Best way to cook bacon?
December 17, 2003 10:42 AM   Subscribe

do you have a tried and true way of cooking bacon? moz and i like bacon that is not crispy at all and i keep managing to mangle it. i'm using a nonstick pan on a gas stove, but we have an electric skillet, too, if that helps.
posted by sugarfish to Food & Drink (18 answers total)
Do you have a microwave? I use some kind of white ceramic (glass?) roasting pan with a ridged bottom. I think it's called a French roasting pan. I lay two sheets of paper towel down, arrange the bacon, and top with a final sheet of paper towel. You have to calibrate your timing to the power of the oven and the type of bacon, but for 8 slices of regular market bacon I might start with about five minutes. The nice thing is you can 'listen' to the smell and stop, check the doneness, and restart to find out what the 'per slice' time coefficient will be for your brand of bacon. It's very easy to get a fine degree of control of the process using a microwave, and cleanup is fairly easy (dispose of sodden towels).

I tried baking bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven and that too was very easy and provided good control, too. Cleanup was somewhat messier and it wasn't quite as fast as the microwave, however.
posted by cairnish at 10:56 AM on December 17, 2003

Here's my weekend technique:

Set oven to 350°F. Lay out bacon on a jelly-roll sheet, with no overlaps. Cook in hot oven 5 to 8 minutes depending on desired crispness. After removing from sheet, allow cooked bacon to drain on a paper towel.

Bacon done this way is more roasted than fried. Cooked through, with some crunch, but not crispy shards.

Some tips:
-some people like to turn the strips half-way through. I've never found that it makes much difference.
-don't use a flat cookie sheet as the grease will drip off and burn the bottom of your oven.
-don't line your pan with foil. It will stick to the bacon.
-don't use non-stick pans (unless you like eating teflon).
-you do not need to grease the pan.
-if you don't have a jelly-roll pan (like a cookie sheet, but with a short lip), an oven-safe frying pan, such as a cast iron one, works just fine.
-save the grease for making tortillas.
posted by bonehead at 10:58 AM on December 17, 2003

The Morning News "Ask the Non-Expert" column covered this very issue a while back.
posted by luser at 11:07 AM on December 17, 2003

My biggest advice for cooking bacon in a pan on the stove is to take it off the heat and put it on a rack, like the kind you cool cookies on, before it looks done. If you wait to take it out of the pan until the bacon actually looks done, it will be burnt. The rack is so the grease drips off the bacon instead of just soaking inot the towel that the bacon is still sitting on.

I like to use a cast iron pan. Also, if you don't have a rack and you happen to be out of paper towels (or want a more budget minded grease drainage solution) a brown paper bag works, too.
posted by jennyb at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2003

I meant "into"! I don't know what "inot" means.
posted by jennyb at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2003

I do the same thing as cairnish, but using a regular microwave-safe dinner plate with paper towels. Works just fine.
posted by Vidiot at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2003

I also use the microwave technique (on a regular plate, covered, à la Vidiot). I also use turkey bacon — healthier, and also, no pork, if that's a constraint for you. The turkey bacon comes out great; the microwave, however, is anointed as with fragrant oil — it smells like bacon for weeks. Any cleaning suggestions? (Dish soap, my standard kitchen-goo emulsifier, is only of limited help here.)
posted by dsandl at 11:41 AM on December 17, 2003

bonehead's approach, above, is closest to my own technique although I use a wire rack with drip pan and because I like my bacon fairly crispy I leave it in there for about 15 to 17 minutes. The grease drips off the bacon and leaves it fairly lean and crunchy (although thicker slices of bacon tend to get that chewy/crispy texture).

The downside is that the wire rack becomes relatively useless for any other purpose -- no matter how hard I try to clean it, there is a little greasiness left on it.

For pan cooking, invest in a cast iron bacon squasher. It prevents curling and particularly for folks who like bacon on the soft side, prevents undercooking.
posted by majick at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2003

Also consider ditching the nonstick pan for (or at least supplementing it with) an honest, heavy, cast iron Lodge. Heating is more even than just about anything else you can get and when properly seasoned cleaning is just as straightforward.
posted by majick at 12:01 PM on December 17, 2003

the last time i went camping, i found that you can lay bacon out on a grill, cover and smoke it. comes out not limp and soggy, but not crispy, either. it's like soft bacon jerky.
posted by Hackworth at 12:02 PM on December 17, 2003

We use a roasting pan so it doesn't soak in the grease while cooking. We cook a week's worth at once, so it takes about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
posted by whatnot at 12:05 PM on December 17, 2003

cairnish - I like using the microwave technique, but I find the results vary greatly depending on the brand of the bacon. Some kinds work perfectly. Others stick to the paper towel. Others work ok, but take forever to cook and produce so much grease that I need 8 sheets of paper towel instead of 2.

Since I buy bacon irregularly and based on what's on sale, I haven't been able to keep good track of which kinds work well. I also don't understand what the difference is between the brands which produces such varied results. Anyone have a clue on that issue?
posted by tdismukes at 12:31 PM on December 17, 2003

Soft bacon is the best. Bubblegum consistency.
posted by adampsyche at 1:08 PM on December 17, 2003

the Japanese have a scary way of serving perfectly flat, crisp Western-style bacon (this was noticed by William Gibson in Pattern Recognition as well)

I don't know how they do it, but still it's an amazing sight
posted by matteo at 2:17 PM on December 17, 2003

the Japanese have a scary way of serving perfectly flat, crisp Western-style bacon...

if you cook bacon in the microwave between layers of paper towels, you can often wind up with bacon like this. If you like your bacon non-crispy the best bet is to cook it slowly over not-super-high heat. Another way to guarantee soggy bacon -- I'm a fan of crispness so this was always on my "what to avoid" list when I worked as a short-order cook -- is to precook your bacon like halfway, save it in the fridge and then just toss it in a skillet right before you want to eat it. It takes less time when you're hungry, seems to come out soggy-ish, and creates less grease spattering.
posted by jessamyn at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2003

thanks everyone! i used bonehead's oven method and it worked great -- not having to stand over the boiling grease was an added, unexpected bonus. i'm going to try the microwave next time.
posted by sugarfish at 6:33 PM on December 17, 2003

I grill bacon, regularly...on a rack, under high grill...the bacon will be crispy on the edges, with a texture like medium steak in middle - this is using back bacon, non-smoked with no rind...

'American' bacon - which is like streaky bacon in the UK....can be cooked the same way...

The key thing is that cheap bacon is generally packed with lots of water, so good quality bacon cooks better with less spitting - it will also crisp at the edges better.

For anyone in the West of London/Slough area...I cook a mean bacon sandwich...Sunday lunchtimes...let me know if you're joining me.
posted by mattr at 4:33 AM on December 18, 2003

I use the old fry-pan, but simmer it in water first - it takes out a lot of the fat and salt, leaving a nice meaty taste, plus cooking it a bit without crisping it up. Then just dump the water and fry it a bit. BTW, when I was a line cook we had a little metal plate with a handle on it to weigh down the bacon and make it flat & crisp.
posted by transient at 5:02 AM on December 18, 2003

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