Isn’t bacon amazing? This is a favourite snack for many people across the world. What does it really take to make perfect bacon? Straining the grease and is important.
Chefs advise that you should start with a hot pan too.
OUR TOP PICK
However, making bacon is ten times easier with the right pan. Today we’ll be looking at the best pan for bacon.
Hint: it’s not your typical non-stick pan – those ones are best for making scrambled eggs and not bacon.
OUR TOP PICK
Traditionally, the best bacon used to be made firm cast iron skillet, this hasn’t changed a bit. While today’s skillet manufacturing techniques enable brands to make ones that have better heat distribution, they’re certainly using the same time-tested design.
With this pan from T-fal, you’re guaranteed that the bacon you’re making won’t undercook or burn.
This skillet isn’t just made of heavy gauge durable cast iron, it comes pre-seasoned from the factory and you can start making crispy bacon as soon as the order is delivered.
Again, it has a non-stick inner layer. Grease bacon is certainly stubborn to wash away and the Teflon coating takes care of this.
Making bacon is usually a two-handed affair and this is why T-fal added an (unusually) long handle to this model. There’s a helper handle for added stability too.
Just like skillets from other product lines from the company, this model has a thumb rest for comfort. Draining bacon fat is a breeze with its dual pouring spouts. The best pan for bacon should be multipurpose too and this is where this model takes the crown.
The skillet is oven safe up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit meaning that you could finish off dishes in the oven without risk of the pan warping. It can also be sued to fry your favourite snacks over campfire.
Greenlife strives to make cookware sets that simplify everyday cooking and this non-stick square griddle is in line with their mindset.
From making bacon to beef jerky, this is the ideal pan for breakfast. It’s argued that breakfast is the most important thing you could have and with this griddle, you could make, bake, fry and brown like the king you are.
Its Thermalon coating is fairly durable and facilitates for even heat distribution to the food you’re cooking – an aspect I look for when buying pans.
This non-stick layer is toxin-free at all temperatures and you’re guaranteed that toxic chemicals won’t leech into the food you’re making. Crispy bacon is best made at low temperatures and the ideal pan should relay heat changes fast.
This Oven and dishwasher safe pan is usable on all stovetops.
- Easy to get off bacon grease from the non-stick coating
- Responsive to heat changes
- Can be used in the oven
- Dishwasher safe
- Thermalon coating isn’t durable
While I’m certain that you’d o for functionality over aesthetics any day you’re shopping for a bacon pan, this unit has a beautiful enamel exterior that will complement your kitchen’s décor. It comes in 6 color choices from striking red to a fun shade of orange that brings life to the kitchen.
In the package, there’s a glass press too. It will come in handy when grilling cheese and paninis. This glass press is durable too and you could whip sandwiches without risk of breaking it.
Even though its just dishwasher safe to 350 degrees, it comes with a non-slip handle that definitely adds stability to the pan. The pan is dishwasher safe too. You get to eat the bacon while the dishwasher cleans messy bacon grease
- Heavy gauge base that evenly distributes heat to bacon
- A shatter-resistant glass press is included
- Dishwasher and oven safe up to 350 degrees
- The somewhat rounded base makes it unsuitable for use on electric stovetops
Common bacon making mistakes
Using the wrong type of pan
I must admit that they’re great at making scrambled eggs. However, bacon is naturally fatty and I doubt if it could stick even to a non-stick pan. Again, aluminium pans heat up fairly fast and you will notice that they end up burning the bacon more times than you’d love to admit. Cast iron cookware is better at making bacon. The bacon grease seasons the pan as you’re cooking and it naturally becomes better as you continue using it. You could still make great bacon with a stainless steel or aluminium pan as long as you move the pan frequently to “even out” heat spots that would otherwise result in undercooked and burnt
Putting bacon on a hot pan
If you start by pre-heating the pan and then place the bacon thereafter, it will seize up and lock in all untendered fat. Start by laying the bacon flat on a cast iron pan and then turn your heat to low instead. You will notice that the fat melts as the pan heats up. Crispy bacon is made by letting all the fat liquefy at low heat.
Most of use tend to undercook bacon. While this is certainly better than overcooking it, the ideal bacon should have a brown coating and evenly cooked inside.
