The best ways to cook bacon

Sure, you may have cooked bacon over a thousand times, but how often do you really switch up the way you cook it? Depending on the way you want to use your bacon, its thickness, and the size of the crowd you're cooking for, there may be a better way for you to reach that bacon nirvana we all so desperately crave. Are you ready to up your bacon game? I've assembled some of the best ways out there for cooking everyone's favorite meat candy.

Fry it on the stovetop

There is a pretty good chance that if you're human, and have at one time or another cooked bacon, you've fried it on the stovetop. And you wouldn't have been wrong to do so. Bacon, fried in a pan, produces some of the most delightfully crispy bacon you could ever hope to grace your lunchtime BLT sandwich. But it also gets messy. Like, all over your stove, backsplash, and counters messy. Not to mention the splatter of grease that may now be covering whatever it was you happened to be wearing when you decided to make your crispy bacon.

For the best results, lay your bacon in a cold pan, and cook at low to medium heat. Using tongs, flip the bacon periodically until it looks almost crispy enough (it will crisp a smidge more once removed from the pan,) and place on some paper towels until ready to devour. If you just need a few slices, this is a great method. Cooking for a crowd? There are better ways.

Bake it in the oven

This is definitely my method of choice when preparing a full pound of bacon, or more. Cooking bacon in the oven leaves your stovetop free, and saves you some valuable clean-up time, though you may want to fire up that self-cleaning oven feature a bit more frequently if you're oven-cooking bacon on a somewhat regular basis.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a large baking sheet, and cover it with foil or parchment paper. Lay the slices out so they're not overlapping, and cook it for 10-15 minutes, until you have the crispness you desire. For particularly crispy bacon, set the bacon on top of a metal rack, place the rack on top of your lined baking sheet, and place in the oven. Just like bacon that's fried in a pan, you'll want to set the bacon on paper towels for a minute or so before eating.

Broil it in the oven

I'm wild about crispy bacon, sometimes even bordering on charred, and the broiler is the place where I consistently strike bacon gold. I use aluminum foil to wrap my baking sheet — parchment would burn in the broiler. I lay the bacon strips out, set the broiler to high, and pop it in for about four minutes (times will vary depending on your own oven, so don't take your eyes off of it). Remove the tray, use a tong to give your bacon a quick flip, and pop it back in the oven for another few minutes. I especially love this method with thick-cut bacon, as it chars on the edges but leaves a meatier center.

Cook it in the microwave

Yes, you can achieve crispy bacon in a microwave, and no, you don't need one of those plastic, as-seen-on-TV gadgets to do it. This is a great method if you only need a slice or two of bacon.

Line a glass baking dish or plate with layers of paper towels, and set your bacon on top, with a couple more paper towels blanketed on top. Set the microwave to one minute per slice of bacon. If the bacon isn't as crisp as you like, give it an additional burst of 20 seconds or so until you get the results you're seeking.

On the outdoor gas grill

If you're anything like me, and treat your outdoor gas grill like an extra oven, you might start to love cooking bacon on your outdoor grill. This method is especially great if you live in an older home, like mine, with less-than-ideal kitchen ventilation, and would prefer that your house not smell like a pan of bacon for the next three days.

With particularly thick cuts of bacon, you could place the bacon directly on the grates. Use low heat when attempting this, and be prepared for flare-ups. Flip the bacon often until it reaches bacon perfection. If you'd prefer to set it and forget it for a few minutes, place the bacon in a roasting pan or on a rack that's fit inside a roasting pan, drop it on your grill, and cover with the grill's lid.

On a charcoal grill or smoker

You could also use a charcoal grill to make bacon, on or off the grates. Just make sure to keep the charcoal pushed to one side of the grill, so you can use the "cold" side of your grill to prepare your bacon. Set some tin foil under the cooking area to catch the bacon grease as it falls.

A smoker, if you have the patience, can also make some truly tasty bacon. In the above video, the gang at Smoking Pit shows us how they make bacon in a smoker set to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, using maple and cherry wood. If you have a smoker, and an hour to wait, give it a whirl.

On a grill press or iron

If you're a George Foreman Grill aficionado, you no doubt already know how brilliant the grill is for preparing bacon. Simply heat your grill, lay your bacon strips directly on the grates, and in seven or so minutes, you have crisp bacon, and an easy clean up job for your efforts. But you don't need to limit yourself to the George Foreman. You can try out your panini press, or even your waffle iron, to get similar results. Just make sure you use something to collect all that grease.

In a muffin pan

Bacon cups are the ideal vehicle for easy finger-foods that don't require a utensil, and a staple in the repertoire of low-carb dieters.

Give your muffin cups a quick squirt of your preferred non-stick spray, and wrap the outsides of each cup with a slice or two of thin bacon. You could fill immediately with your favorite filling, or, cook the cups in a 400 degree oven with just the bacon for about ten minutes until it starts to crisp, and then add your filling before you cook another ten minutes or so. The most popular filling would be eggs, but I've also stuffed bacon cups with hot spinach-artichoke dip for lip-smacking party apps.

In a deep fryer

There are loads of recipes out there that teach you how to make the kind of deep fried bacon you may find at a state fair — dipped in gooey batter, plunged in the piping hot oil, and slathered with sugar and toppings. If that's your thing, by all means, have at it. But you don't have to go quite so over the top if all you want to do is deep fry some bacon.

Using a deep fryer, or just a deep pot on the stovetop, actually delivers terrific bacon. Check out the above video for the easiest method. Bring your cooking oil to about 350 degrees Fahrneheit, and then just drop your bacon in. Shotgun Red even shows us how he saves and reuses his bacon grease week after week for preparing his deep fried bacon.

Cook it in water

If you prefer bacon that isn't fried to a near-burnt crisp, you may want to try cooking it in water. Does it sound crazy? I thought so too, but there are plenty of folks who swear by this somewhat unconventional, stovetop method.

Cook's Illustrated gives us pretty easy instructions for trying out this interesting way to cook bacon. Simply lay the bacon in a skillet, and cover it with water. Bring the pan to a quick boil, and lower the temperature to medium. The fat has rendered by the time the water has cooked away, meaning less splattering, and plumper meat. Lower the temperature one more time to crisp the bacon to your liking.