- Food and Cooking
The Best Way to Cook Bacon
Pan vs Oven
What Makes Good Bacon?
To be honest, before this little experiment I had never cooked bacon in any way other than to fry it up in a skillet. Making it in the skillet always left me with grease for potatoes and peppers afterward. It was really all I knew, and it worked. So if it works, why try to fix it now? The answer to that is because I believe we can always experiment and improve! So what makes good bacon? For me personally, bacon is good when it comes out consistent, whether you like it crunchy or softer, good bacon is easy to clean up afterward, and good bacon tastes delicious! Keeping these factors in mind I decided to try cooking it in two different ways, adding a variable to the pan fry method as well. I must say, I was surprised.
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First Try, Major Fail
Frying the Bacon
I started with what I was comfortable with. I took some bacon out, heated up the cast iron skillet, and got to work. Now, for the sake of bacon-loving science, I cooked in the skillet in two ways; one was to let the bacon sit and not touch it, and the other being how I normally would cook it, flipping it occasionally and moving it around. The process was pretty simple. The bacon cooked for awhile and as more grease built up, the faster the new pieces would cook. I removed my first batch of bacon, the batch being untouched and left to sit minus one single turn, and here were the results.
Slightly Burnt, Definitely Uneven
Without the adjustments made by flipping regularly and moving the bacon around it did exactly what I had anticipated it doing, it burned. The middle of the bacon that sat on the heat charred up and the fatty ends stayed chewy and undercooked. I never would normally cook bacon this way, but I was told many people do so I gave it a try! Now, mind you, this is bacon we're talking about so of course, it was delicious! But I knew I could do better. So I threw down my next batch of bacon and cooked it the old fashioned way that I knew how. I rotated, flipped, and cooked those slices as evenly as possible. They came out far better than the previous batch did. The bacon was well browned in all areas. The very ends of the bacon were slightly less cooked than the middle, but none of the bacon was chewy or noticeably undercooked. By the time I removed it and let it rest for a minute it was almost perfect!
The Fry Pan Cleanup
Cleaning Cast Iron
While the bacon cooks it will inevitably splatter grease across your stovetop and leave a pool of grease in the pan when you're finished. The beauty of the pan fry is that cast iron is far easier to clean than people think. All you have to do is simply drain your grease and grab a nice rough sponge or pad. Do not use steel wool!!! If you use steel wool you'll scratch your cast iron or remove the seasoning. Both of these issues can promote rust and shorten the life of a beautiful pan. Take your rough sided pad or sponge and run as hot of water as you can stand onto the pan. Scrub hard until all the grease and bits are removed. If there are crusted parts that are giving you trouble, throw a pinch or two of salt into the pan and scrub with that to help. Once the pan is clear of all debris and grease take the pan and put it on the stovetop over high heat to evaporate any remaining water. Any moisture will rust quickly, so be sure it's all gone. When the pan is cooled, simply put it away! As for the stovetop, wipe down the top with a damp rag and a degreaser in order to remove all the bacon smears. I personally hate this part of the frying pan the most because my oven has nooks and creases that are difficult to remove grease from. Overall it takes about five minutes, and isn't a terribly difficult task.
Oven Baked Bacon
Setting Up Your Pan
The most important part of cooking your bacon in the oven is to keep it up off of the rack. This can be accomplished in two ways. One is to use a baking/cooling rack, as seen above, and the other is to crinkle aluminum foil accordion style to keep it off. If you use the baking rack be sure to line your pan with aluminum foil underneath to catch any grease that will inevitably fall. You also need to be sure to keep your bacon close, but don't let it overlap. If your bacon touches at all it'll stick together when it comes up from the pan and possibly break. Once you've lined your sheets with delicious pork belly strips, throw them into your oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for fifteen to twenty minutes. This timeframe could change depending on the quality and thickness of your strips, so keep an eye on them once fifteen minutes have passed. When you see a white foam on top of the strips you should be done, or very close to it. You won't need to flip your bacon during this process because the rack will allow them to cook underneath as well. When you remove the pan let the bacon cool for a few minutes before you remove it. When your bacon is done it'll look something like this.
Pan on the Right, Baked on the Left
Perfectly Even, 100% Crispy
The oven baked bacon came out entirely crispy from edge to edge. The crispiness was even the whole way through, and the bacon sat so flat and perfect I could stack it like legos. The bacon wasn't too greasy because the grease had fallen through the baking rack, which resulted in a much lighter, but equally delicious, side of meat for breakfast. The bacon peeled right off the rack, with a piece or two sticking but coming loose with very little extra effort. When the bacon had all cooled and it was time to eat, the oven cooked bacon was much crisper than the pan cooked.
Cleaning up the Oven
For me personally, the oven cleaning was absolutely awful. The baking rack had so much grease and gristle stuck to it that it took me multiple scrubs to get it all off entirely. The pan was easy enough to clean, but it's a pretty good non-stick. Had I used an older pan I'm sure it would have been a much more strenuous task. I'd advise taking the extra time to fold up a long sheet of aluminum foil like you would a paper fan, and then lay that down instead of using a baking sheet. It will take a lot longer, but in the end, you'll spend five seconds crumbling up foil instead of twenty minutes scrubbing a sheet and baking rack.
So Which Method Do I Prefer?
Even though the pan fried bacon was easier to clean up, I spent my entire life making it this way, and it's absolutely delicious, the baked bacon was far and away the better way to go. Each piece was incredibly crispy from end to end, and the pieces laid flat and perfect! If you prefer your bacon to be a bit undercooked then the pan is probably the better way to go, but if you like crispy, delicious, and perfect strips then bake your bacon for sure. I had never baked bacon before I tried this, and I will probably bake it every time I make bacon in the future. Try to catch as much grease as you can, and even if you don't it's worth the extra work in order to have perfection!
Which do you Prefer?
Do you bake your bacon, or fry it in the pan?
How was it?
Questions, Comments, or Concerns?
Let me know in the comments below what you think this would pair well with, or any praise or criticism of the dish! I look forward to reading and responding to any questions as well! Also, please be sure to keep an eye out for any new recipes I post or pair with this dish! And as always, keep eating good!