Young, old, rich, poor, thin or not-so-slim, almost everyone loves bacon. The meaty, smoky aroma as it’s cooking, the rich, salty taste and the unmistakable sizzle as it’s frying in the pan are memories we all share and savor. Whether standard fare for breakfast, a decadent topping for a burger or a crunchy addition to a favorite salad, bacon is at home with any meal. With the latest surge in bacon-love, you’ll even see quite a few desserts that call for bacon.
For a number of years, bacon had been the black sheep of the pork industry. With its high fat content and the recommendation that nitrates are bad for one’s health, bacon consumption shriveled. However, bacon is one of those things you should indulge in. You shouldn’t eat it too often, nor do you need to make an entire meal of it – as enticing as that may sound. But when you want to treat yourself, there’s nothing that satisfies like the savory, crunchy goodness of bacon.
Bacon has come in and out of favor over the past few decades, and it’s currently one of the hottest food trends around – encompassing every course on the menu from appetizers to beverages and desserts.
Pan Frying Your Bacon
There are several different ways you can cook bacon and each have their advantages and disadvantages. How you prepare it will depend on the time you have, the equipment you have access to and even how you prefer your bacon, like crispy or not.
The old stand-by is to fry it in a frying pan. For me this is my favorite method and I will tell you why. It seems to get the best texture and flavor, simmering in its own grease, especially if it is a peppered or flavored bacon.
To fry your bacon, choose a pan with a good size lip. Never fry bacon on a griddle or other pan with minimal edge lip, like the ones designed for pancakes. This is because the grease can easily rise higher than this lip and drip over. Any dripping of bacon grease onto the cooking surface of your stove or range whether it is gas or electric is a fire risk. Bacon grease will go up fast and splatter so take care not to let it come into contact with this hot surface.
I like frying my bacon in a nonstick pan with a flat surface. I do have some textured style nonstick pans but they don’t seem to give it quite the same crispy texture and sometimes the bacon will stick a little to the raised areas.
Because bacon makes plenty of its own grease there is no need to do anything to the pan before you put in the bacon. Set the heat from medium to medium high, depending on your burner and pan size.
Never leave the stove area when cooking bacon! Several years ago my next door neighbor had a bad experience cooking bacon. He was preparing breakfast on a Saturday morning when his doorbell rang. He left the stove to see who was at the door.
It was another neighbor child selling Girl Scout cookies. Now who doesn’t love those cookies? Of course, he had to buy a couple of boxes. He was in the process of choosing a couple of flavors when his smoke alarms started going off!
He ran back to the kitchen to find his pan of bacon in flames! He quickly reached back, turned off the burner. Thankfully, he also remembered never to throw water on a grease fire. This will just cause the grease to splatter around and spread the fire.
Instead, he took a large towel, got is damp and threw it over the pan. Baking soda would have been preferred but this was enough to knock down the flames. He used a pot holder to carefully move the smoking pan out his back door to a brick walkway with no vegetation nearby.
In just those couple of minutes, his bacon went from cooking, to burning, to flames that melted the microwave mounted above the stove and did significant damage to the surface of the stove. He never did discover what happened to cause the bacon grease to go up in flames. All he knew was that it did.
In the end, his quick tip to the front door to buy those cookies ended up expensive. He had to replace some cabinet doors nearest the heat, his stove, microwave and repaint the kitchen. The worst part was the smell of burnt bacon and melted microwave that seemed to linger in the home for weeks after the fire. He was very lucky the fire didn’t spread further and no one was hurt putting it out.
Learn from his mistake, do not ever leave bacon cooking on the stove!
Lesson learned, now back to cooking your bacon. I like to start the bacon at a higher temperature, then turn in down as the pan and grease start to heat up. Keep an eye on it. You know it is too hot if the grease is popping too much, but it is too low if there isn’t a bit of a sizzle going on.
Lay your bacon into this pan carefully. As the bacon grease is released into the pan, it can sizzle up, especially when you lay fresh pieces into the pan. I recommend using tongs to keep your hands out of reach of the hot grease splatters.
Try not to move the bacon around in the pan for the first few minutes as it may stick and tear. Don’t worry, it will release easily as soon as it starts to brown. You do not need to move it until it is time to flip it over.
