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Ah, bacon. We use it in every meal, from breakfast, alongside scrambled eggs and French toast, straight through to dinner (bacon-wrapped chicken breast, anyone?!) and even on into dessert. While cooking bacon on the stove can seem like a messy endeavor, it 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 Stove?
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.
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. A cast iron skillet 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.
Bacon needs a fair amount of turning, so a decent pair of tongs is very helpful. You can certainly spear each piece with a fork, but I find it’s easy for the bacon to slip off and fall back into the pan, which can cause painful splattering. The tongs are really the best way to go.
The Best Bacon for Cooking on the Stove
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.
Do You Need Oil for Cooking Bacon on the Stove?
Nope! All you need is the bacon and a sturdy pan. Bacon is a fatty cut of meat, and while it might initially stick to the pan, there’s no reason to worry. As it cooks, the fat will render and the bacon will naturally release from the pan.
Draining Stovetop Bacon
When you remove your bacon from the pan, it needs to drain and shed some of its fat so that it doesn’t end up too greasy. Many people use paper towels but I prefer a cutup brown paper bag. Newspapers are also a popular choice. In either case, the paper should be placed on a plate as it will absorb a lot of grease and get messy pretty quickly.
Save the Bacon Drippings
You will likely have some leftover fat in your pan (also known as drippings) when you are done cooking the bacon. This is pure gold and should not be thrown away. Pour it into a glass jar or metal can, and save it for future kitchen projects. If you do not want to keep bacon fat around, please feel free to mail it to me.
Note: There is some risk of glass jars shattering when you pour in the hot grease. I’ve never had this happen to me, but as a precaution, you can let the grease cool slightly before pouring it into the jar.
Dealing with Bacon Splatter
If your bacon is especially fatty, it might splatter rather heavily, which can cause a mess on your stove and actually hurt if some of that splattering fat touches your skin. Some people like using a splatter screen which cuts down on some of the splattering problems by offering a layer of protection. However, it does not eliminate the problem completely as you will need to lift the screen to turn the bacon. And then, in the end, you have to clean the screen. Wearing an apron will protect your clothes and oven mitts can protect your arms if you don’t want to get splattered.
If your pan got super messy from the bacon and especially if it got a decent crust on the bottom, here’s an easy way to deal with it: after pouring off and reserving the extra fat, wipe out your pan with paper towels or newspaper and place it back on the stove. Fill a pitcher with water and fill your bacon pan about half way up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat up high and bring the water to a boil. Using a spatula, gently scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any bits of stuck bacon. Some people add dish soap or baking soda to the water but I’ve never had to. The browned bits just lift right off. Let the pan cool before bringing it over to the sink to dump out the water unless you can trust yourself to carry a shallow frying pan full of boiling hot, bacon grease-laced water across your kitchen without spilling.
Keeping Bacon Odor at Bay
Some people don’t like to cook bacon at home because it can smell up the kitchen and indeed your whole house. Frying bacon is a good time to use your oven’s exhaust fan if you have one and of course you can also crack open a door or window. I have found leaving a dish of plain vinegar on the counter for several hours afterward really does help to keep the smell away. (A tip from Jodi Liano in this interview.)
What temperature do you cook bacon on the stove?
400 degrees fahrenheit works well for both regular and thick cut bacon. Heat your oven and cook the bacon for 18-20 minutes or until it's reached your desired level of crispiness. I do rotate the pan halfway through, just to ensure even cooking, but that's it.
How to cook the perfect bacon on the stove?
The Classic Method: In a Skillet.
Pull out the bacon from the fridge 15 to 20 minutes before cooking. At room temperature, bacon just cooks up better (just like steak)..
Don't preheat the skillet. ... .
Cook over medium heat — again, good for even rendering. ... .
Drain well on a paper-towel-lined platter..
What burner setting to cook bacon at?
Bacon cooks best slowly over low heat, so turn your burner on low.
How long does it take to cook bacon in a pan?
To cook: Bacon can be fried, dry fried or grilled. To fry, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan until hot, add the bacon and cook streaky or back rashers for 1–2 minutes on each side and steaks for 3–4 minutes on each side.