a big batch beforehand—it’s not cooked for your specific order. Basically, I hate bacon that’s deep fried. It’s brittle and tasteless because, I think, the bacon flavor is lost or severely diluted by the fat used in the fryer.
 
EDC March 8, 2019
Yes, frying in a fryer is deep frying. -- you don't have to fry it that far. That's what I don't understand about people techniques for cooking bacon here. You don't have to cook it till it's brittle if that's not how you like it. And it doesn't have to be pale and soggy either. I don't care whether it's in a microwave, oven, pan or fryer. It's the temperature, technique, and time that gets it's like you want it. -- well, at least I don't have that problem.
 
Vic O. February 24, 2019
It works perfectly with a rimmed baking sheet and ALUMINUM foil. Flat cripy bacon and little to no clean-up. 425 for 15 mins... Perfecto! You can adjust up or down on the time for less or more crisp, depending on your families preference or your need.
 
Maggie February 24, 2019
I like my bacon still alive, as in a living breathing beautiful sentient being.
Try tempeh or seitan "bacon", and LOVE PIGS
 
Lou A. February 23, 2019
I use a cast iron skillet and put a spatter screen on the skillet, no grease on my cook top. Crispy, even cooked bacon.
 
irishchef February 23, 2019
I bake my bacon in an oven but first I press it in brown sugar (both sides) and I bake it on a sheet pan rack. It makes the BEST BLT's!!!
 
Dave A. February 23, 2019
No one has talked about using a bacon press. I use a cast iron flat .Place 6-7 pieces on it, and cook to desired done-ness. I don't want crispy to were the bacon breaks, but can be folded. I do press betwen paper towls to remove excess grease.
 
Steven D. February 22, 2019
If you spray the pan LIGHTLY with a cooking spray the bacon won't stick at all.
Sure the bacon has plenty of fat on it's own but isn't useful until it has melted a bit.
 
Donna S. February 22, 2019
Agree with previous comment, use FOIL on the rimmed baking sheet. It is much better than parchment paper. Not only does it contain the great better, the fat can easily be poured off if you plan to save it. If not, it is easier to toss. Also, 375 degrees - depending on the thickness of the bacon and the oven- it will cook crisp 15-22 minutes max. My time is 17 minutes.
 
Donna S. February 22, 2019
oops typo.. Food 52: No way to edit my own comment???
should read: .it contains the GREASE better.
 
Alexia G. February 22, 2019
A quick useful tip when microwaving: put a glass cup(microwave friendly) with about half-full water in it. It helps with the dryness and won't overcook. Learned this when de-frosting cooked meatloaf. If there is no humidity in the microwave, the dish's own composition of water will absorb this and become(in this case), an extra salty meatloaf. I was in awe with this tip for months, hope its helpful!
 
Rose L. February 22, 2019
my fav way to cook bacon is on the grill! when i make carbonara, i save out 2 pieces to sauté in the cast iron to get the bacon fat and the rest i grill. it only takes a few minutes and the slightly smokey flavor is so delicious.
 
R E. February 22, 2019
I love the oven method, but use HD aluminum foil to cover the sheet pan. When finished you can pour off the bacon grease which I store in the frig or you can let sit to harden and throw in the trash. You can go one step further and bake your morning eggs on the sheet pan.
 
Cav February 22, 2019
You're only testing belly bacon, no loin. You're only looking for one result really, crispy. And you didn't test with a grill / broiler. I say the question is still open and the findings inconclusive.
If I had a gavel this is where I'd wiggle it.
 
joe E. February 22, 2019
the best method is on a rack over a foil lined sheet pan. oven at 400. easy clean up.
 
geralddiamnd February 22, 2019
I use an electric, nonstick, tabletop griddle. I cut open a 13 gal. kitchen trash bag and place it on my center island. I locate the griddle in the center of the bag to contain any splatter. (This works on a counter top or table as well.). I cook 1lb of bacon and 1lb of breakfast sausage simultaneously using the griddle. This gives us choice and saves time during the week as we can nuke and go. The fat is collected in the griddle’s removable tray and I drain the excess by putting the meat on paper sack or news paper lied with paper towel. The clean up on the griddle is fast and I can get at least three uses from the kitchen bag. Just fold it small, put a rubber band around it and store it with the griddle.
 
Chef February 22, 2019
We have a few different methods, but are 3 of my favorites are: 😎
1) my husband sometime fry it in oil every now and again,
2) use a cast iron skillet and
3) microwave it
[email protected]
 
Leslie February 22, 2019
My slam dunk, foolproof method is still way the Ina Garten way: oven set at 400, a sheet pan lined with heavy duty foil, the bacon laid out on a baking rack (like the kind you use for fresh baked cookies), cooked for 20-30 minutes.
The bacon doesn’t swim in grease, it cooks up beautifully, and clean up is a breeze.
 
Bonnie T. February 22, 2019
Rachael Ray's favorite method! We always use the microwave with a special grooved microwave cooking dish with, the grooves collect the fat! They have been around for years and easy clean up in dishwasher.Very crispy and easy!