You can make delicious bacon with nearly any appliance in your home – on the stovetop, in the oven, in the microwave, even on the grill or in the deep fryer. The best method for you will depend on what you have available, how you like your bacon, and how much weight you put on things like speed and easy cleanup. In this post, I’ll walk you through each method and go over the pros and cons of each. In the interest of science, I tried every one personally and took copious notes. If you get through the whole thing, you’ll be an expert in how to cook bacon in any circumstance!
These methods were perfected with store-bought bacon. If you’re making your own bacon like I typically do these days and it’s thicker cut, you may need to increase the time a bit and decrease the temperature from what you see here.
I. How to Cook Bacon on the Stove
If nothing gets your family out of bed in the morning like the smell of frying bacon wafting through the air, this method is for you. My personal favorite way to cook bacon is on the stove, in my trusty cast iron pan. I like the control of watching it cook and adjusting to get the perfect level of crispness.
It does require some basic equipment. Your stove needs to be decent, with level burners and a good way to control temperature. It helps if you have a fan in your kitchen, or you may set off a smoke detector, especially in a smaller space. Alternatively, you can use an electric griddle with a temperature control dial. This is a good option if you rent and have a wonky stove.
To make bacon on the stove, you’ll also need a cast iron skillet. I use Lodge. They’re inexpensive, they last forever, and once seasoned they honestly aren’t hard to clean. These are the only pans in my kitchen that bacon never sticks to, and I have some good quality (and way more expensive) cookware. You can use stainless steel or nonstick if you don’t own any cast iron, but you’re more likely to have to deal with either sticking or burning. Daniel Gritzer gives a good explanation of why over at Serious Eats.
Always start with a cold pan. Place a cold pan over a cold burner, and add bacon. Don’t crowd the pan. I like my bacon crispy all over, so I often cut the slices in half to make them fit. If you don’t mind the ends being a little less done leave them whole. Turn the heat to just below medium. As the pan begins to warm and the fat starts to render, move the bacon around a bit with your tongs or spatula. This helps to coat the bottom of the pan with the rendered fat and prevent sticking.
Flip the bacon periodically. Some sources will tell you that bacon MUST only be flipped once, but that’s hogwash. I like to check for doneness every few minutes, and I do that by flipping the bacon. It helps to get a more even cook. I like bacon that’s crisp throughout without any burnt areas, and that’s difficult to accomplish on the stovetop without frequent checks of the down side of the meat.
Once it has reached your desired level of doneness, remove the bacon to a paper towel or newspaper-lined platter and start the next batch. At this point you may put subsequent slices of bacon right into the pan with the grease from the previous batch. If it gets more than a half centimeter or so deep, pour some off to save for later. I save all of my bacon grease in large mason jars in the fridge. It comes in handy for flavoring soups, vegetables, and all sorts of other things in the kitchen. If you’re looking for ideas, here are a few more from Bon Apetitand The Spruce Eats. Despite the bad rap bacon often gets in healthy circles, according to cooksinfo it’s not any worse for you than butter.
Pros of Fried Bacon
- Produces the best crispy, melt in your mouth texture and flavor of all methods tried
- Renders fat for later use
- Easy cleanup if using well-seasoned cast iron
- A small quantity of bacon can be produced fairly quickly
Cons of Fried Bacon
- May splatter, requires some cleanup afterwards
- May smoke, problematic for small/poorly ventilated kitchens
- Requires cast iron or griddle pan for best results
- Time-consuming and requires frequent attention
Fried Bacon is Best For
- Eating on its own for 1-4 people
- Use in recipes requiring rendered fat or already using a cast iron pan (Grilled Strip Steaks with Bacon Butter, Bacon Grilled Cheese in a Cast-Iron Skillet)
II. How to Cook Bacon in the Oven
Many resources will tell you that bacon is best made in the oven. It doesn’t require any special equipment other than a sheet pan. You can line the bottom with foil for easy cleanup as a I did above, with parchment paper, or with paper towels a la Alton Brown if you don’t plan to save the rendered fat. I’ve tried all three, and didn’t care for the texture that resulted from using a paper towel. When tasted head to head, bacon baked on a paper towel most closely resembled microwaved bacon. The paper towel bacon cooked a bit more quickly, 8 minutes at 400 to reach my desired level of doneness versus 11 on foil or parchment. Parchment and foil were very similar in taste and texture, with a slight edge to parchment paper.
