Most of us should recognize the delicious aroma of bacon as it cooks. That enticing smell draws people in as those pork belly strips render their fat. From their use in sandwiches and salads to candied strips in a cocktail.
Even if you are simply preparing a barbecue, you may be tempted to throw on a few strips just to enjoy the smell and quickly have something to chew on.
There are various techniques to recognize when bacon is done. From how the color of each strip changes to their shape, texture, and how the moisture dissipates.
It may be best to learn these methods as a meat thermometer may be difficult to use. In this guide, we will look at which signs to look out for, how to cook it properly, and how you can use it in certain recipes.
Why It’s Important To Find Out When Bacon Is Done
You have to be careful when cooking bacon. For such a thin cut of meat, it can be exceptionally difficult to get right as the time taken to turn it from ideal to well done then burnt is notoriously short.
With that in mind, you should be able to note the signs of doneness from a quick glance.
Show some sign of restraint as the aroma of cooking bacon can become overwhelming and you simply believe that it is ready before it is. Underdone bacon can be a health hazard and is certainly not to be served with guests.
Everyone has a preference for how they like their bacon and different recipes will call for different levels of doneness. Recognizing when bacon is ready to be served is a skill that any griller should learn.
Signs To Look For In Bacon That’s Done
Numerous signs can let you know when your strips of bacon are done. From the change of color from pink to brown and ensuring that the fat has fully rendered.
Looking out for simple signs like that can be a simple and effective way of knowing when bacon is done without the use of any equipment.
Like any cut of meat, bacon strips will change their shape as they cook. From a uniform rectangle to edges that curl inwards, away from the edge of the frying pan or grill.
This is largely due to the way that the moisture evaporates which effectively shrinks each bacon strip. The shape will also change as the fat will gradually melt away and render into liquid form in the cooking vessel.
Should you be familiar with cooking pork then you should recognize how the meat changes color. When you pick it up, the bacon should be a light pink color decorated with streaks of white fat.
While it is cooking, the white of the fat will turn brown and the overall pink will darken to a reddish-brown color. During that transition from pink to reddish-brown, you should start to check the texture.
When bacon is done it should be crisp but only to a certain degree based on your preferences. Even if it is to be served rare, it should still be cooked so that it can be lifted from the pan and be more stiff than limp.
There is an easy test you can do by using the back of a spoon to see if there is much resistance to the bacon. This resistance should lessen the more done the strips are yet you should be careful as there may still be some soft give even when the bacon is well done.
When you pick up a strip of bacon with your bare hands, it can feel slightly slimy. Compare that to how it feels when it is done and there is a big change.
Done bacon should feel crisp and dry as most of the moisture will have evaporated. The strips should also feel lighter as a lot of the water content in the bacon will have diminished.
How To Cook Bacon
Bacon is such a versatile cut of meat that there are various methods to cook it. For more control use the stovetop or grill yet if you want to leave it alone to cook you can use your oven or even glimpse it through the microwave.
Whichever method you choose, make sure that you perform a visual inspection to check for the doneness signs.
On The Stovetop
For relatively simple checking and more control, cook your bacon strips on the stovetop. Place your bacon strips in a single layer on a cold skillet then turn up the burner to medium heat.
Keep checking your bacon and you may want to turn them over every few minutes for even cooking. The overall cooking time should be between 8 and 12 minutes, depending on how thick the bacon is.
In An Oven
You may be used to cooking your meat in the oven and you can use it for cooking bacon too. Preheat it to 375°F then place your bacon strips on some aluminum foil or directly on a wire rack.
Put the wire rack on top of a baking dish or sheet pan and ensure there are high sides to contain the rendered fat. Without the fat being captured, you run the risk of a grease fire as the fat can drip onto a hot surface.
Bacon typically takes at least 12 minutes to cook though that can be extended to 20 minutes for extra thick slices.
To ensure even cooking, you can flip the bacon slices halfway through yet with oven cooking this should not be an issue. Once cooked, remove the bacon slices and leave the fat to drain on some paper towels for a minute or so.
On A Grill
Like so many meats, you can cook bacon strips on the grill alongside your steak and burgers. This should be something you decide to cook late in the day as it should not take long to cook.
You and your guests should also enjoy the smell as the fat renders and the bacon turns from pink to reddish-brown.
On a grill, the fat will simply drop onto the burners which can instigate a delicious smoky flavor and you do not have to worry about grease fires or cleaning up the fat as you would on a stovetop.
Simply make sure that the grill is set to medium-high heat then close the lid as it may only need 6 to 8 minutes to cook when left alone if it is not too thick.
You can also flip over the bacon strips halfway through cooking if you wish.
In A Microwave
If you are truly struggling for a grilling option then you can use the microwave though few would recommend it.
Start by laying three paper towels on a plate that you can safely use in the microwave which is to provide an absorbent layer for the rendered fat. Place your bacon slices on top in a single layer so there is no overlapping.