Always cook bacon in a single layer. If you crowd it in the pan a couple of things can happen. One, the bacon will not cook evenly. No one likes bacon that is burnt in one section and raw in another. Definitely not tasty eats!
The other problem with overcrowding the pan is the bacon will stick together if it is touching when it cooks. Then, you will end up having to break it apart. This makes it harder to serve and it will not look as nice as those strips we are used to.
Flip bacon when the bottom starts to get just a little brown. Let cook until a golden brown, but not too dark since it will continue to cook when you take it out of the pan.
Remove bacon from the pan carefully and place it on a few paper towels to drain. Letting it rest for a couple of minutes on the paper towels will allow it to get crispy. If you cover the cooked bacon with another paper towel, it will stay warm while you are cooking the rest of the bacon. You can pile it up on the paper towel, adding layer after layer of cooked bacon to drain and crisp up while you finish cooking.
Note: From experience, I have found that paper towels work so much better for this than regular napkins. Napkins can sometimes fall apart and stick to the bacon, yuk! So spend the extra couple of cents and use a good quality paper towel to drain your bacon on. If you hate washing greasy plates, you can also place a paper plate instead of a glass plate under your paper towels. Then just throw it away when the bacon is gone.
When you finish cooking, let the bacon grease cool slightly. Before it hardens, pour it into a can you are going to throw away. Do not put bacon grease down the drain! It hardens in the pipes, and causes other food materials to stick which will result in a plumbing clog that is expensive to clear.
If you cook a lot of bacon like we do, a coffee can under the sink is a great way to dispose of your bacon grease. When the can is full and hardened, you can throw it in the trash. Keep the lid on the coffee can if you don’t want you cabinet to always smell like bacon.
Another way to dispose of frequent bacon grease is to buy a couple of coffee cups at your local thrift store. I buy ones that coordinate with my kitchen décor and keep one on the window sill behind my sink. When I finish cooking bacon, I pour in the grease and place the cup back on the window sill. When the cup is full and cool, I simply bag it and throw it away. I go through maybe one or two cups a month but when I purchase them for a quarter, this is an inexpensive and simple way to dispose of the grease.
If you want, you can save some of the bacon grease to use to add flavor to other recipes. To prevent bacteria growth in my bacon grease I keep a small, reseal able canning jar in the fridge with a little bacon grease. I change out the contents of this jar a couple of times a month to keep it fresh. Put a piece of masking or ducts tape with the date on the cap each time you change it. Even better, you can use a chalk pen and the chalkboard stickers, wipe off and rewrite the date when you put in a fresh batch.
I can uncap this bacon grease reserve, and heat it for a few seconds in the microwave to unsolidify it when I need. I sometimes put a few tablespoons of this on my dog’s food as a treat. I also use it to lubricate the pan when cooking potatoes or mushrooms instead of butter or cooking spray. This not only keeps the foods from sticking but it is free and adds extra flavor to what I am cooking.
Bacon Aficionado Tips and Tricks
Take your bacon expertise to the next culinary level with this handy guide of bacon tips for storing, preparing and using your favorite pork product.
Pan Frying Bacon – Use medium heat to fry bacon. A heavy cast iron or stainless skillet ensures the heat is distributed evenly over the bottom of the pan. A thin-bottomed skillet may have hot spots and cause some areas of your bacon to burn while other portions remain limp.
Don’t neglect your bacon! It’s very easy to overcook and burn bacon, so don’t wander away while it’s cooking. You’ll also need to move the strips around and turn them over at least once. You don’t need a high heat to cook your bacon to a tasty crispness. Just allow the medium heat and a little extra time to turn your limp strips into crunchy goodness.
Baking Bacon – If you’re in need of a lot of bacon, this method allows you to make it all at once. As a bonus, you don’t need to continually monitor it, so you can go on with other chores. You also won’t wind up with grease covering every nook and cranny of your stove.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large broiler pan with aluminum foil. Face the shiny side of the foil down. Place a rack in the pan, position your bacon on the rack so they don’t touch and place on the center rack of the oven. Depending on how crisp you want your bacon and how thick it is, it will take between 11 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking process, so all the bacon cooks evenly. Use tongs to remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Be sure to save those bacon drippings! Allow the drippings to cool somewhat and fold up the aluminum to form a funnel to pour off the drippings into a container.