Lay your bacon in a single layer on a lined sheet pan. Preheat the oven to 400, and immediately place the pan of bacon into the cold oven. The concept is the same as placing bacon into a cold pan on the stovetop. I trialed it both ways, and the resulting texture is better and the bacon is less likely to stick and burn with a cold start. Once the oven reaches 400, cook for 8 minutes and then take a peek. I like 11 minutes on foil or parchment for fairly crispy bacon, but but both ovens and tastes vary. Remove the bacon and let it drain on a paper towel line plate.
Pros of Oven Bacon
- Easy, requires minimal attention
- No smoke or stovetop splatter
- No special pans are required
- A large quantity can be made in one batch
- Crisp texture is achievable, and with a cold start on parchment the bacon is almost indistinguishable in flavor from bacon fried in cast iron
- Rendered fat can be saved if bacon is cooked on foil or parchment
Cons of Oven Bacon
- Takes longer than any other method – up to 30 minutes, including oven preheating time
- Bacon may overcook if left a minute or two longer than intended
- Grease may splatter in oven if not using paper towel method (which produces inferior bacon)
Oven Bacon is Best For
- Making bacon for a crowd
- Making bacon while attending to other dishes
- Adding to recipes such as Pork Pho with Bacon
III. How to Cook Bacon in the Microwave
Microwaved bacon surprised me when I began to prepare for this post. I’ve always eschewed it, but it came out surprisingly well! There’s no need to eat out every morning or buy the awful precooked variety, even if you’re living somewhere without access to a full kitchen.
Line a microwave-safe plate with paper towels. Arrange bacon in a single layer on plate. Place plate into microwave. Microwaves differ on strength, so I hesitate to dictate a cooking time. 1 minute per slice is a good estimate, but I would advise checking the bacon every minute after 3 minutes to avoid overcooking. The 5 slices in the second picture above cooked for 5 minutes in my full strength microwave, with a check at 3 and 4 minutes. When I cooked another batch for 5 minutes without opening the door, there were a few overcooked areas.
The texture of microwaved bacon is what I found surprising. I’ve had awful limp microwaved bacon in the past, but mine came out uniformly crisp. It was missing the chew you get from other cooking methods, and did taste a bit artificial. It didn’t stop me from eating every bite. The strips lacked curl when made in the microwave, but this might be desirable in a sandwich.
Pros of Microwaved Bacon
- Only needed appliance is a microwave
- Cleanup is a breeze – toss the paper towel and rinse the plate
- Quickest cooking time of all methods – this is the easiest way to roll out of bed and make bacon for 1-2 people with minimal effort
- Uniform crispness and flat texture works very well for a sandwich
Cons of Microwaved Bacon
- Amount of bacon per batch is limited to the size of a microwave-safe plate
- Texture and shape seem slightly off and bacon has no chew
- Rendered fat is absorbed by paper towels and can’t be saved for a later use
Microwaved Bacon is Best For
- Life without a kitchen – dorm room, hotel, kitchen remodel
- Bacon for one person, made fast
- Adding to a sandwich
IV. How to Cook Bacon on the Grill
Power outage? Natural disaster? No need to skip the bacon! Fire up the grill and cook some up before your refrigerated products go bad. Already outside grilling burgers or pizza? Feel like delegating bacon for a crowd with a house full of people and the oven and burners are full? Bacon is incredibly easy to make on the grill and tastes great.
The only piece of equipment you will need is a flat nonstick grill mat. You could probably substitute foil, we just haven’t tried. They’re inexpensive, and we order a new pair each spring. We use them for all sorts of things (veggies, pizzas, eggs), so if you don’t own any they’re worth the minimal investment. They are reusable, but aren’t the easiest to get completely clean, hence the yearly replacement. I don’t recommend trying to cook strips of bacon directly on your grill grate – the fat will drip, causing flareups, and the bacon may burn. In a pinch (power outage, camping), if you don’t have a grill mat, slap a cast iron skillet right on your grill and follow my directions above for frying bacon.
