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I grew up in a household where a Folgers coffee can of bacon fat lived permanently in the freezer—a result of our deep love for the salty slabs of pork. We were on a constant endeavor to find the best way to cook bacon: We tried the classic cast-iron pan method (with and without a screen), had a brief affair with the microwave, and endured a long air fryer bacon era fitted with a silly pig-shaped press. But the one appliance that has produced perfectly crispy B’s for our BLTs, time and again, is the oven.
The case for oven-cooked bacon
Cooking bacon in the oven has many advantages over other techniques. Sure, the air fryer gets it crispy, but you’re limited to a maximum of six pieces of bacon at a time in most models, which, let’s be honest, usually isn’t enough bacon. Anything that involves standing over a stove means you’re not only going to be dealing with splattering fat (just ask the many beloved T-shirts I’ve ruined in pursuit of extra-crispy bacon), but you’ll also have to clean a greasy pan. A bacon press eliminates the need to flip, but again, leaves you with another piece of equipment to clean.
With most of these methods, you need to give the bacon your full attention. Step away for a minute to slice a tomato for a BLT and your bacon could throw a toddler-level tantrum. But oven-cooked bacon allows you to live your life for 18 minutes or so while the pork does its thing. You don’t have to flip it, press it, or shield your kitchen from grease. And if you play your cards right, cleanup will take two minutes, flat.
What equipment do you need to make bacon in the oven?
There are two things you absolutely need to make perfect bacon in the oven: a rimmed sheet pan and paper towels to soak up excess grease from the cooked bacon. Using a rimmed sheet pan is important here, because if your pan is too shallow, you won’t be able to catch the grease.
From there, you have options. There are three ways to cook bacon in the oven—directly on an unlined sheet pan, on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, or on a metal cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Each method has pros and cons, and the right method for you will largely come down to personal preference. I tested all three, so you can find the one that works best for your needs.
Sheet pan + aluminum foil
My personal favorite way to cook bacon in the oven is on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, because it cooks evenly and gets crispy on both sides. Lining your pan with aluminum foil will help protect it from grease; it'll need a quick rinse or run through the dishwasher at most. If you save your bacon fat—and you absolutely should—it’s easy to lift up the foil, make a little chute, and pour that liquid gold directly into another vessel.
Sheet pan only
If you prefer to avoid single-use items in your kitchen, you can absolutely cook your bacon directly on a metal sheet tray. It will still crisp nicely, but throughout the testing process, I found that bacon tends not to cook as evenly without the foil lining; you’re more likely to get charred edges with less well-done centers. You’ll also have to deal with a greasy pan, which may or may not be a deal-breaker for you.
Sheet pan + cooling rack
With both of the above methods, the bacon more or less oven-fries in its own fat, resulting in something pretty similar to stovetop bacon. If you’d prefer to keep your bacon separate from the fat, a cooling rack is a great option, since the rendered fat will fall through. The result will be less greasy, but it will also be less crisp—and you’ll have both a pan and a cooling rack to clean up at the end.
Whichever method you choose, the oven makes cooking large batches of bacon more efficient, which is great if you’re feeding a crowd or cooking bacon to use in another recipe. Dealing with a situation where each member of your household likes their bacon cooked differently? Not a problem. Divide a large sheet tray into sections, each dedicated to a different doneness, or better yet, invest in some quarter-sheet trays. These miniature trays are also great if you want to make a single smaller batch without dealing with the hassle of stovetop methods.
What’s the best temperature for cooking bacon in the oven?
Generally, thin-cut bacon, which is most readily available at grocery stores, takes around 16–20 minutes at 400°–425° Fahrenheit to get crisp without being too charred. I like mine just this side of burnt, which I can easily achieve by cranking up the heat to 425°F and letting the strips cook for 16 minutes. If you’re working with extra-thick bacon, keep the temperature at 400°F, but let it cook for closer to 25 minutes so the fat has time to render without overcooking the rest of the bacon.
Bacon doneness is a highly individual thing, so if you’re new to cooking it in the oven, play around with the ranges above to make a few small batches. At the end of your experimental phase, you’ll find the right time and temperature that gets you to your ideal texture with very little mess and plenty of rendered fat, which you can save and use in cornbread and biscuits or to season your cast iron.