Bacon Cooking Tips

Frying bacon in a pan is messy and often results in mangled, charred meat. Scott Vermeire says you're probably doing it wrong.

Frying bacon in a pan is messy and often results in mangled, charred meat. Scott Vermeire says you’re probably doing it wrong:

I actually prefer to cook bacon in the oven, which is much less messy and labor intensive. Spending 20 minutes standing over a pan, constantly flipping it to make sure it’s not burning, is a bit much to produce something that I’ll eat in 3 minutes.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Matt says:

    Have to politely disagree. Bacon in an iron skillet is always worth the wait. Not to mention that the oven method denies you the tastiness of cooking your eggs in the leftover bacon grease. Defibrillator, please.

  2. jwest says:

    An article like this is a good idea.

    I assume you’ve been trying to compose the definitive article about why Sarah Palin is unqualified for the presidency and simply had bit of writer’s block. When that happens, it is helpful to get the juices flowing again with a light-hearted piece on a subject totally different. Good for you. Perhaps Doug and Steven could help in a grand collaboration. The product will be interesting.

    Mmmmm…bacon!

  3. JKB says:

    I agree on the oven. Put the bacon in and go get your shower. Line he pan with aluminum foil, throw the paper towels used for draining on it then have a bacon grease sacrifice later on. Only downside, is it makes the oven cleaning cycle a bit smokey. As for cooking the eggs, use a spoon and be sure to get some of the fond.

  4. John Burgess says:

    Baking bacon is the only way, or at least the only way I’ve been cooking it for the past 10 years… it’s just put it in the oven and don’t forget to take it out. No fiddling required; no great mess on the stovetop.

    Sometimes I’ll put the bacon on a rack over the pan, if I want it particularly crispy, but usually, it’s just on the tin foil-lined baking half sheet. It’s easy enough to pour the resulting fat into a grease can for later use, or as JKB says, to put into a frying pan for eggs right now.

    Baking is also the only way to create such confections as bacon candy!

    I will use a frying pan if I only need a small amount of bacon, for lardons, for example. But that’s rarely the issue when it comes to bacon!

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    jwest,

    You do recognize the irony of accusing authors of concentrating too much on Palin, while at the exact same time hijacking a thread in order talk about Sarah Palin, right?

    Are you being obtuse, or are you just that daft?
    ———————–

    On the subject of bacon, if the bacon is to be consumed by itself, I use the oven or microwave oven.

    If I’m using the bacon in a dish (like asparagus) I use a skillet because that is really the only way you can properly render the out of the bacon. Turn the heat up slowly until the fat just starts to melt. Turn often and never let the heat get so high it actually starts to fry. You can sift off ounces of bacon grease perfect for sauteing brussel sprouts, hardy greens, asparagus, broccoli, etc.

    Or go my third way have your college buddy run a bacon factory (its like Willy Wonka only better!) and send you packages of nitrogen packed precooked bacon once a month in the mail.

  6. jwest says:

    Neil,

    I thought that you, for one, would appreciate the gentle jab seamlessly woven into the bacon thread. My objection to previous mindless anti-Palin threads was rooted in absence of critical thinking and the fundamental unfairness of the authors (Doug in particular).

    James stated Palin was unqualified for the presidency and I honestly wanted to find out why he believes that. I still look forward to a thoughtful article.

  7. Have A Nice G.A. says:

    When pan frying it for breakfast make sure you put on a shirt:)

  8. Matt says:

    When pan frying it for breakfast make sure you put on a shirt:)

    And pants.

  9. JKB says:

    Ah, bacon, it is such a perfect food, it can turn a vegetarian carnivorous. Google, it “Bacon, A gateway meat”

  10. John Burgess says:

    @JKB: It’s also been known to lead people away from Kosher and halal diets… I’ve even read of otherwise-vegetarian Hindus succumbing to its sublimity! Is there anything bacon can’t do?

  11. 11B40 says:

    Greetings; especially “John Burgess”

    I can confirm your hypothesis from direct personal observation.

    I grew up in the Bronx of the ’50s and ’60s. The two large ethnic groups in our neighborhood were those of Jewish heritage and those of Irish heritage, each maybe 20-25% of the population. Back then, the legal (or socially retarded) drinking age was 18 and the bars didn’t have to close until 4am.

    On many nights, those of us who failed to connect with anyone of the opposite gender would go out to breakfast before heading home. At that hour, all restraints were lifted from our Jewish buddies and the ham and bacon flowed. I always thought that a couple of them only came along because of the non-Kosher breakfasting opportunity.

