Bacon has become one of the most popular ingredients to add to any dish from savory mains to decadent desserts. One thing that puzzles many novice chefs, however, is how to achieve that perfect, crispy bacon that isn’t too greasy or overdone. While it can take time to get the hang of cooking bacon, it’s not difficult if you have the right tools and some patience.
Here are our best tips for bacon success along with some bacon-inspired recipes most likely to impress your dinner guests this season.
The USDA shares that bacon comes from the belly of a young pig, usually 6 to 7 months old, that weighs between 175 and 240 pounds.
While other parts of the pig can be used for bacon, it must say the location on the label. For example, bacon from the shoulder must state “pork shoulder bacon” on the package.
When shopping for quality bacon, look for bacon with more pink meat and less fat streaks. Check the expiration date to be sure it's fresh, and avoid meat that appears off-color or has a bad smell.
Put the bacon in the refrigerator as soon as returning home or within two hours of leaving the store fridge or freezer section.
Bacon doesn’t usually need any special treatment before cooking, but if your bacon was once frozen, make sure it’s fully thawed first. Separate the pieces. If you are serving half pieces of bacon or are using a small portion wrapped around another meat or vegetable, trim it to size before cooking (cooked bacon crumbles and is difficult to handle).
If you will be adding your own seasoning to the bacon, do this before grilling or frying. Remember that most bacon is fully salted, so avoid adding additional salt if it may overpower the flavors. Add sugary glazes and seasoning with care, as they can burn at too high of a temperature.
Some of the best glazed bacon recipes involve baking or grilling. Frying, however, is discouraged. This is because heating large amounts of the rendered oil from bacon can cause the sugar to overheat. Check the recipe in advance to know when sugar glazes.
If you aren't using all of the bacon from a package right away, put it in a sealed storage container or a food-safe bag, and store it for up to one week in the fridge.
You can also freeze it for up to four months after opening, although some people prefer to cook it before refreezing for the best quality and flavor.
Bacon is delicious almost any way it’s prepared, but how you cook it may depend on your available tools and space. Here are the most common methods for cooking bacon and how to get the job done for each.
Cooking bacon on a Traeger is easy, and once you do it this way, you may never choose any other way again.
To start, set the Traeger to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and close the lid. Preheat for 15 minutes.
Next, open the lid and set the bacon slices directly on the grill grates. Cook for a total of 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice to keep the bacon cooking evenly. You can remove it from heat when every slice has reached the right amount of crispness for you.
Bacon continues to cook a little once you remove it from heat, so don’t be afraid to take it off the grill a bit early. Set on paper towels to remove any excess oil or grease before serving.
Most people imagine frying bacon in a pan which is still a convenient method for cooking – especially in small kitchen spaces.
Start with a single layer of bacon in a cast iron skillet or fry pan with no additional grease or oil and a tiny amount of water covering the bottom of the pan (add the bacon and water before you turn on the heat).
Turn the burner to medium-high heat, allowing the water to cook and evaporate. Then, turn the heat down to medium, letting the bacon brown completely on the bottom. Turn it with a fork and let the second side brown.
Remove the bacon before it starts to smoke or becomes too dark. It will continue to cook and crisp.
Set bacon on a baking sheet. You can line it with foil for easier cleanup, but this is optional. Put it in the oven and turn the heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook for around 25 minutes, or more for thicker bacon.
Check for your choice of doneness and remove when ready. Remember, the bacon will continue to cook after removing.
Depending on the air fryer model you have, you will need to approach this method differently. For air fryers with the heating element on the bottom, place the bacon in a single layer on a foil-lined tray and set the heat to 350 degrees. Cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until crisp.
If the air fryer has the heating element on the top of the unit, you can cook it without the foil and allow the grease to drip to the bottom under the grates. You can cook at the same temperature, checking for doneness after around seven minutes.
Thicker bacon will take longer, so adjust your times accordingly. If you plan on doing more than one batch of bacon, drain the bacon grease from the foil or unit before starting the second batch. Grease can get too hot in the air fryer and start smoking, causing your bacon to taste bad and possibly setting off your smoke alarm.
Crispy bacon is how most people enjoy it, but getting it right takes a little practice. No matter the method you choose, start with cold bacon in a cold pan or oven and then add the heat. Warming the bacon slowly will help render the fat from the meat. Be sure to remove the bacon before it’s too dark. Again, it will continue cooking after you take it from the heat.
Note: The easiest and most consistent way to crisp bacon is in the oven, although it’s possible to get it crispy the other ways we’ve described. The key is to have patience. Don’t cook it too high or too fast, or some parts will burn while others will be undercooked.
Bacon grease is an ingredient you can give a second life. Use it to substitute for a few teaspoons of oil when sautéing veggies or meats. It adds flavor to fried eggs and fish filets, too. Just be sure to avoid turning up the heat too high, as it can burn. Don’t add new bacon grease on top of old bacon grease, as the older grease can go rancid and cause the new grease to spoil. Use grease stored at room temperature right away.
To safely store bacon grease, pour it into a glass canning jar and keep it in the fridge. Bacon grease also freezes well.
Do not pour it down the sink, in the toilet, or on a compost heap. If you want to throw it away, allow it to cool slightly, pour it into an old can, milk jug, or juice container before putting it in the trash.
There is virtually no limit to the number of ways you can use bacon. Use it as the main dish, garnish, or tasty side. These recipes are delicious and can be prepared for any occasion.
This Baked Maple & Brown Sugar Bacon takes a traditional bacon strip and turns it into a sweet and smokey treat that guests won’t forget.
Yes, you can cure your own bacon! This Applewood Smoked Bacon tutorial takes you through the 8-day process that anyone can do at home.
Give your ordinary hot dog an upgrade with a Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs recipe topped with cheese, ketchup, mustard, and relish.
There’s nothing quite like this Bacon Explosion dish featuring a woven bacon wrap, hash browns, peppers, and a tangy sauce.
Get your greens in a new way. The Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus recipe is simple yet elegant and feeds a crowd.
Those are just a few of the ways you can highlight bacon as the star of your menu. With a few pounds in the fridge ready to go, it’s easy to boost flavors and elevate your next meal on the Traeger.
Wood-fired bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers are seasoned with Pork & Poultry Rub and baked over smoky mesquite for an epic game day appetizer.
The Traeger Bacon 101 class is officially in session. Cure and slow smoke your way to homemade bacon goodness that will have you ditching the store-bought stuff for good. Plan ahead, the bacon takes 8 days to fully cure. Flip every 2 days for even curing.
Rich and hearty, these chicken breasts are the perfect entrée to impress any guest.
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