How Do You Know When Bacon is Done: 4 Things to Keep a Close Eye on

To tell when your bacon is done, look out for a golden brown color, grease build-up on the pan, a firm crispy texture, and shrinkage accompanied by curling around the edges of the bacon. These tell-tale signs used hand in hand will tell you for sure when bacon is done.

Bacon is a breakfast staple because it is delicious, crispy, and bursting with flavor when cooked just right. I picked up my bacon-whipping techniques in culinary school and I’d love to share them with you. They work like a charm every time, promise.

In this post, I will get into 4 distinct signs that tell when bacon is done and factors that determine how long to cook it. I will also tell you the easiest ways to prep for delicious crispy bacon. Shall we?

4 Ways to Tell When Bacon is Done

Here are 4 things to look out for to tell if your bacon is fully cooked:

One Pound of Freshly Sliced Smoked Bacon With Two Eggs, Garlic, and Onion


Fresh bacon right out of its package is light pink, with white streaks of fat running through the entire slice of bacon. This rich marbling of fat is because it comes from pork belly. As this fat renders, it cooks the meat until it is brown and crispy. Therefore, the appearance of your sizzling bacon is the loudest difference between cooked and uncooked bacon.

As your bacon slice cooks, it slowly changes color from light pink to a reddish brown color when it is lightly crisp. Some people like it a bit soft but I find most people prefer their bacon quite crispy.

If that’s the case, let your bacon cook a little while longer until it turns golden brown. This should take only a few minutes so keep your eyes on the frying bacon. Once it starts to take on a dark brown color, take it off the heat immediately because it is starting to overcook.

Shrinkage and Size

Given that bacon comes from the pork belly, it has a high-fat content and just like other types of meat, it also has its fair share of moisture. Once a bacon slice hits the hot frying pan, a lot of its moisture starts evaporating and the fat starts to render causing shrinkage.

Additionally, you should notice the edges of your bacon slices start to curl away. This happens because fat and muscle react to heat at different speeds. Fat will render faster than the muscle meat will cook thus some portions of the bacon, those richer in fat, will experience more shrinkage causing the curly, wavy nature of cooked bacon. This is why cooked bacon slices are considerably shorter and thinner than uncooked bacon.

Grease Level

A lot of the fat present in bacon begins to render when exposed to heat. It is observed as white foam that seems to be bubbling on the surface of the bacon. This is usually an indicator that it is time to flip the bacon and let its underside cook as well.

So by the time your bacon is done, the amount of grease on the pan should increase significantly. I always save the bacon grease to impart the nutty taste of bacon to other recipes like pan-fried eggs and toasted sandwich buns.


The texture of bacon changes dramatically as it cooks. Raw bacon has a slimy texture caused by its rich fat content and moisture content. As the water evaporates and fat renders during cooking, the bacon slices take on a harder crispier texture.

Even if you prefer your bacon cooked to rare, you should still be able to lift your cooked slices without them dangling or bouncing. Bouncy bacon is not cooked.

I will also stress that you should not wait until your bacon is entirely stiff to turn off the heat. As the adage goes, practice makes perfect and after a few rounds of cooking bacon, you will strike that perfect balance.

Bacon and Eggs Cooking Together in Iron Skillet

What About Thick Slices of Bacon?

As for thicker slabs of bacon that are over 1/2 an inch thick, these 4 signs might not present the same as in thinner slices. When in doubt, aim for an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

If you are browsing for the perfect meat thermometer to get the job done, I recommend ThermoPro TP19H Digital Meat Thermometer. It has a thin probe that can easily be driven to the middle of a thick bacon slice and is highly accurate not to mention well-priced.

Note: none of the above methods is 100% accurate when used on its own. So I must insist that you apply all of them since they can often be noticed at the same time.

Factors That Affect How Long It Takes to Cook Bacon

Most recipes call for a cooking time of at most 20 minutes. This timeframe provides a nice estimate to work with. However, this is not set in stone since several factors affect bacon cooking time so for best results, consider the following:

Type of Pan

A cast iron skillet is your best friend when cooking bacon strips. Its thick build makes it excellent at retaining heat and keeping cooking temperatures.

You can probably get away with a non-stick frying pan but it usually gets too hot and starts burning the grease even before the bacon cooks through. This yields bacon strips that are unevenly cooked which is the opposite of what we are going for.

