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I recently tried to make some crispy bacon, and failed. I prepared half of it in a frying pan, half of it in the oven.

Half the strips were still chewy, some were partially burnt, some were still chewy but already partially burnt, some were dried, crunchy and crumbling, not a single of them had the typical reddish strips - all went shades of dull brown and shrunk way more than normal "good" bacon strips should (even the still chewy ones).

In conclusion, I realized I just lack too much knowledge which is common in the USA. In my country bacon is not nearly as popular, so I won't be easily able to obtain a bacon press or any such specialized equipment, so a pan or an oven will have to do.

So, let's first ask specific questions...

  • what kind of bacon to start with? Raw? Smoky? Boiled? Anything specific about the meat?
  • Should I remove the skin?
  • How thick should the slices be?
  • When to salt it? (one of the issues was it was entirely unsalty when done, and salt wouldn't even stick to the dried surface).
  • Pan frying:
    • how hot? Also, I read it should start on cold pan - what about consecutive batches, cooling the pan down?
    • What about grease? Pour off between batches? Remove during frying? Leave it in?
    • Flipping?
    • How to tell it's done?
    • How to make sure I won't burn it before it's crispy?
  • Oven
    • Temperature, time? Heating: top, bottom, both?
    • Should I lay it on a grill in the oven, letting the fat to drip below, or lay it on tinfoil to simmer in its own grease?
    • Again, how to tell it's crispy yet?
  • Finally, I don't want my strips to be very greasy. Should I put them on a paper towel to soak some fat or should I avoid that (and reduce the fat some other way (how?))?

And generally: is there anything else to it?

  • Do you have a microwave? I've given up on all other bacon cooking methods. Microwaves cook bacon evenly with the least amount of mess. – James Nov 13 '15 at 14:08
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In order to get crispy bacon you need to start with the right type. In the USA what most people consider bacon is from the belly, whereas in other parts of the world bacon is from the loin. You can get this in the states as Canadian bacon. You can't make loin bacon crispy and believe me I've tried. However you can get belly bacon most places (presuming bacon is available), in the UK it's called streaky bacon. You want to get the meatiest back bacon you can with the highest meat content.

Bacon is almost always salt cured, and can be smoked or not, which to chose is entirely your preference on flavor and won't make a difference in crispiness. Thickness is again your personal preference, some people like thin, others thick. It will make a difference in cooking time, thicker takes longer to cook. You shouldn't have to do anything to your bacon like removing anything, or salting it - if your bacon isn't salty enough then maybe it's not been cured in which case look for a different source.

Once you have the right bacon you need the right technique. In order to get crispy bacon the fat has to render out, and that takes time. A common mistake people make is to cook it at too high a temperature and browning it before the fat can render. I start with a cold pan and lay the bacon out on it before applying heat. I apply low-medium heat and cook it for about 10-15 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the bacon. I turn it once towards the end to get color on the other side, then I remove and let the bacon drain on some paper towels. The paper towels wick the fat away better then simply letting them drip, giving a crispier result. I know the bacon is getting done when it starts to stiffen up when I lift one side, when it gets to that state I know it will only need another minute, that's when I flip.

If you are going to pan cook in batches then drain the fat out after each batch and let the pan cool some, alternatively have two pans, letting one cool. If you have that much to cook I'd use the oven technique below.

You can also make very good bacon in the oven, very similar in technique to making it in the pan. You lay bacon out on a cold tray and put it in a cold oven. You then turn the to oven on to 200C (400F) oven for about 20 minutes. If you are in less of a hurry you could do 110C for an hour, slower cooking makes for better bacon. I've seen one chef who cooks bacon for 2 hours on low heat while sandwiched between 2 baking trays - the top tray keeps the bacon perfectly flat. The oven method is great for baking large quantities.

  • Good news, the right type of bacon is most common here. Still, could you supply answers to some of the specific questions yet? Thickness of raw strips, skin, salting, and again do I start with raw bacon or somehow prepared (smoked, boiled)? – SF. Nov 13 '15 at 10:27
  • Sure @SF, I've edited to answer your questions more specifically. – GdD Nov 13 '15 at 10:52
  • I'm fairly sure I won't be able to obtain just salt-cured bacon here. Smoked bacon is salt-cured; boiled as well, but raw is sold fresh/refrigerated (and about 40% cheaper). But I guess that's just a subject for a different question. – SF. Nov 13 '15 at 11:28
  • The oven technique is really the only reliable one, especially for more than one serving. To fit more on a tray you can fold or better yet loseley roll the bacon strips up. Over time they all come out perfectly crisp, and the rolls look very interesting on the plate – TFD Nov 13 '15 at 21:20

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