As I scroll through my FB feed every day, besides “is this keto,” “can we have tomatoes,” and “why am I not losing weight,” the number one question is “how do I cook bacon?” If you ask 100 people how to cook bacon, you will get 96 different answers, the other four will be “I want to know, too!” Cooking bacon isn’t difficult, but there are a couple of different methods, which one you chose to do depends on a couple of factors: texture, what you have to work with, how much you are cooking, and mess. Seems like if you search Google for “how to cook bacon” you get a hundred billionty links that tell you only one method, and all of them are “the best.” Screw that. I like one-stop shopping so I’m going to give you multiple options in one post. Yeh, the Hobbit has your back :).
Let’s address the last one first. Cooking bacon is messy, no matter what method you use. Sorry, it is what it is. Grease is messy and since bacon is anywhere from 20% to 80% fat, you’re gonna have to deal with the grease. In a one method you can mitigate the grease some, but the rest? Keep that Dawn, sponge, and 409 handy. You’ll need it.
There’s going to be more methods out there than what I list here. These are just the ones I use or have used that work for me. Which one I use will depend on a few factors, but they do work consistently for me.
PRO: Fast, easy, not messy.
CON: Expensive, lower quality taste, lower quantity per package. Texture is what you buy.
You can find pre-cooked bacon in stores. Typically it costs the same or more for 2-4oz of cooked bacon as it does a pound of uncooked. On the surface that seems like a ripoff (and it borders on it, the Hobbit Stamp of Approval is faint), but when you factor in that. depending on the fat content of any specific pound of bacon might be up to 80% and about 60% of that 80% is going into a jar or the trash, the price looks a little better. A little. Not a lot. What you really are paying for – and you know this already – is convenience. Pre-cooked bacon can be used right out of the package for cold dishes like sandwiches, salads, and wraps. You can warm it up in the microwave or a frying pan in less than a minute. Because most of the fat has already been rendered out, the mess is minimal. Use this if time, space, effort is a premium and cost is not.
PRO: Fast, low(ish) mess, good for small batches
CON: can be hard to control texture, doesn’t like really fatty bacon, can be uneven cooking depending on your microwave. Wasteful on paper products.
You can microwave any bacon, though this works best for thin cut, less fatty bacon. You can do 1-8 slices in the microwave, depending on size, though the more you do the less cooked the middle pieces will be and will require rotating pieces at least once during the process. Bacon tends to be lest crispy, more chewy with this method. If that is how you like it and only want to do enough for the current meal, this is the way to go. Put two sheets of paper towel down on a microwave-safe plate (avoid plastic or paper plates if possible), lay out your strips on the paper towel, then cover with another paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes, re-arrange for even heating, continue for 1-3 more minutes to desired results. Let rest for 2 minutes. Serve. The top paper towel keeps the mess down and helps absorb excess grease, which we want to do in this method vs other methods.
PRO: easy to small batch cook, easy to control texture, can be used on high fat or lower fat bacon.
CON: kinda messy, can’t do a lot or big pieces, cleanup sucks.
OPTION ONE: Chewy and messy. Put the bacon right in the AF, set at 375F, cook for 5-10 minutes (depends on power of your air fryer. Move to paper towel. Eat. Bitch about having to clean out the grate, the catch tray, and the heating elements or everything you make for the next month will taste like bacon and smoke like a stoner.
OPTION TWO: Crispy and a little less messy. A little. Not much. Line tray with aluminum foil. Preheat at 375F for 1-2 minutes. Place bacon on foil, cook for 5-10 minutes. Move to paper towel. Eat. Throw foil away, bitch because you tilted it pulling it out and now there’s more grease to clean up, and it got on the side of the trash bag, too. Make someone else take out the trash :).
PRO: easy to batch cook, easy to control texture, can be used on high fat or lower fat bacon.
CON: Messy AF. Have to figure out what to do with the grease. Danger of grease burns and fire. Makes house stink. Not really fast.