If you want to use the oven for other recipes at the same time, you can use a lower temperature. However, you’re increasing the baking time considerably.
Broiling Bacon – You can broil the bacon by placing it on a rack three inches beneath the flame. Turn it once while cooking and keep a close eye on it. The amount of time depends a lot on the thickness of the bacon.
Microwaving Bacon – This technique is especially good for cooking a small amount of bacon, and leaves very little clean-up. Place four or five strips of bacon between a couple layers of paper toweling on a microwave-safe plate.
Depending on the power of your microwave, cook the strips about 45 seconds to one minute per strip on full power. This should be no more than about 5 minutes. If the bacon isn’t crispy enough, add an additional 30 to 60 seconds to get it to your favorite crunchiness.
Preparing Bacon Bits – In theory you can stack up your bacon strips and cut them into bite-size strips or diced pieces with your knife. But if you don’t have a really, really sharp knife and very cold bacon, you may tend to demolish those little strips into a mushy mess of stringy fat and bits of meat.
Keep a pair of good, stainless steel scissors in your kitchen for food preparation. They’re great to cut up bacon into neat, uniform bites. Stack up a few strips of bacon and simply snip them into the size you need. You’ll find tons of uses for your kitchen shears – just keep them hidden from the rest of the family!
Refrigerating Bacon – Bacon is one of those staples that has a long shelf life in your frig. It may have an expiration date of several weeks or a month from the day you purchase it. However, once you’ve opened the package, you should use it in about a week.
Freezing Bacon – You can easily freeze bacon just as it comes in its original packaging. However, if you can’t see yourself using a whole pound of bacon quickly, you can separate the strips into usable portions, wrap them in plastic wrap and tuck in your freezer. Some folks say that the meat changes taste after six to eight weeks, while others claim to freeze it much longer with no loss of flavor. You can also freeze cooked bacon, but you shouldn’t let it sit in the freezer more than a few weeks.
Cut Down On Grease Splatters – Add just enough water to cover the bottom of a skillet before adding the bacon. Turn the stove to high and cook until the water has evaporated. Now, turn down the heat to medium and continue to cook until crisp. Surprisingly, this works!
Use Your Countertop Grill – if you have a Foreman grill or an electric Panini maker, put the bacon strips in and save cleaning the stovetop. You also free up the burners for cooking other items.
Making Your Own Bacon
If you want to try your hand at making your own bacon, it really is not that hard to do. You will need to plan ahead though. The process will take you about 10 days and take up some refrigerator room while it cures. Plus, you will need to handle and flip the pork belly while it cures. Daily preparation is easy, but you won’t want to start it, then go out of town and expect great bacon when you get back.
For some, just finding the pork bellies to make the bacon is the most challenging part of making it. I guess I am lucky because sometimes my local Costco has them available. There is also a local family owned butcher who will sell a pork belly or two when I want. I just have to call ahead to make sure he has what I need available when I want it.
If you are interested in organic, talk to a local butcher to help you find a source. You will pay significantly more per pound for organic, but if you want to go organic you already know that comes with a higher price.
There are also several places online where you can order your pork bellies, both organic and traditional. With most locations having overnight delivery options and good packaging, ordering fresh meat for home delivery isn’t as scary as it used to be.
When you read what some bloggers on the internet are saying about making their own bacon, you will notice a lot of talk about meat from humanely treated and pasture raised pigs being better than commercial farm pigs. I can honestly say that I haven’t noticed a difference in the taste of the meat. But, I have noticed that the organic pigs seem to have less fat than the commercially raised pork.
I will say though that I completely agree we should treat our livestock animals well and care for them in the best manner we know how. I have never raised my own pigs, but I have worked with cows and raised chickens and horses, so I understand the importance of happy animals you don’t locked up 24 hours a day.
When possible our family does purchase our meat from animals raised by local families. We feel the extra cost is worth it knowing they were well cared for and are generally healthier animals than those kept on overcrowded commercial farms where frequent doses of antibiotics are necessary.
