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Baking/broiling bacon vs. pan-frying

I've heard so many folks online and on food TV saying that broiling or baking bacon in the oven is superior to pan-frying, that it cooks more evenly and curls up less. Of course this method is optimal if you're adding syrup, brown sugar, anything sweet and sticky, but for just plain ole bacon strips, I don't see the advantage.

I have found that putting the bacon strips in a cold pan, turning the burner on pretty low, no more than medium, and cooking slowly gives me perfectly crisp, flat bacon most of the time. With some specialty bacons from the butchers, I sometimes put an improvised bacon-press on them (a heavy saucepan coated with foil on the underside) to help with the curling issue.

To me, washing a frying pan is so much easier than dealing with a large, greasy baking sheet and a crusty wire rack. I'm sure this is trivial and a little weird, but it's been bugging me for a long time!

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  1. If you cook a small amount of bacon, you use the medium you feel is best....if you are cooking large amounts of bacon.....the oven is the only way to go for sake of time and physical taxing on your body.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fourunder

      good point! Even when I cook for my eight burly co-workers, though, I still prefer a big ole skillet, keeping the bacon warm and crisp on low in the oven. Just a personal preference, sure - I just wanted to get other's opinions. thanks for yours! Peace - Pam

    2. I bake my bacon on a rack . I put foil in the pan under it. I start it at 300 and raise it to 350 when It is almost done. It takes awhile.

      1. I bake it in the oven, 375 degrees. I don't use a rack. All you gotta do is lay it in a pan or baking dish and stick it in the oven. Give each one a turn half-way through. No standing there over the stove "stirring" the bacon while it cooks, trying to make room for all the pieces. Bacon in the oven needs almost no attention. No greasy stove to clean up afterwards, just a baking dish that can be lightly cleaned and then thrown into the dishwasher.

        1. There's something to be said about bacon frying/grilling in its own fat -- it just tastes better to me, altho I'll admit it's easier and cleaner to bake it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Sarah

            It cooks in its own fat if you bake it without a rack, as I do, or in the microwave. In both cases, the rashers stay flat and render more evenly and completely than on the stovetop. I don't line the pan since I want to save the fat , and a foil lining generally tears when you try to use a rubber spatula to get all the good stuff. The fond releases from the aluminum half sheet pan fairly easily, and washing it doesn't entail a lot of scouring - a plastic scrubby takes care of it. Plus, you can do a whole pound of bacon at once (keeps well in fridge or freezer once cooked) so you are cleaning the sheet pan once, vs. a frying pan many times if you are making bacon just for one meal at a time. The fat from oven bacon has brown flecks and tastes better than that from microwave bacon, which is paler in color and does not harden as much when in the fridge. .

            1. re: Sarah

              I agree, Sarah! It think it does taste better in a frying pan. Usually I just indulge myself with a big, fattening breakfast on saturdays, so I only cook a few strips. I've tried it in the toaster oven, but it spits so, it just makes a mess.

              Thanks, y'all for the input, though. I think baking will by my method of choice the next time I cook for the gravediggers. Peace!

            2. I've never understood why so many people assume that because you bake your bacon you have to use a rack or a baking sheet. I use the smallest pan that will hold the amount of bacon we want to eat (down to an 8-inch skillet for four slices), and never use a rack. It takes 27 to 30 minutes (depending on the thickness of the bacon and how long it sat on the counter before going in the oven) at 350 degrees. Many advocate a higher heat and shorter cooking time, but I find that really browns the meat while leaving chewy fat---great for some, but not for me. Anyhow, I usually turn the slices once about halfway through, but it's not the end of the world if I don't get around to it. This method turns out perfect baked-in-its-own-fat bacon with absolutely no mess or fuss. By all means, if you enjoy tending to bacon in the pan, do so without reservation. But as someone who usually makes bacon to accompany super-slow scrambled eggs and buttermilk biscuits while trying to hold a conversation, take out the recycling, and keep an eye on the game, the ability to set the timer and forget about the meat is invaluable. And of course baking is almost infinitely less messy and odorific.

              1. I bake my bacon because it is a lot easier to do (not that pan-frying is difficult) when you're juggling a few different breakfast dishes. I pop it in the oven a little higher on a baking sheet with tin foil. The bacon does end up cooking a bit flatter, but I agree tha tit does curl up a little bit. When it is close to done, I turn up the oven temp to get it extra crispy. Plus, it is easy clean-up when you just need to toss the foil.

                1. We're having a large party for Mother's Day, so we are going to bake the bacon. But it is better to go with a rack or no rack? We had baked bacon at a friend's place, and it seemed overly greasy, so my husband thinks we should use a rack, but I'm worried about it drying out or getting tough, if that makes any sense. Any suggestions? We like our bacon to be crispy.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: RosemaryHoney

                    Bacon doesn't really dry out, unless you overcook it, then it's just overcooked or burnt. Maybe what you mean by dry is chewy, but I think of chewy bacon as not being cooked until crispy. I don't always bother with a rack; one more thing to wash. Read, if you haven't already, eight-inch-pestle's post about the baking technique; couldn't have said it better myself. A lower oven temp and longer baking time is better.

                    However, the rack technique allows the bacon fat to drain away. If you want less greasy, crispy bacon, I recommend using the rack, or pat your bacon dry, or place it on paper towel to drain, after removing from the oven. Probably easier to use a rack, though.

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      As Jacques Pepin mentioned on the show with Julia in which they did duck (and duck cracklings), you will always get a crisper texture and maximize rendering if you do not use a rack. This is because although the fat will render well at first, if using a rack the meat will reach a point where the surface is dry enough that it seals over, preventing the remaining fat from escaping. Keeping the meat surrounded by fat as it cooks allows the fat to continue to cook out. Drain well on paper towels. Remember that residual heat will continue to brown the bacon once the pan is out of the oven, unless you remove the rashers immediately.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        Yes, for duck breast or skin. Bacon doesn't contain the same amount of fat and is sliced thinner than than the fat layer on a duck breast. You wouldn't consider rendering lard or salt pork on a rack, but bacon is a bit of a different cut.

                        Anyway, without the rack, just pat dry or drain on paper towel.

                        1. re: bushwickgirl

                          I can't agree with you - having baked bacon both on a rack and flat on the sheet pan, I quickly realized that the latter renders more fat and cooks more evenly. It's been several years since I quit the rack, so I don't recall if racked bacon curls, but without the rack, it stays flat. On a rack, the bacon is contacting more air and less metal than when laid directly on the sheet pan, so I assume the latter provides more even, and possibly faster, cooking.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            My experience with both methods find that neither curl.

                            I used to cook literally tons of bacon directly on sheet pans when I worked professionally, and saved the fat, of course. We switched to racks (the wire mesh cake icing variety, not the cookie cooling racks) to see if we could get a less "greasy" crispier product and to tell the truth, I didn't notice a difference in the end, except the rack method took a bit longer baking time to finish. I agree with you that contact with the pan will cook the bacon faster. Unfortunately, we never measured the amounts of bacon fat left from either method so I can't comment on whether more or less was rendered. I did find that the rack method resulted in a just as evenly cooked product.

                            Sandra Lee, although I'm reluctant to mention her name here, was baking brown sugar-coated bacon on the Today Show this morning, on a wire mesh rack over a sheet pan. The result was very crispy, crunchy bacon, most likely due to the caramelized sugar coating.