The cooking time largely depends on how crispy you like your bacon. You may want to half it so you can check it and perform a visual inspection then estimate how much longer it needs.
Set the microwave to high and cook it for a total time of between three and six minutes.
Cooked bacon is such a versatile ingredient and it can be used in a variety of recipes. These can include BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) sandwiches, as a flavor topping on salads, and even in cocktails.
The use of bacon in recipes may also insist on a visual inspection so you get the crispiness just right for however you intend to use it.
Of course, you can buy bacon bits as a salad topping though it is relatively easy to make it yourself by just crisping up some bacon then chopping it up.
For an even more inventive use of bacon in a salad, you can make hot bacon salad dressing.
Simply crisp up around eight slices of chopped-up thick-cut bacon then allow them to drain on a paper towel. Once cool enough to handle, crumble the pieces up and set them aside.
Keep about a quarter-cup of the rendered bacon fat in the skillet and whisk in three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, one and a half teaspoons of runny honey, half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
The mixture should look creamy and feel slightly thick as a salad dressing should as it warms up.
Remove the skillet from the heat then season with a slight pinch of Kosher salt and black pepper then spoon over your salad.
For a classic sandwich, you should try to make a BLT. That classic combination of bacon, lettuce, and tomato works so well together with a thick layer of mayonnaise. First, toast a couple of slices of thick bread and leave it to cool.
Use a deep skillet and cook four slices of bacon over medium-high heat to your desired doneness though evenly browned works well here and it should take around ten minutes.
As your bacon slices drain on some paper towels you can arrange a couple of lettuce leaves and two tomato slices on one slice of your toasted bread.
On the other toasted piece of bread, slather on a tablespoon of your favorite mayonnaise then place your bacon slices on top. Bring it all together, chop it in half and enjoy.
That’s right, the delicious saltiness of a slice of bacon can work well in a cocktail too. That includes a Bacon and Bourbon Cocktail which incorporates the sweet and salty flavors of cooked bacon.
Begin by creating a simple syrup by infusing two slices of crispy bacon and half a cup of pure maple syrup with a cup of water in a saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat then leave to simmer for a minute before removing from the heat and allowing it to cool.
With the simple syrup done, you can prepare the cocktail itself. Throw some ice cubes into a cocktail shaper and add an ounce each of your Bacon and Maple-Infused Syrup and unsweetened iced tea.
Your bourbon is the crucial ingredient so opt for a smoked maple variation and add two ounces to your cocktail shaker. Attach the lid securely then shake until combined and the shaker is cold to the touch.
One final touch can add a stunning effect to your cocktail as a piece of candied bacon can be used as a garnish and it only takes half an hour to prepare.
In an oven preheated to 375°F, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top.
Place a couple of bacon slices and sprinkle on around a teaspoon of brown sugar for an even coating on each strip.
Bake the bacon for around 20 to 25 minutes and you can check them halfway through though it should be done when the sugar has melted and the color has changed to a deep reddish-brown.
Before serving, leave the bacon slices to cool as the molten sugar can be exceptionally hot. Once the bacon has cooled, the sugar should harden.
At that point, you can drop the candied bacon into your cocktail and add even more sweetness.
A meat thermometer is typically used to check the internal temperature of meat cuts to establish whether they are done yet. That may be suitable unless your bacon cut exceeds half an inch thick.
However, as bacon is so typically thin this is not the most ideal method so your best means of control is looking out for telltale signs with a visual inspection.
You should be quick as bacon can quickly turn from just right to overdone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use A Meat Thermometer For Checking Bacon?
Unless your strip of bacon is at least half an inch thick, there is not enough room for any sort of thermometer to sufficiently check it.
Bacon is cut thin which can be helpful as it cooks so quickly, which also means you can perform a visual inspection to check it.
If you do want to insist on checking the internal temperature then you can use an instant-read thermometer if it is over a half-inch thick and check if it is cooked to at least 145°F.
How Do You Prepare Canadian Bacon?
Canadian bacon is a little bit different from traditional bacon that you may get from the grocery store or your local butcher.
For one, it is cured meat that comes from the pig’s loin so is much leaner than bacon that has originated from a pig’s belly. Due to the leaner nature of this bacon, you do need to be gentler with it.
The bacon may even not be already sliced and you can use a particularly sharp knife to cut your slices to your preferred thickness from the roll.
The best method to cook Canadian bacon is to use a skillet over medium heat and heat some olive oil.
Once the oil is warm you can place your bacon slices in one layer and there should be a reassuring sizzle as the meat hits the pan.
The cooking time for Canadian bacon should be about five minutes which can be extended considering the thickness.
However, with any bacon slices, you can use tongs to flip them over and guarantee their even cooking. Once fully cooked, the bacon slices should be crisped up on the edges and most of the fat rendered.
Should you want to get it even crispier, you can leave them for another minute or two before leaving to drain on some paper towels.