How to Know When Bacon is Done: Cooking Tips for Beginners

From this guide, you will learn why it is important to know when bacon is cooked enough, how to know when it is done, and best ways to cook bacon.
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Last updatedLast updated: August 22, 2021
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Bacon tends to go from not done to overcooked and inedible in a flash. As such, if you’re not careful or you have no idea what you’re doing, cooking it to the right doneness level will be a struggle. That said, the right doneness level will depend on your tastes. Some people prefer bacon a bit chewy, while others like it crisp. The difference between these two doneness levels is quite small, making the cooking process much more complicated for beginners.

For those wondering how to know when bacon is done, there are a couple of tell-tale signs. These include changes to the texture, shape, color, and more. If you’re familiar with them, you can ensure the doneness level is to your liking before serving the meat. For those who don’t know what to look for, this guide can help change that.

Why is it important to know if the bacon is done?

As we mentioned above, no matter what cooking method you’re using, if you don’t know how to tell when the bacon is done, you’ll end up throwing the pork in the trash. This is because the line between well done and burnt is quite thin. As such, many people unknowingly make the mistake of crossing it. Others are too afraid of this outcome and remove the bacon from the pan, grill, or oven before it is ready. The result is the same, the meat becomes inedible and is better off in the trash.

Once you’ve figured out how to know when bacon is done on a stove, microwave, smoker, or other cooking apparatus, avoiding the above outcomes becomes a walk in the park. Consequently, you should probably pay a lot of attention to the sections below where we discuss exactly how to do it.

How to tell when bacon is done cooking

How to Know When Bacon is Done: Cooking Tips for Beginners

There are a couple of different things to look at that include texture, color, shape, and moisture levels that will tell you when the bacon is done. If you’re observant enough, these signs can even tell you when the meat is close to being ready, so you’re better prepared to take it off the heat.

Texture

The texture can be one of the more complicated things to look at when you’re cooking bacon. Ideally, you want the meat crisp or crunchy enough, so it doesn’t tear off when you bite into it. Instead, the piece you bite should break or snap off from the rest of the bacon. Unfortunately, you can’t test it by bitting into it, and neither can you use your hands because you’ll burn yourself. What remains is to use either the back of a spoon or the back of a fork.

As you’re checking the texture, what you’re looking for is a body that would allow the bacon to be lifted from the pan or whatever cooking surface you’re using without dangling. This applies whether you like your bacon well done and crispy or a bit on the chewy side. Of course, if it’s too soft, the meat needs to cook some more.

Notably, the longer the bacon stays on a grill, electric griddle, or stove, the more frequently you should check the texture; otherwise, you might not notice when it’s done.

However, as long as the bacon is on the stove, the meat will still retain some give even if it’s overcooked. As such, don’t wait until the bacon is overly stiff or crunchy to take it off the stove as then it’ll be too late.

Shape and size

Another way you can know when bacon is done cooking is to look at the shape and size. When you first buy the meat, it’s fairly thick. However, the cooking process and exposure to heat are bound to reduce the sizes of the bacon strips significantly.

To be more specific, cooking bacon reduces the size by up to 40%. This is because much of the bacon’s makeup consists of moisture and fat that will evaporate and render away as you cook, leaving you with only the meat. As such, if it has shrunk to the limit and can’t shrink anymore, it’s close to done.

There are, of course, going to be shape changes as a result of the shrinkage as well. For one, the bacon will become a bit wavier on the sides. This is in addition to the corners curling up and away from the edge of the pan. As such, ensure all corners are evenly curled before taking the meaty strips off the stove.

Color

How to Know When Bacon is Done: Cooking Tips for Beginners

The color can also be very telling on the level of doneness for the bacon you’re cooking. When you buy it from the store, bacon will be a light pink color with some white fat strips that populate the meat’s surface. Also, just like most other meats, bacon changes color when cooked.

What you want is for the bacon to turn golden brown. That said, as soon as the color changes from pink to light brown, you should start checking the texture since it means it’s almost time to take it off the heat. Of course, if you wait too long and the color turns a darker shade of brown, you will have overcooked the meat.

Moisture and grease

While moisture and grease are there in raw bacon, they shouldn’t be there on the cooked product. In fact, when you dry the bacon on paper towels, all that should be left is dry, light, and crisp pieces of meat. That said, throughout most of the cooking duration, the bacon will be soaked in foamy grease. This is basically the fat that was part of the bacon being rendered out.

