How to Cook Bacon Like a Pro
Even just a little bacon amps up the flavor of many dishes—pizza, eggs, salads, sandwiches, burgers, sauces and more. Hints of crispy, sweet and smoky all give bacon a complexity that pairs well with other foods and imparts an umami taste. While it's high in fat and sodium, bacon is a good source of protein and, used in moderation, can be part of a healthy meal plan. Here are the basics you need to know to cook bacon like a pro.
How to Cook Bacon
On the Stove Top
Follow package directions; start with an unheated pan. Cast-iron skillets work especially well. Add slices in a single layer and turn the stove to medium heat. Cook until brown on bottom, usually about 3-4 minutes, then flip with tongs and cook until brown on top, usually about 2 more minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
In the Oven
Place slices side by side on a rack in a shallow-sided baking pan. You can use a rack inside the pan if you want drippings to fall below the bacon; line with aluminum foil to minimize cleanup. Place in a cold oven, close the oven door and turn oven on to 400°. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bacon is crisp; watch carefully during the last few minutes of cooking. Remove and put on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb extra fat.
In the Microwave
Cut down on splattering by placing slices on a microwave-safe rack or a plate lined with microwave-safe paper towels. Do not overlap bacon. Top with two more layers of paper towels. Microwave on high (2-3 minutes for 2 slices, 4-5 minutes for 6 slices), checking frequently as you get near the end of baking time. You can cook in 30-second bursts towards the end to make sure your bacon doesn't burn.
When is Bacon Done?
Bacon can go from perfectly done to burnt very quickly. Here are some tips to know when your bacon is ready:
* Check color—bacon should be deep golden. If it's pale or white, it needs to cook more.
* Check texture; bacon should be crisp. If you press on it with a fork and it's soft, give it more time. (Some people may prefer bacon a little chewy; if you're one of those, at least make sure you see browning and that the meat is no longer red.) Bacon will continue to crisp for a bit after you remove it from a heat source.
* Check temp; bacon should be cooked to about 145° (use a meat thermometer).
When bacon is ready, you should be able to detect a savory smell and also hear that sizzling is becoming less frequent.
What Kind of Bacon to Buy
Most bacon results from a mix of brining, wet- or dry-curing and some form of smoking. Different twists on this process alter the taste.
This Italian bacon (above), used to flavor sauces and pasta dishes, is cured but not smoked.
Because it contains less water, this type shrinks less during cooking and produces less popping grease in the skillet.
Maple syrup, brown sugar, honey, pepper and more complement bacon's saltiness. Smoking with woods such as apple or hickory creates subtle distinctions, too. But take note of labels promising things such as "hickory flavor." This isn't true smoked bacon.
A smoked meat more like ham than American bacon, it also produces less cooking shrinkage, resulting in more servings per pound.
How to Store Cooked Bacon
If you made more bacon than you need—or you just wanted to get the task done ahead of your meal—you can store cooked bacon in either your refrigerator or your freezer.
To store bacon in the refrigerator, place cooled strips in a ziplock bag or airtight container (cover with plastic wrap if needed) and use within 4 to 5 days.
To store bacon in the freezer, put bacon on a baking tray and flash-freeze for 2-3 hours, then transfer to a ziplock bag or airtight container. You can wrap a couple of strips with plastic inside the bag or container, making it both easier to remove a small amount of baking and cutting down on the chance of freezer burn. Use within a month.
Reheat cooked bacon by putting it in a skillet over medium heat for a couple of minutes; in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes; or in a microwave on a paper-towel lined plate (with another towel on top of bacon) for about 10 seconds a slice.