How to cook bacon

Everything you need to know about how to cook bacon to perfection...

How to cook bacon
(Image credit: Getty)

From preparing bacon to storing it, from grilling to microwaving, here's everything you need to know about how to cook bacon.

Learn how to cook bacon by following our simple step-by-step guide. Bacon is a type of salt-cured pork, generally taken from the pig's back or belly. It can be sold either smoked or unsmoked and there are three varieties of it: back bacon, streaky bacon, or middle bacon.

Within these categories, you can also purchase either thin-cut (if you want a very crisp rasher or are wrapping it around another ingredient) or thick cut (good for quiches or casseroles). Alternatively, it can also be bought as a joint; types of joints include a collar, hock, and gammon. Good, fresh bacon should be pink with white or creamy fat. Avoid it if it is discolored or smells unpleasant.

Bacon is a very popular ingredient - often noted as the thing that is most missed by vegetarians due to its delicious salty taste, even a small amount of it adds a flavour punch to any dish. It is also a very diverse ingredient - you can enjoy it simply in a bacon butty, diced, and stirred through pasta with cream and peas, crisped up and added to risotto, and wrapped around chicken or sausages.

How to prepare bacon

Bacon being sliced

There is not a lot of preparation that goes into pre-cut bacon, like streaky or back. You may want to cut the bacon into strips prior to cooking but other than that they are ready to be cooked from the packet.

If you are cooking a bacon joint in some cases it could be soaked overnight - check with your butcher if this is necessary. Then when you are ready to roast it you should strip off the rind and then score the fat underneath. You could then add a glaze, like a marmalade, to the fat prior to roasting it.

How to store bacon

Bacon should always be kept in the fridge. If it is raw keep it in the packaging it came in, or an airtight container until ready to use.

It can also be stored in the freezer. Freeze it in pack sizes that you will cook as once it is frozen it is hard to separate rashers and you cannot re-freeze them. Wrap bacon in baking parchment and then place in a freezer bag. Do not keep in the freezer for more than three months. Defrost it completely in the bottom of the fridge before you cook and eat it.

Cooked bacon should be placed on a kitchen towel in an airtight container in the fridge and consumed within three days.

How to cook bacon

There are many different methods you can use to cook bacon. We have outlined each of these below. As people are split on whether crispy bacon or soft bacon is superior we suggest you keep an eye on it whilst it is cooking and adjust the suggested times to your liking.

How to cook bacon: grill

  1. Turn the grill on to medium heat.
  2. Line the bottom of the grill tray with foil and lay the rashers of bacon out onto the rack with a 1cm gap in between each piece.
  3. Cook under the grill for 4 mins, turn all the bacon over, and return to the oven for a further 3-5 mins.

How to cook bacon: oven

Bacon on a roasting tray

  1. Turn the oven up to 200C/Gas 6.
  2. Line a large baking tray with foil. Layout the bacon in a single layer on it.
  3. Place in the oven and cook for 15-20 mins, or until crispy to your liking.

How to cook bacon: microwave

  1. Line the bottom of a microwave-safe dish with 3 layers of kitchen towels.
  2. Lay the bacon on top in an even layer and then place 2 more kitchen towels on top, covering all the bacon.
  3. Microwave the bacon on high for one minute per slice of bacon. Check the bacon and microwave for another minute if you want it to be a little crispier.
  4. Take the bacon off of the kitchen towel straight away once cooked, to avoid it sticking.

How to cook bacon: pan fry

Bacon in a frying pan

  1. Place the bacon in a cold non-stick frying pan.
  2. Place it on the hob and bring the temperature up to medium-high. This method will render the fat and lead to very crisp bacon.
  3. Once the pan has come up to temperature cook the bacon on one side for 4 mins until golden and then flip over and cook for a further 2-4 mins until cooked to your liking. The fat that is left in the pan can be drained and disposed of or used in the dish you are cooking.

What is the healthiest way to cook bacon?

The healthiest way to cook bacon is to grill it on a rack, the first method listed. This is because all the fat melts out of the bacon and falls out onto the grill pan. So the bacon is not cooking in its own fat. Furthermore, the bacon should then be placed on a kitchen towel to absorb any excess fat.

What is the best way to cook a lot of bacon in one go?

Cooking bacon in the oven is the best way to cook a lot of bacon at once - so if you have a group of friends over for brunch you may want to turn the oven on.

The reason it is the best method is that you can fit as much bacon as you want onto one, or two, baking trays and then just leave it in the oven until it is cooked. You don’t need to bother flipping over two dozen rashers of bacon. It is low maintenance and has a larger capacity than a pan, microwave, or grill.

Best bacon recipes

Now that you have read more about how to prepare, store and cook bacon, we have rounded up our very best bacon recipes below to give you some inspiration for great flavour combinations and ways to cook and enjoy it...

Roast bacon joint

roast pork joint

If you want something a little different for your roast dinner this Sunday try this simple and delicious recipe for roast bacon joint.

Get the recipe:  Roast bacon joint

Chicken and bacon risotto

Chicken and bacon risotto

Bacon adds a lovely hit of salty flavour to all dishes. It is particularly lovely when paired with the sweetness of peas and the mild chicken in this risotto.

Get the recipe: Chicken and bacon risotto

Grilled peach salad with feta, bacon, and green beans

Grilled peach salad with feta, bacon and green beans on large sharing platter

Grilling fruit caramelises them slightly and highlights their sweetness, which makes it the perfect match for salty bacon in this gorgeous summery salad.

Get the recipe: Grilled peach salad with feta, bacon, and green beans

Mini bacon and cheese quiches

Bacon is such a glorious crispy morsel in these quick and easy quiches. Perfect to serve as a canape or at a brunch.

Get the recipe: Mini quiches

Savoy cabbage with bacon and garlic

Savoy cabbage with bacon and garlic

(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

So we know that greens are meant to be a healthy option and bacon does not scream health. But a small amount of bacon is so wonderful when fried with greens. The fat and salt really cut through the bitterness of green vegetables like cabbage and sprouts and make them so moreish.

Get the recipe: Savoy cabbage with bacon and garlic