One great source for locally raised beef and pork is through your local FFA or 4H program. Besides the animals these youth raise to show and sell at Fair, they often have other animals that the families are raising for their own consumption. You can often find families willing to split their cow or pig when sending it to the butcher. Here again, this meat will generally run you more per pound then buying on sale at your local grocery store but the animals are usually raised in less stressful conditions and fed a premium feed.
So to recap there are a couple of sources to get pork belly if you want to make your own bacon:
- a big box store like Costco may sometimes carry it if there is a demand in your area
- your local grocery store
- an Asian grocery store
- a local butcher
- FFA or 4H club may have sources
- or some of you are lucky enough to have an organic farmer near you.
Choosing a good pork belly is just a matter of finding one with a good distribution of fat and meat. When it comes to bacon, fat is really a good thing because this is where so much of the flavor resides. Much of the grease will cook off so with proper drainage before consuming there really isn’t that much extra even if the bacon is a little fatty.
Sometimes the pork bellies are already in a vacuum-sealed bag, like at your big box store. Look at the end and see if there is at least a good balance of fat to meat. It also helps bacon stay in strips if the meat has a nice long strip that continues most of the way along what will be each slice.
The skin will probably be still on the meat if you are buying a whole or even a half of a pork belly. Removing this may be the second hardest part of making your own bacon. Well, that and having the patience not to dig into so much delicious goodness for the week it takes to cure in your refrigerator.
Do not be tempted to process your bacon with this skin on! The cure will not penetrate evenly and the skin cooks up tough.
If possible, have the butcher remove this for you. If not, I recommend watching a couple of YouTube videos showing how to remove this skin. You will need a sharp knife and a little patience so you don’t remove too much of the fat and meat as you cut it away. Take it slow and you will get it off with no real problem.
Once the skin is off it’s time to work some magic. There are two different ways to cure your bacon. After talking with many others who make their own bacon, most recommend that beginners start with a wet cure method. The reason for this is that they are easier to distribute to the meat and they penetrate more evenly than dry cures.
Either way you choose, you will need a few things to get started. First, don’t let the meat sit around for days in your refrigerator before you start. Purchase the pork belly the day you plan to start the cure, or at least no longer than the day before. Fresh pork makes the best bacon!
Because this meat will need to be in your refrigerator for about 7 days, you will want a foolproof way to keep those juices contained. I use a plastic tub large enough to contain the pork belly with some extra room to move things around. The next items you need are large, resealable plastic bags. The bags need to be big enough for the pork belly to lay flat.
To make the pork belly easier to work with, I usually cut it in half. Most pork bellies that I have found for sale are about 10 to 15 pounds. This size is a little harder for me to flip and find plastic bags for but if I cut it in half it is the perfect size to work with.
Next, I rinse the meat well and pat it dry with paper towels. Set it aside on a tray while you prepare your brine.
To use a wet cure, mix up your ingredients per the recipe below. Mix well to ensure the liquid has absorbed all of the salt and other dry additives. When thoroughly mixed, put the pork belly into the reseal able bag. Leave the bag open and set it into your plastic tub (to prevent spills). Carefully pour in the brine. Squeeze out as much air as you can as you seal the bag up. Squeezing out the air is important because the brine will distribute better to all of the meat without a bunch of air in the bag.
Once the bag is completely sealed, massage the liquid into the pork belly for a moment to distribute the juices. Place the sealed bag and plastic container on a bottom shelf in your refrigerator. You want to make sure none of the brine or juice from the raw meat has any way to leak or make contact with any of the other food in your refrigerator. This contamination with raw meat could make you very sick.
Now comes the hard part…waiting. Every day you will need to go in and flip your pork belly over and massage the brine into the meat a little through the bag. Be careful not to open or tear the bag when you do this as the juices will leak out.
It is important to do this every day to keep everything brining evenly. You will do this for between 5 to 10 days. There are many different recipes and times out there. The median seems to be 7 days for a good cure, so I recommend sticking with that for the first couple of times at least. After you get a couple of batches under your belt, then you can try your hand at making adjustments to the recipes and cure process. Before that, it is best to stick to the tried and true so you get a feel for how the process works.