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How to Cook Bacon

Updated January 28, 2020
Bacon
Crispy. Salty. Downright delicious. Who can resist a slice (or two) of perfectly cooked bacon? Whether you make it on the stove, in the oven or in the microwave, all the tips and tricks you need to master this breakfast favorite at home are right here.
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Crispy, salty, perfectly cooked bacon is quite possibly the world’s tastiest food. And we’re not exaggerating — a strip of bacon includes not one, not two, but six types of umami, the elusive “savory” flavor that makes human taste buds go totally bonkers.

In addition to being the most delicious, bacon is also one of the oldest cured meats in history. The Chinese began salting pork belly as early as 1500 B.C., but it wasn’t until 1924 when Oscar Mayer patented the first packed, sliced bacon that it became a breakfast staple in almost every household in America.

Types of Bacon

Bacon is meat that is cut from a pig, but depending on where on the pig it’s cut from and how it’s prepared, it can taste and look different. Not sure what type of bacon you should buy? Here’s a short cheat sheet for the most popular types of bacon you can find at the grocery store.

American-Style Bacon

Bacon as we know it best in the United States is often cured pork belly, otherwise known as “side bacon.” It’s characterized by long thick strips with streaks of fat. Many bacon varieties in the U.S. are smoked with hickory, applewood or mesquite and pan-fried to be served with eggs and toast at breakfast.

Canadian Bacon

Unlike side bacon, Canadian bacon is pork loin cut from the back of a pig. Because it’s a different cut, Canadian bacon often resembles ham more than it does the smoked bacon you may be accustomed to eating at breakfast. You may already be familiar with Canadian bacon though—it’s one of the key ingredients in classic Eggs Benedict and Hawaiian pizza.  

Pancetta

Pancetta is cured pork belly that is common in Italy. It’s often spiced with pepper and various other seasonings. You can get it in strips or cubes to fancy up your pizza or pasta.  

How to Cook Bacon in the Oven

One of these easiest ways to cook bacon for a crowd may not be the method you think. Use your oven, not your stove! You can make a bunch of bacon at once when you cook it in the oven without making a big mess, but each piece still turns out crispy and delicious. Even better? It’s super easy!

What You’ll Need

  • Bacon
  • Rimmed baking sheet 
  • Foil
  • Metal baking rack      
  • Tongs
  • Paper towels 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Heat oven to 400°F

Oven set to 400 degrees

Step 2: Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Turn up the edges slightly to make sure the grease stays in the pan. Place wire baking rack on foil.

Baking rack on top of a foil-lined-baking sheet

Step 3: Place bacon strips in a single layer on the baking sheet. Strips can touch but should not overlap.

Place an oven-safe baking rack on top of the baking sheet and then place the bacon strips on top of that.

Step 4: Bake bacon for 15-20 minutes on the middle rack until it reaches your preferred level of crispiness. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the pan halfway through baking so it cooks evenly.

Place baking sheet in oven

Step 5: While the bacon is cooking, prepare your bacon landing area (a plate lined with paper towels). Using tongs, remove bacon right away and place each strip on the paper towel-lined plate.

Using tongs, remove bacon from baking sheet and place each strip on a paper towel-lined plate.

Step 6: Clean up. Allow the grease to cool and solidify on the foil and then crumple it up, throw it out and put your baking sheet away (because it should be totally clean underneath!).

Allow the grease to cool and solidify on the foil and then crumple it up, throw it out

Expert Tips and Tricks of Cooking Bacon in the Oven

  • Fill your baking sheet, but don’t overload it. It’s okay if pieces of bacon touch (because they’ll shrink during the cooking process as fat drips off), but they shouldn’t overlap. If you’re cooking a full pound of bacon, you may need to work in batches or divide pieces between two pans to avoid overcrowding.
  • We can’t overstate the importance of using a rimmed baking sheet (vs. an unrimmed cookie sheet) for catching and containing bacon grease.
  • Cook time can vary depending on the oven and the thickness of the bacon, but the strips should be crisp when done. If you are using thin-cut bacon, start checking at 12 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. With medium- or thick-cut bacon, start checking at 15 minutes.
  • To soak up extra grease from the cooked bacon, carefully pat each piece with additional paper towels. You can also alternate layers of paper towels and cooked bacon pieces on your “landing area” plate.

Benefits of Cooking Bacon in the Oven

  • There’s next to no mess—no grease-covered stovetop, no pan of solidified bacon fat to deal with later, no skillet caked with scorched bacon grease.
  • You don’t have to worry about sizzling bacon splatters burning your skin or staining your clothing.
  • Cooking time is hands-off, so you aren’t stuck at the stove, constantly watching the skillet and flipping pieces of bacon. If you’re having people over for brunch, cooking bacon in the oven will free you up for any other last-minute preparations before your guests arrive.
  • Your kitchen will still smell like bacon, but there won’t be that hazy post-bacon fog of smoke and grease particles hanging in the air.

How to Cook Bacon on the Stove

The tried-and-true method to cooking bacon for breakfast is on the stove. Frying up a batch of bacon on the stove is ideal for when you are preparing enough for your family during a special weekend breakfast.

What You'll Need

  • Bacon
  • Large skillet
  • Tongs
  • Paper towels

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Place bacon strips in a cold skillet. Make sure the strips don’t overlap.

Step 2: Cook bacon over medium heat. Flip bacon strips with a pair of tongs once the bacon lifts off the pan easily.

