Of all the ways you can cook bacon, including on a skillet or griddle, in the microwave, or even in a deep-fryer, it turns out that the very best way of all is to bake it in the oven. Bacon is fatty, so it needs to be cooked slowly, at a low temperature, so that most (but not all) of the fat renders away while leaving the finished product crispy and golden brown.
You can try to do that in a skillet or a griddle, but there are a couple of problems. First, an average skillet isn't wide enough to accommodate whole slices of bacon. They'll just crowd each other and end up sticking together. Even if your skillet or griddle is extra-wide (or you decide to cut your bacon in half), you're still cooking the bacon from below, which is more likely to cause it to scorch. It will turn out crumbly rather than crispy. In a skillet, you're going to have to flip it so that both sides of the bacon are cooked. Flipping bacon isn't a major challenge, but it's easier to not have to flip your bacon.
Cooking bacon on the stovetop uses up one of your burners (or maybe two if you're using one of those double-burner griddles), which means you have less room for making eggs, home fries, Hollandaise sauce, or even just boiling water to make coffee. Finally, cooking bacon on the stovetop is messy. Bacon fat is going to spatter all over the place, maybe even onto you.
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Do NOT Preheat Your Oven!
The most important part of this technique is putting the bacon into a cold oven. Don't preheat! Starting with a cold oven ensures that the bacon will cook slowly like it needs to.
With a cold oven, follow these steps:
- Arrange the bacon slices on a sheet pan and place the pan on the center rack of a cold oven. (Try not to stretch the slices out. Just gently drape the bacon across the pan.) Close the oven door. Turn the oven on to 400 F. Walk away.
- Come back 17 to 20 minutes later. As soon as the bacon is golden brown, but not excessively crisp, it's done. The exact time will depend on the thickness of the bacon slices and how quickly your oven reaches the target temperature.
- Remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the bacon to a second sheet pan (or a plate or dish) lined with paper towels to absorb any excess fat.
Also, keep your eye on the bacon during the final few minutes of cooking to make sure that it doesn't burn. Remove the cooked bacon from the hot pan right away. If you leave it in the pan too long, the heat from the pan and the hot bacon fat will continue cooking it.
One of the lovely consequences of cooking bacon this way is that the bacon fat renders off beautifully. Pour hot bacon fat into a heat-proof ramekin and save it in the fridge for other uses. There may be little bacon particles, which will sink to the bottom. If you prefer to remove them, strain the liquid fat through cheesecloth when you pour it into the ramekin.
You can use it to sauté, cook eggs with it, and bake cookies with it. Anywhere you might use butter, you can use bacon butter. You can even spread it on toast. Since the fat doesn't burn while you cook the bacon, it'll be almost transparent when you pour it and have a lovely, creamy white color once it cools in the fridge.