Read this before cooking bacon in the oven

If you've ever thought of making bacon in the oven, we have two words for you: Do it. Though the less common way to prepare everyone's breakfast meat, it really is the best way. Culinary perfectionist and Cooks Illustrated contributor Douglas Bellow tried every bacon- cooking method, including pan-frying and microwaving, in the quest for the absolute best bacon and found out that the oven is the best tool for the task. 

If you've tried these strips of hog heaven on the stovetop, you probably know it's really easy to overcook your bacon to tasteless, dry, crumbling sadness. Pan-frying, especially if you're cooking at a higher temperature, can take your bacon from just right to overdone and even burned in just a couple of minutes. Another advantage to oven-baking is less splatter, which means you can say goodbye to those unpleasant little burns and all that grease on and around your stove or cooktop. Oven-fried bacon is also prettier because this method reduces bacon shrinkage, so your bacon slices stay flatter, as opposed to curling or shriveling. 

Finally, for one or two servings, the stovetop is still the quickest and simplest way to go, but if you're cooking up the whole package, making them in the oven is much faster and more efficient than cooking multiple batches in your frying pan, according to The Kitchn. Plus, oven cooking requires no flipping or monitoring — just set the timer and go about your business.

A cold oven for less curling

Cooks Illustrated writer Douglas Bellow and Housewife How-Tos contributor Katie Berry advise using a rimmed baking sheet to contain the rendered fat and prevent a greasy and dangerous mess in your oven. Try cooking the bacon in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for nine to 10 minutes for medium-well bacon and 11 to 12 minutes if you like it crispy.

Delish advises being careful not to overlap your pieces, or they will stick together. Laying out the bacon on a wire cooking rack placed on top of the baking sheet can result in even crispier bacon (via The Kitchn) because elevating the bacon strips allows them to cook from all sides. Bellow found, however, that doing so sometimes results in bacon that cooks unevenly, and can cause some spots to dry out. Some fat, Bellow concluded, is needed to prevent this. If you do opt to use a wire rack, the cooking blog Mom on Timeout advises coating it with cooking spray first but says a foil-lined baking sheet is a better option. 

Katie Berry suggests a slightly different method: Put the sheet of bacon on the middle rack of a cold oven. This cooks the bacon more slowly, resulting in less curling. Then set the oven to 425 degrees and let it cook for 15 minutes before checking on it. Very thick bacon will take up to 25 minutes.

Tips for great bacon

Determining the doneness of oven-baked bacon is similar to stovetop bacon. Check the color. Remember, the darker the bacon, the drier it is. Douglas Bellow said of his baked bacon: "The texture was more like a seared piece of meat than like a brittle cracker, the color was that nice brick red, and all the flavors were just as bright and clear as when the bacon was pan-fried."

A few additional tips from Housewife How-Tos include: (1) To keep your bacon from overcooking once it's out of the oven, be sure to move it to a paper towel immediately to get rid of excess grease. Mom on Timeout notes that this also halts the cooking process, which will continue as long as the bacon is in contact with the sizzling-hot fat. (2) Line your baking sheet with foil or parchment paper for easier cleanup. (3) Cook two sheets at a time if the bacon doesn't fit on just one. Rotate the sheets halfway through cooking. (4) Like any bacon, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. To reheat, microwave for 30 seconds or return it to the oven for 1-2 minutes. 

If you want to freeze cooked bacon, just undercook it by a couple of minutes, let it cool, and place it in a zippered plastic bag. To finish cooking, pull out a few slices and cook them in the microwave on medium power for 30 seconds. And let's not forget that perfect cooking deserves perfect eating. Add some flavor, if you choose, by sprinkling ground pepper or brown sugar on the slices before putting them in the oven

Still not sure about giving up your favorite skillet? Give the oven a try and get ready for the easiest, most perfect bacon you've ever made.