Get a plate ready with at least one sheet of paper towel on it, more if your bacon is really fatty. Heat a skillet to med-high. If your bacon is more meat that fat, you might want to put a light coat of oil on it to prevent the first slices from sticking. Put in slices one at a time to fill the skillet. You can overlap them if you want, the will shrink shortly and you can spread them out. WATCH FOR SPLATTER BURNS! Hot grease is brutal. Not only will it hurt and burn quickly, it will burn you longer than say hot water because it sticks to the skin and takes longer to shed heat. Wear gloves and long sleeve shirt. This is NOT a method you want to be doing in a crop tank and shorts. Nope. Cook for a few minutes until the down side is almost to desired crispness, flip, and finish cooking. Remove (use tongs, trust me on this one, a fork or spatula doesn’t cut it), shaking off excess grease if you like it crispy, leave the grease on if you want it more chewy. Place on paper towels to cool. If ultimate crispy is the end goal, 3-5 seconds after you put on the paper towels, flip it over so that any accumulated grease on the top now gets sucked up. Let rest a few minutes, then move to side to prepare for next batch. If batch cooking, you have two options: drain the pan grease after each batch (slower cooking, less crispy) or leave it in to accumulate (more crispy, faster cooking, more danger). I do the latter, I like to live dangerously and I always have a fire extinguisher right by the stove. What? Hobbits are accident-prone! (Honestly, you should too. $15 at Walmart will save you a $15,000 insurance claim). When done cooking, take a screen strainer, put a coffee filter in it, put on top of a mason jar, and pour the HOT grease into it. This will strain out any non-fat bits so you can store the grease for frying with less chance of contamination or spoiling. You can store bacon fat at room temperature for 3-5 days before rancidity sets in (oxidation of the oils into free radicals, affecting taste and making the oils less healthy, though technically it isn’t “spoiled”) or up to 3 months in the fridge if sealed.
PRO: safer, easy to control crispness using one of several methods, can be used on all bacon, ideal for large batches.
CON: Messy (Easy-Off will be your friend), more dishes to do, takes longer.
OPTION ONE: If you want your bacon uber-crispy, this is what you do: Preheat oven to 425F. Get a baking sheet WITH A RIM. Line it with aluminum foil. Put a baking rack\screen on top of the pan. Separate your bacon that you want to cook. You should be able to do at least a pound of bacon on a 11″x17″ sheet. Rinse the bacon strips off under warm water. Just a quick rinse, enough to get them wet, no scrubbing or SOS pads needed :). Lay bacon on rack so that none of the pieces overlap. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until reach desired level of crispy. You might want to open a door or window to prevent the First Alert cooking timer (smoke detector) from going off. Once cooked, move to plate with paper towels to cool. Moan and groan about having to clean the damn oven when it cools. Eat what you want now, freeze the rest. Will last in the freezer for up to 6 months. Drain fat into discarded tin can. Let cool. Throw away. This grease will have been overheated in the oven and will have broken down too much to make good cooking fat.
OPTION TWO: Less crisp (but still crispy-ish), more chewy. Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking sheet (again, with a RIM) with parchment paper. Do not rinse. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Lay bacon directly on parchment. Place in over on top rack. Bake for 15-20 minutes until desired doneness. Move to paper towels to cool. Eat and\or freeze. Drain fat into discarded tin can. Let cool. Throw away. This grease will have been overheated in the oven and will have broken down too much to make good cooking fat.
Buying bacon: If you can source your bacon locally, do it. Not only will you be helping small farms, more than likely you will be supporting humane farming methods and more organic raising. Not always, but more likely. Do your research. While not all bacon is created equal, 80% of all bacon sold in the USA in chain stores comes from one of 4 manufacturers, regardless of what label is on it. What you want to look for are three things when picking out bacon:
1) Price. I put this first because I’m a cheap Hobbit. Since we can safely assume that the store brand is actually sourced from Hormel (Kirkland, some varieties of Great Value, 30% of chain grocery store brands), Smithfield (40% of store brands), Oscar Meyer (20% of store brands), or Applegate, shopping by price isn’t as risky as say picking out tires for your car. Buy what fits your budget. Don’t pass up the “bits and ends” packages. While not the prettiest bacon out there, usually the quality is good. It is a crapshoot on the pieces size but all else fails, you can cook it up and use for bacon bits. Typically these packages are 50-80% less expensive per pound than “pretty” bacon. If you are trying to impress people with a lovely plate, skip these. If quality and price beats a pretty slice, buy this stuff all day long.
PS: check the price per pound, not the total price. Some packages are sold with 12oz for the same price as a similar brand with 16oz. Not all “pounds of bacon” are actually a pound.
2) Curing and seasoning methods. Ideally, look for uncured bacon with lower ADDED nitrates. Nitrates exist naturally and are not bad for you in moderation. Look for added sugars (typically any “seasoned” bacon like “maple”). Smoked will have a smoked taste. I prefer applewood, but the options of hickory, mesquite, and generic hardwood should all be readily available.
3) Slice thickness, overall composition. If you like it thicc, then ummm, get thick. Like it light and thin, get thin or regular sliced. There’s a flap on the back of every bacon package, flip that puppy over and look at the side they DON’T show you on the front. That will help you see the general fat ratio of this specific bacon package. It’s meat, not plastic, every package is going to be a little different. Pick the one you want.
Any questions? Hit me up in the comments, shoot me an email, or hunt me down on FB, IG, or YT.