Ah, bacon. We use it in every meal, from breakfast straight through to dinner and even on into dessert. While it can seem like a messy endeavor, cooking bacon on the stovetop is the classic way to crisp up those delicious strips of smokey goodness and it’s dead simple to boot. Read on for our step by step guide, including tips for choosing a good pan, dealing with splattering, and getting rid of that lingering fried bacon smell.
Why Cook Bacon on the Stovetop?
Cooking bacon on the stove top is how we did it when I was growing up, and it’s the method that’s most familiar to me. My mother had a long, rectangular cast iron griddle pan that fit over two burners and could cook up a whole pound of bacon at once. Frying up the bacon was often my job as a child. The griddle had a trough etched into its perimeter which caught the grease and channeled it to a corner where I would suction it out with a bulb baster. It was the perfect bacon cooking pan and I am still recovering from the fact that my mother sold it at a rummage sale a few years ago.
. Start with a cold pan. Bacon should be started in a cold pan, so before you turn on the heat, lay out your strips on the pan. You can place them so they are touching and crowd the pan a little as the bacon will shrink as it cooks but do not overlap too much.
. Cook bacon low and slow. Bacon cooks best slowly over low heat, so turn your burner on low. Soon the bacon will begin to release some of its fat. When it starts to buckle and curl, use the tongs to loosen the strips and turn each slice to cook on the other side. Keep flipping and turning the bacon so that it browns evenly.
. Pour off grease carefully. If the bacon is very fatty and your pan is filling up with grease, you can remove some by carefully suctioning it off with a bulb baster and squeezing it into a glass or metal container. Some people just spoon off the excess with a metal spoon. You can also pour off some of the grease but be very careful when you do this as spilled grease can cause a grease fire. I usually turn off the flame when I pour off the grease and I check be sure that none of it has dribbled down the sides of the pan. In any case, be sure that you pour it into a sturdy glass, metal, or ceramic container.
. Cook until the bacon is done. When is the bacon done? That depends. Some people like their bacon extra crispy and others like it a little loose and flappy. It’s important to know that your bacon will continue to cook some when you pull it from the pan and will stiffen up a little upon cooling. In general you will want to see even browning and make sure that the meat part has lost some of its raw redness.
. Let the cooked bacon drain. Using your tongs, remove the pieces from the pan and onto your paper bag/towels or newspapers to drain.
. Cook the remaining bacon in batches. If you have more bacon to cook, you can simply drain the excess grease and add more bacon as you remove pieces. If the pan has developed a browned crust on the bottom, let the pan cool down and wipe it clean before continuing.
The Best Tools for Bacon on the Stovetop.
Barring the perfect griddle, these days I use a wide, flat-bottomed 12″ frying pan. I do not own non-stick, although many people recommend it for bacon. I find that once the bacon starts releasing its fat, it will pretty much stop sticking to the pan and can be moved around very easily. Cast iron is of course a classic choice for frying up bacon. Some pans come with raised ridges that allow the fat to drip through and away from the bacon. If you have one of those, it’s great but not 100% necessary.
The Best Bacon for Stovetop Cooking.
People have their favorite kind of bacon. Some like it fattier than others, some like it cut thicker, or smoked. Much of your choice is about how you are using the bacon: a good recipe will specify if the bacon should be smoked or not, or if it requires a thick cut. In general, the thicker cuts will produce chewier bacon while the thiner cuts will produce crisper bacon. When I choose bacon, I look for a nice blend of meat and fat, with a little more meat than fat. I also look for natural or nitrate-free bacon and have had good luck with Niman Ranch. The bacon pictured here was sent from my mother in Wisconsin and it’s from Nueske’s (and does contain nitrates).