If your recipe requires turning, the foam is a sign that it’s time to flip the strips. That said, if this foamy grease starts to disappear, it’s almost time to take the bacon off the heat.

How to cook bacon

Now that you’ve learned how to know when bacon is done curing, all that remains is to cook your porky treats. If you’re uncertain about the right cooking processes, here are a few pointers depending on the cooking equipment you intend to use.

On a grill

How to Know When Bacon is Done: Cooking Tips for Beginners

If pulled off the right way, cooking bacon on a grill can impart excellent flavors onto the meat. You start by turning on your grill. If it’s an electric grill, you can set the temperature to 400 degrees before you start.

For gas and charcoal grills, you need medium-high heat. Consequently, for the former, you’ll turn the knobs to achieve the desired heat, while for the latter, it will be up to you to build a medium-hot fire. Once that is done, place a cast-iron skillet on the hot grate and leave it to heat up. The Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet is, according to users and reviewers especially suited to cooking bacon. It comes preseasoned with natural vegetable oil and can be used with various cooking appliances, including stoves and ovens in addition to grills.

Follow up by arranging the bacon strips on the skillet while ensuring they don’t touch each other. You can then close the grill’s lid and leave the bacon be for about eight minutes. However, if the bacon is extra thick, you’re better off extending that time frame to ten minutes.

After the eight or ten minutes, open the lid and flip the bacon. You can then continue to cook the bacon while periodically checking the doneness as per the instructions we’ve given above. When the meat is ready, transfer it from the skillet onto paper towels to eliminate the remaining grease. Then you can serve your bacon.

In a smoker

Cooking bacon in a smoker is easy, but it does take some time. You’ll need to preheat the smoker to 300 degrees. Next, add the bacon onto the grate. Ideally, this grate should be scrubbed clean before and after cooking the bacon.

Also, place something under the grate to catch the drippings; otherwise, you’ll struggle with eliminating the grease when it’s time to clean the smoker. Let the food cook for 30 minutes, and as you’re nearing the edge, be sure to stay vigilant, so you don’t overcook the meat.

In an oven

How to Know When Bacon is Done: Cooking Tips for Beginners

Using an oven is one of the most unproblematic ways to cook bacon. However, it does require a dedicated rack since bacon grease can be tricky to get rid of. Start by preheating the oven to the required 375-degree temperature. As the oven heats up, you should be putting the bacon on the dedicated rack.

Next, you place the rack on top of a baking dish. It’s also a good idea if the tin is dedicated to cooking bacon. Ensure the dish has enough space to catch all the grease that renders from the bacon, as these drippings can cause home cooking fires.

Put the rack and baking dish in the oven and let the meat cook. This setup cooks the porky strips evenly thus, there will be no need to turn the bacon. The food should be ready in about 12 minutes for regular thinly-sliced bacon, while extra-thick slices need about 20 minutes. Once ready dry with paper towels and serve.

On a stove

To cook bacon on a stove, lay the bacon strips on a cold pan. One of the most popular pans in the market for the job is the Mepra Grill Pan, and with good reason. This dishwasher-safe pan has a non-stick, easy-to-clean interior and even features a raised grill insert.

Once the strips are on the skillet, put it on the stove and adjust the heat to medium. After that, ensure you turn the bacon strips every one to two minutes. Keep doing this until the bacon is done. Typically, cooking on a stove takes between seven and 12 minutes, depending on thickness and heat. After you’re done, dry the meat on paper towels and serve.

In a microwave

While we don’t encourage this, it’s also possible to cook bacon in your microwave. You just pick one of your microwave-compatible plates and line it with several layers of paper towels. After that, you place the bacon strips on top of the paper towels. Remember, there should be some space between the strips.

You can then microwave the meat for between three and six minutes. This time frame will depend on how crispy you want the meat to be as well as the thickness of the strips. You can also pause the microwave at some point to check the progress.

If the strips aren’t dry by the time you remove them, you can dry them on new paper towels before serving.

Final thoughts

The processes for how to know when bacon is done are simple and straightforward. It doesn’t take much to learn them, and after that, you’ll be guaranteed great-tasting bacon anytime you cook. Furthermore, we’ve even added information on how to cook your bacon strips and the expected cook times. As such, you now have no excuse for over or undercooking your bacon.

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