While all those hipster bacon memes may have gone extinct within the last decade, the love for bacon certainly hasn’t. Let us celebrate the salty goodness of bacon in all its crispy glory.
Bacon is a delicious and versatile ingredient that you can use in many different dishes – bacon adds a distinctly umami, salty flavor.
There are countless ways to cook bacon, and plenty of room for healthy debate. Whatever you do, just please don’t cook it with water in a skillet. That’s a no-go.
I’ve created a round-up of the best methods based on results, accessibility, time, and popularity.
I narrowed it down to the five most popular methods touted by online sources as the best ways to cook bacon, and compared the results.
Cooking Bacon in the Skillet
Skillet bacon is definitely the “go-to” method, and my personal favorite way to cook bacon.
This straightforward method can produce some real crispy bacon. Expect around 10-12 minutes cooking time for regular-cut, and 15-18 minutes for thick-cut.
Skillet, or ‘stovetop’ bacon, is clearly popular. 45% of Americans seem to prefer to use a stovetop to cook their bacon, as opposed to microwave or oven.
Cooking bacon in a skillet also helps to bring out the umami flavor of the bacon. The bacon will soak in its bacon grease.
How to cook bacon in a skillet, my way:
- Start by preheating your pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the bacon strips in a single layer. Never overcrowd the pan, or the bacon will not cook evenly.
- 5-7 minutes per side, or until crispy. Flip occasionally. Be sure to drain the bacon on paper towels before serving if you don’t want excess bacon grease.
This method results in some of the most flavorful, crispy bacon I’ve ever had. There’s some inherent magic to the amount of char and chew you get with a cast iron skillet.
Can you cook bacon with water in the pan?
I would advise against using any water for those using a non-stick pan that isn’t cast iron.
This technique of cooking bacon advises cooking in a skillet filled with water on high heat until it boils, then lowering to medium until the water evaporates.
The theory to this madness is that the water will help to keep cooking temperature low initially, so the bacon retains moisture and stays nice and tender. Not so, in my experience.
What I found happened instead:
- Cooked bacon stuck to the pan, and was hard to remove or flip.
- Many pieces cooked inconsistently and unevenly, with many more chewier parts compared to frying traditionally.
- After all the water evaporated, the combination of fat and water left a sticky and difficult to clean film that covered the entirety of the pan.
A lot of people fully prefer oven-cooked bacon to pan fried. If I’m using bacon in a recipe, I’ll often cook it in the oven rather than the stove.
For one, cooking bacon in the oven is a great way to get it crispy without all the added mess from grease splatter.
A frying pan is more restrictive with size limitations, and you can cook a higher volume of bacon in the oven at once.
Preheat your cold oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, place a wire rack over the parchment paper, and then place the bacon on the rack.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until you reach your desired texture.
Let’s compare two variations on oven bacon:
- Direct method: Place the bacon slices directly on the baking sheet. This method is quick and easy, but it can be messy. It makes for a softer textured bacon. Ensure you use parchment paper on the sheet pan, as opposed to paper towels. This will help get the bacon crispier, and paper towels involve a safety risk – catching on fire.
- Indirect method: Place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet pan. Place the bacon strips on the wire rack before placing in the oven. This method is a bit slower, but it produces less mess. It results in crispier bacon, with less grease. Expect a longer total cook time, of around 30 minutes.
If you’re looking for a quick, mess-free way to make uniformly crispy bacon, then bacon in the oven is perfect.
You can make bacon in the microwave if you’re short on time.
While it might be the least prestigious option, it does manage to produce ready-to-eat bacon quickly.
Another benefit is less clean-up, adding to the convenience. Sacrifice flavor for time, anyone?
Expect around 4 minutes cooking time for regular bacon, and 5 minutes for thick-cut bacon.
Microwaving is accessible. Most people probably have access to onne compared to a cast-iron pan or air fryer.
It’s ideal for beginners who don’t have a lot of experience cooking, making it one of the best ways to cook bacon.
However, it certainly isn’t one of the best ways to cook bacon.
This method is pretty simple. You want to wedge your bacon between layers of paper towel on a microwave safe dish, and cook on high for 4-5 minutes.
Generally, you’ll manage to squeeze in four to five slices on a plate without overlap.
Some recommendations for better microwaved bacon:
- Make sure to use a microwave-safe glass or ceramic dish or plate.
- Bacon can quickly go from undercooked to charred in ~30 seconds in a microwave. You’ll need to keep a close eye on things, and remove individual pieces as they’re done.
Air Fryer Bacon
Cooking in an air fryer is a super quick and easy way to get crispy bacon without all the mess.
Expect about 7-10 minutes total cooking time for regular and thick-cut.
The air fryer circulates hot air around the bacon, which helps to cook it evenly, and prevents it from sticking to the internal basket.
To cook, I placed the bacon slices in the basket component of my air fryer and cooked them at a temperature of 400°F.
I only shook the basket every couple of minutes until it reached the desired level of crispiness. This took around 8-9 minutes.
This method does work well, especially if you only really want to cook a couple strips of bacon.
Thick-cut bacon and regular cut both attained a uniformly crispy outer texture.
Some helpful things to keep in mind when air-frying bacon:
- Use thick-cut strips if you want a little bit more of a fatty and chewy interior.
- Never overcrowd the basket.
- Flip the slices halfway through, and check every couple of minutes. Shake the basket, if need be.
- You need to pour out the drippings and fat from the outer pan of the air fryer before doing another batch. This will prevent smoking – you don’t want burning plastic impacting the flavor of your bacon.
Is frying bacon out of vogue? Grilling is a great way to prepare meat without the mess involved with a pan or oven.
It’s also the healthier option, as the bacon doesn’t soak up its own bacon grease.
I like to grill at outdoor parties, barbeques, and family gatherings.
You can throw some grilled bacon on a salad, hamburger, or game day chili bowl.
How easy is grilling bacon? Do you have to worry about it completely sticking to the grill?
Grilling bacon is just as easy as pan-frying, perhaps more so.
- Preheat your grill to medium heat. It should be around 350°F-400°F.
- Arrange the slices in a single layer on the wire rack, using a pair of metal tongs.
- Grill for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat from medium to low. Flip the bacon and allow to cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
- Transfer your finished bacon to a paper towel covered plate or dish to drain excess grease.
In this section, we’ll touch on the two most frequently asked questions when it comes to cooking bacon.
Is it better to fry or bake bacon?
While I personally like to fry bacon, oven-baked bacon is generally considered to be the healthier option. Frying makes the bacon crispy, juicy, and lends just the right amount of crunch.
As a counterpoint, oven-baked bacon allows all of the rendered fat to drip away from the bacon, resulting in a less fatty meal. Baking bacon in the oven also provides a higher degree of consistency across all the individual pieces of bacon compared to frying.
Oven-baked bacon also has the added benefit of no grease splatter and first-degree burns. Heat up that cold oven. No more grease injuries to embarrassingly explain!
What’s the best way to cook bacon in a pan?
We always recommend using a cast iron skillet when cooking with a pan. Go old-school.
Use a large skillet, as it will help the meat cook evenly.
Always cook over moderate or medium heat, for better control. Fat renders much better over moderate temps.
Don’t overcrowd the pan. If you add too many slices, they will
not cook evenly.
Don’t flip the bacon too often, or you risk making it leathery – you want crispy.
Ensure your pan is well-seasoned prior to cooking to ensure the bacon strips don’t stick.