We have a Weber gas grill. To cook bacon on a gas grill, light all of your burners, close the lid, and allow it to come to at least 400 degrees. Turn the heat down to medium, place your mats on the grill grates and lay out as much bacon as will fit in a single layer. Close the lid again. Check the bacon after 5-6 minutes and flip each strip. Cook for at least 10 minutes, probably closer to 12 if you prefer it crispy. Check and flip it periodically as it gets closer to your desired doneness. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and enjoy!
Pros of Grilled Bacon
- Easy cleanup, no splatter, and no indoor smoke or smells
- A large batch can be made at a time, without taking up oven or stovetop space – good for a crowd
- No full kitchen or electricity required
Cons of Grilled Bacon
- Requires going outside and firing up the grill, taking attention away from indoor foods and dependent on the weather
- Texture, while crisp, is inferior to fried or oven bacon. It most closely resembles bacon started in a hot 400 degree oven.
- No rendered fat available for other uses
Grilled Bacon is Best For
- Large groups, holiday meals
- Adding to other grilled items – bacon cheeseburgers, bacon pizza
V. How to Cook Bacon in a Deep Fryer
I used to tend bar for a living, and I spent about three years working in a neighborhood dive bar in New Orleans. Back when I worked there, we only had one person (wo)manning the bar at a time. That meant that I wasn’t just the bartender, I was also the short order cook. We didn’t have a complicated menu, but did serve a decent variety of fried foods, burgers, po boys, sandwiches, and wings. Our kitchen setup consisted of a large gas grill, a counter area with a toaster, two fry baskets, and a microwave. We served bacon cheeseburgers, BLTs, and club sandwiches. Guess where the bacon went? Right into the oil with the fries.
Is deep fried bacon good for you? Hell no. Does it taste good? Hell yes. Good enough that some of my regulars would come in and ask me to fry them up a basket of bacon to go with their 34 oz beer. If you’ve already got the Fry Daddy out or just want to give it a try, heat your (preferably peanut) oil to 375-400F and toss some bacon in the basket. If you don’t have an actual deep fryer (I do, but when I went to make some for this test, the cord had disappeared), you can use a cast iron dutch oven. Heat 2 inches of oil to 375-400, then add bacon.
I’d stick to about 6 strips at a time if you don’t have a commercial sized fryer. Fry for 3-4 minutes, until it rises and appears firm, and remove it with a spider or slotted spoon. The resulting bacon is crispier than that of any other method, and it shrinks and curls in the hot oil. It brings back memories for me of good times in that neighborhood pub, but the excessive crispiness and calorie content aren’t for everyone.
Pros of Deep Fried Bacon
- Decadently crispy texture and rich taste
- No additional appliances or pots/pans needed in addition to deep fryer
- Very quick to make once oil is hot, and batches are larger than many other methods
Cons of Deep Fried Bacon
- It’s deep fried bacon. Eat it regularly and you probably won’t be eating it for long
- All crisp, no chew
- Impractical unless you’re deep frying something else
- Bacon fat will flavor your oil – this might also be a pro, but you should consider it before saving the oil for another use
- No rendered fat available
Deep Fried Bacon is Best For
- Novelty of deep frying bacon
- Ultra crisp texture
- Occasions when other meal items are also being deep fried
Bacon Taste Test Results
Other Ways to Cook Bacon
This resource is not comprehensive. There are other ways to cook bacon. Use what you have available to you. I would have liked to try it in an air fryer, but don’t own one. Most of the internet seems to think it’s a good idea (example from A Pinch of Healthy), but Cooking Light disagrees.
Instant Pot? It won’t be anything to write home about, but try a few strips on sauté. Crockpot? Probably not a good idea (it won’t get hot enough). Rice cooker? Also a no, unless it has serious sauté power. Waffle maker? Alton Brown says yes! Same concept applies to a George Foreman-style indoor grill or panini press. Hot plate in a dorm room? I’ve done it. Campfire? My son swears that campfire bacon in a cast iron pan tastes better than any he’s ever had. He’s my kid, so he’s eaten more bacon than most heart patients. I’ll post that one once it stops snowing in Wisconsin and we can actually sleep in a tent again. If you have an appliance that can approximate a frying pan or grill, toss some bacon in and see what happens – usually, good things. Comment below and let me know what you tried!