Why You Shouldn't Make Bacon In A Slow Cooker

Slow-cookers seem to be able to make just about anything ... with a few caveats. For instance, seafood will almost always end up over-cooked and rubbery if left to slow-cook, and unfortunately so will bacon (via Eat This, Not That). This might seem counter-intuitive, after all high-fat cuts of meat like chuck roasts, pork shoulders, and lamb shanks work best in the slow-cooker (via Food Network). Well, bacon is the exception to this rule. The reason for this is that bacon is thinly cut and designed to cook hot and fast, to get it crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the center. This makes it a bad candidate for slow-cooking, since over-cooking it will cause the meat to dry out, which no one wants.

This shouldn't come as a huge shock, since you really can't get any food to a state of crispiness by cooking it low and slow, and that's all slow-cookers can do (via Reader's Digest). Of course, it hasn't stopped some from trying to do it. In fact, Stephanie O'Dea, author of the New York Times best-selling book Make it Fast, Cook it Slow, once tried to make bacon-wrapped scallops in her slow-cooker. The results were "a stinky, gray, slimy mess [that] needed to be double-bagged in the outdoor garbage can," which is enough of a reason to keep the bacon and seafood away from the slow cooker at all costs.

Ways around the 'no bacon in the slow-cooker' rule

There will always be a few slow-cooker recipes that could really benefit from the flavor and texture of some bacon, so how do you include it without the horrible texture ruining the entire dish? One way is to cook the bacon separately and add it at the end. This might seem like a lot of effort, but if you're planning a slow-cooked meal that just won't work without bacon, it's worth taking the extra time to fry it up in a pan or cook it in the oven until it's perfectly crispy, then chop it up and add it to the dish right before serving. That way, you get all the best parts of the bacon while assuredly avoiding that unsavory, over-cooked texture. 

Then again, if you just don't have the patience to cook the bacon separately, there's another workaround that's popular on the slow-cooking subreddit: try using ham hock in your recipe instead of bacon (via Reddit). Ham hock is a great cut to choose if you're looking for that smokey, salty, pork flavor and, unlike bacon, it benefits from being slow-cooked because the process helps render all of the fat and collagen in the meat to add exceptional flavor to the dish (via The Spruce Eats).