  12. Chefmarty says:

    Thick bacon in a heavy pan should take forty-five minutes to an hour to properly render out the fat get the perfect chewy-crispy-heavenly combination. Like the barbeque mantra….Low and Slow.

    Bacon on Sunday morning; what’s your hurry?

  13. Have A Nice G.A. says:

    Canned Bacon is great for camping and hiking. Just don’t fill your backpack with it along with other canned goods:) crap gets heavy…..Or if you do, don’t brag about how it seems a little heavy for your wimpy friends and say “dude we don’t need to split it up, i’ll carry it you ******* *******!!!”

    A sore back and much laughter and joking at your whining and lost machoness will ensue.

  14. sam says:

    I’m really surprised that JJ would advocate this method as it seems to deprive one of the bacon fat. Having grown up in a southern family (as JJ did), I can tell you a coffee can of bacon grease was alway near at hand, and cooking and baking with bacon grease seems to me to bring a little bit of heaven to the table.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @sam

    Yes, but the traditional Southern method of cooking bacon involved a wife or mother doing it while the menfolk did something interesting. Now that I’m having to cook my own damn bacon, I take the manly approach of looking for reasonable shortcuts.

  16. sam says:

    Heh.

  17. John Burgess says:

    @Chefmarty: Well, there’s your problem right there! Bacon is for every day of the week, every meal, and at any hour of the day! If I’ve tons of time, I’ll do a bacon confit… easily four hours of bacon cooking in its own fat. If I just want a few slices, the oven will do it nicely in about 15 minutes.

    sam: Baked bacon actually renders out more fat than a skillet or fry pan. Try it yourself and measure the results. The fat ends up being better, too, with less of a burnt taste.

  18. sam says:

    @JJ

    “I take the manly approach of looking for reasonable shortcuts.”

    If you really, really want a short-cut, there’s always the pre-cooked stuff you can warm up in the microwave (unless, of course, you would consider this the porcine version of a screw-top wine…)

    @John — Hmmm. Didn’t realize that — of course, prior to JJ’s post, I’d never heard of doing bacon in the oven. I suppose you’d use a deep, say pyrex, baking dish for this. I’ll give it a try. Cooking bacon without retaining the fat for cooking purposes strikes me as a dereliction of duty (but then my mother and grandmother were very strong personalities).

  19. John Burgess says:

    @sam: I used what’s commonly (but somewhat erroneously) called a ‘cookie pan’. It’s a flat sheet (which is accurately a ‘cookie sheet’), with a half-inch rim around the sides. This catches the fat which is then easily poured off–after it cools a bit, of course. I wouldn’t use a baking dish, like a Pyrex one, because it would inhibit the baking and turn it more into steaming. While there might be good uses for steamed bacon, I can’t really think of one.

    If putting the bacon on the bottom of the pan (covered in foil to make clean-up easier) doesn’t give you bacon as crispy as you’d like, then use a cookie cooling rack that fits inside the pan. This holds the bacon out of the fat (preferable for some people–crazy, I know!). This renders the most fat and may reduce cooking time by a couple of minutes. It’s definitely the way to go with thick-sliced bacon, though.

    Baking also allows one to do an entire package (well, the new 12-oz. packages) all at one time. A 16-oz package might take two pans or doing two batches, one after the other.

    The pre-cooked bacons I’ve tried aren’t the worst thing in the world. We’re talking bacon, here, right? They do tend to be super-thin and not always with the best flavor. They can be useful for camping, though. I find them a better alternative to canned, pre-cooked bacon, which always tastes on the rancid side to me.

    Those who have an Eastern European market or deli nearby might look for Hungarian ‘double-smoked’ bacons (there are three or four different varieties, with different spices). These are so heavily smoked that they don’t need refrigeration and, in fact, don’t need further cooking, though you can indeed cook them like regular bacon. In addition to the different spices used in the curing, these bacons are usually smoked over ash wood. This gives a very different flavor than hickory. It’s the same flavor that you find in Westphalia hams. If you can find juniper-smoked bacon, you might like to try it.

    These bacons are usually sold in a half-pound slab, with the rind still on. I have lots of uses for rinds, however, so this is a plus to me. Otherwise, it takes a couple of minutes to remove the rind and slice the bacon however thick you like.

    If you want to go all crazy about bacon, there are many variations on the theme around the northern hemisphere, from France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, over to China and Viet Nam. If there are southern hemisphere bacons of note, I’ve not come across them. The Aussies or Kiwis might have some, but Latin American bacon is pretty much Hormel standard.