Step 3: Cook bacon on the other side until it lifts off the pan easily. Continue to flip strips of bacon until bacon is brown, crisp and is no longer red or translucent.

Step 4: Remove bacon from heat and let drain on paper towels.

Expert Tips and Tricks of Cooking Bacon on the Stove

  • Always start with a cold pan. The key to crispy bacon is rendering fat, and if you heat up the pan before cooking your bacon, the meat will cook quickly in almost no fat at all.
  • To ensure even cooking and browning when cooking on the stovetop, make sure you have a pair of tongs handy to flip the bacon slices often. 
  • Bacon grease splatters don’t have to make your stovetop a disaster. Use a splatter screen during cooking to help contain the mess, and clean your stovetop as soon as it’s cooled off, when grease is easiest to remove.

Benefits of Cooking Bacon on the Stove

  • By flipping bacon and keeping a close eye on it, cooking bacon on the stove is an easy way to achieve perfectly crispy bacon.
  • Cooking bacon on the stove is an ideal method for when you’re serving bacon to a small group of people.
  • It’s quick! Cooking times can vary on the stove depending on the thickness of the bacon strips, but it takes as little as 10 to 15 minutes.

How to Cook Bacon in the Microwave

There’s another way to cook bacon that’s not in the oven or on the stove: in the microwave! Cooking bacon in the microwave is incredibly simple (and super speedy). Here’s how to do it.

What You’ll Need

  • Bacon
  • Paper towels
  • Microwave-safe plate

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Line a microwave-safe plate with paper towels.

Step 2: Place slices of bacon on top of paper towels. Place another layer of paper towel on top of bacon.

Step 3: Microwave on High for 1 to 6 minutes, depending on how many slices of bacon you are cooking.

Expert Tips and Tricks of Cooking Bacon in the Microwave

  • Typically, you should cook for 30 seconds to one minute for every slice bacon on the plate. For example, for one slice of bacon, cook for 30 seconds to one minute; for eight slices of bacon, cook four to six minutes.
  • Cook time can vary depending on how thick your cuts of bacon are and how many pieces you place on the plate. Check the instructions above, and keep an eye on your bacon every 30 seconds until it’s nice and crispy.
  • You can cook up to eight slices at once in the microwave. They can touch, since they will shrink while cooking, but don’t let them overlap or they won’t cook evenly.

Benefits of Cooking Bacon in the Microwave

  • When you are only cooking for one or two people, cooking bacon in the microwave is the easiest method. You can cook as many or as few strips as you want. This is also ideal for when you need to prepare a custom amount of bacon for a recipe like salads, pastas or egg bakes.
  • Cooking bacon in the microwave is incredibly fast! No standing over the stove or waiting around for a batch to come out of the oven.
  • The paper towels absorb the bacon grease for you. This means cooking bacon in the microwave is completely mess-free. No dirty dishes for you!

What to Do with Bacon Grease

Hold on to that bacon grease! Bacon grease is not meant for your trash—you can use up leftovers at a later time in the kitchen. And even if you’d rather toss it, you should pause. There’s a right and a wrong way to dispose of bacon grease.

How to Cook with Leftover Bacon Grease

Though your first reaction to leftover bacon grease may be to throw it away, you should know that you can actually store and reuse it. Pour bacon grease into a container through a strainer to remove the bacon bits, seal and store in your fridge. The bacon grease will solidify. You can then use it again! Simply scoop some out and put it in a pan in place of butter or cooking oil—you can use it to fry bread when making grilled cheese, cook chicken it in for some extra yummy flavor and more.

Bacon fat has a long shelf life in your refrigerator. It can stay in there sealed for a few months. You can even freeze your leftover bacon fat! Bacon fat will keep in the freezer for up to a year.

How to Safely Dispose of Bacon Grease

Don’t pour that bacon grease down the drain! Bacon grease solidifies with time, and this can cause some serious blockage problems in your sink if you simply pour it down the drain or garbage disposal. Instead, pour the bacon grease into a heat-safe dish and let it cool until it reaches room temperature and pop it in the fridge until it hardens. Then, remove from the frige and scoop it into the trash. This is the safest way to dispose of bacon grease—trust us, your plumber thanks you.

How to Store Bacon

Leftover bacon can easily be stored in your refrigerator and freezer. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container. You can also keep it for about 2-3 months in the freezer. Bacon reheated for a minute or two in the microwave can lose its crisp texture, so reheating it quickly in a pan is the way to go. Or simply throw leftover crumbled bacon into saladspastas or egg bakes

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you cook turkey bacon in the oven?
Yes, you can. However, all bacon is not created equal — especially when it comes to turkey bacon. Most turkey bacon will have its own oven instructions on the package, so follow those and make sure to watch it extra carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Do you need to preheat the oven?
A lot of people swear by starting with a cold oven, and then setting the oven to 400°F at the same time you put the bacon in. With this method, the bacon fat renders slowly and can result in evenly cooked bacon excellence. However, some ovens heat up much faster than others, so when you don’t preheat it’s more difficult for us to tell you how long to cook bacon in the oven since we’re not at your house using your oven and eating your bacon. Try both methods next weekend and let us know which you prefer!

Do you need to line the pan?
Technically, no. For your own sake, yes. Lining the baking sheet with either foil or parchment paper helps you avoid a very challenging scrubbing session with your baking pans.

Now all you need are some eggs to go with that bacon.