Does cooking bacon in the oven, microwave, or even a waffle iron actually make it taste better than cooking it in a frying pan? I was determined to find out.
I recently tested one of the internet’s favorite new ways of cooking bacon: in water. It was a very interesting experiment, and in the end I got to eat a lot of bacon, so it was a win-win for both Real Simple readers who want to cook the best bacon (who doesn’t?) and me.
After seeing how much love that post got and how surprised people were that bacon could be cooked in water, I thought I would take it one step further and experiment with some more outside-the-box bacon cooking techniques.
The three techniques I chose this time are cooking bacon in the oven (a fan favorite), cooking bacon in the microwave, and cooking bacon in a waffle iron (the wildcard). I used the same brand of bacon for each, and brought in a tester who didn’t know which was which to help me decide which bacon reigned supreme.
Cooking Bacon in the Oven
This tried and true technique is a favorite method here at Real Simple. To cook bacon in the oven, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. I lined a sheet tray with a lot of foil, and then placed a cooling rack on top. I laid my bacon across the cooling rack and, once the oven was ready, popped it in and baked it for 20 minutes.
Because this method is totally hands-off, there is no constant flipping, splattering, or smoke. This way does take a little longer—thick-cut bacon takes about 20 minutes to cook in a 400 degree oven—but it is well worth it because this method melts the fat off the bacon and onto the sheet tray, while the strips stay nice and crispy on the cooling rack.
When tasting, we loved how crispy the bacon had gotten. Because the majority of the fat melts, you aren’t left with any weird chewy bits—just pure meaty goodness. Despite all of this, our bacon tasted a bit burnt despite not looking or smelling burnt while it was cooking or when it was taken out of the oven. This is a bit of a mystery, but my guess is that, because the bacon was cooking evenly all over, it began to burn very slowly, so we couldn’t see what was happening but we could taste it.
Cooking Bacon in the Microwave
Dorm students know what’s up when it comes to cooking bacon, apparently! To cook bacon in the microwave, I placed two layers of paper towels on a microwave safe plate. I laid my bacon on top of the paper towels and placed two more layers of paper towel on top. I microwaved the plate of bacon for 4-6 minutes (it took exactly 5 and a half minutes for my four strips!), checking every 30 seconds after the four minute mark to look for doneness.
I am going to be honest with you all: this was not the prettiest bacon I have ever seen. In fact, it was nowhere near pretty. There was no glossy sheen of fat, no rippled edges and no gorgeous burnished brown color. Despite all of this, the bacon was perfect. It was crispy and melted in your mouth all at once. The excess fat had melted and drained into the paper towels, but bits were left on the strip that gave it just the right amount of unctuousness.
On top of the deliciousness of the bacon, the prep, cook time, and cleanup took 10 minutes max—and that includes eating! Because this method only takes a couple of minutes to make, it is the perfect way to get your family out of bed and to the table in the morning.
Cooking Bacon in a Waffle Iron
When I read about this method online, I knew I had to try it myself. To cook bacon in a waffle iron, I heated a rotating waffle iron (similar to this one) to medium-high. I sliced strips of bacon in half crosswise, and laid them in the iron once it was hot. I cooked the bacon in the iron until it seemed cooked through, about 10 minutes.
This was definitely the most confusing way I have cooked bacon so far, and I have cooked bacon that is submerged in a pan of water! Because waffle irons are not too large, I had to cut the bacon in half, which makes for a lackluster presentation. Because the iron doesn’t fully press together—when cooking a waffle it needs room to rise and puff up—the bacon kind of just sat in the middle. This meant that it ended up with squares (from the waffle maker indentations) of really crispy bacon, and the rest was simply chewy and tough, with uncooked fat. Overall, we would not recommend this method unless you enjoy your bacon cooked in some spots but not others.
The verdict: If it was not obvious by my enthusiastic writing, the microwave method was our absolute favorite. It is very different in texture and mouthfeel from bacon cooked traditionally (cold pan, cold bacon, medium flame!), but it is equally delicious in its own way. Whether you decide you need a quick strip in the morning as you are running out the door, or a piece to crumble over your salad at dinner time, this time-saving method delivers.