Use Room Temperature Bacon Strips

Some say that is perfectly safe to cook bacon straight from the freezer. I have tried this in the past and I strongly disagree for 3 reasons.

  1. Since the cold bacon is expected to defrost as it fries, the combination of hot water and oil on a fire makes for an awful experience for the cook. The sizzling water droplets mixed in oil splash uncontrollably, settling on your hands and clothes. This is very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
  2. Cold bacon slices will not cook evenly because the chilled fat and chilled muscle meat will defrost at different rates.
  3. It takes much longer to fry bacon from its frozen or chilled state than it takes to fry fully defrosted bacon.

For these reasons, I recommend taking your bacon out of the fridge and letting it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. When 30 minutes are up, pat the strips dry to get rid of any excess moisture. Now you can slap it onto the skillet. If your bacon is frozen, defrost it in the refrigerator, let it sit at room temperature, and then pat it dry before frying it.

Cook At Lower Temperatures

When cooking bacon, most of us are tempted to heat the skillet before we introduce the bacon slices. A hot skillet heats the bacon too fast to adequately render the fat. This often means you will have to cook it longer yielding very little grease and unevenly cooked bacon.

For best results, I recommend placing your bacon strips on a clean cold skillet and then heating it. With this method, you will notice that a lot of fat will melt off the bacon within the first few moments of cooking leaving plenty of grease on the pan. This takes a few seconds longer but the result is always perfectly cooked bacon.

Do Not Overcrowd the Skillet

Lastly, avoid overcrowding the skillet by frying too many bacon strips at a go. To ensure they cook evenly, it is paramount that every inch of bacon is in direct contact with the cooking pan or baking sheet. This can only be achieved when there are fewer pieces of bacon cooking.

If you overcrowd the pan, your slices will cook unevenly resulting in overcooked and undercooked bacon portions. You do not need that hassle. Instead, put just enough strips in the pan and watch how easy it is to cook them.

Bacon in the Skillet Over a Fire

Which is the Best Way to Cook Bacon?

There is no wrong way to cook your bacon as long as it is cooked properly. You can make bacon on a stovetop, in the oven, microwave, air fryer, pizza oven, or buckle down for smoked bacon. Let’s look at the classics:

Cooking Bacon on the Stovetop

The fastest and simplest cooking method is by frying bacon on the stovetop. It is as easy as this:

  • Prepare the bacon by taking it out of the fridge and letting it sit at room temp for half an hour.
  • Grab your cold skillet and place it on medium heat.
  • Lay your bacon strips in a single layer, making sure you leave adequate space between the pieces. Do not overcrowd the skillet.
  • Drizzle a small amount of olive and let it cook until the fat starts foaming on the surface of the bacon.
  • Flip the strips and let the opposite side cook.
  • Look out for a crispy texture, curling around the edges, and a golden brown color. At this point, your bacon will be much smaller and you should see a lot more bacon grease rendered onto the pan.
  • Take the strips off the skillet and rest them on a plate.
  • Get rid of the excess grease using a kitchen paper towel. This whole process should take about 20 minutes. Easy peasy!

Cooking Bacon in the Oven

If you have to cook several dishes at a go, you can opt to cook your bacon in the oven using these step-by-step instructions:

  • Prepare the bacon by making sure it is at room temperature. Pat the strips dry.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Using baking paper, line your baking sheet. The baking paper keeps the bacon from getting scorched should the oven get too hot.
  • Lay your bacon slices on the lined baking sheet. Make sure none of them are overlapping.
  • Cook the bacon slices until they are golden or light brown. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Flip the bacon and cook the underside for an additional 10 minutes or until they are as crispy as you like.
  • When the bacon is done, transfer the slices onto a plate and use a kitchen paper towel to blot out any excess grease. Serve.

Cooking Bacon in the Microwave

If none of those two methods work for you, why don’t you try making crispy bacon in the microwave?

Since the microwave cooks using dry heat, it will get your bacon crispy in a comparatively shorter time. However, this cooking method is also notorious for leaving hot spots in the food.

For that reason, stick to thin slices of bacon as opposed to thick bacon slices. To start:

  • Ensure your bacon is ready to cook. I recommend cooking it at room temperature.
  • Line a microwave-safe plate with two layers of baking paper.
  • Gently lay the bacon slices leaving enough space between the slices.
  • Cover with an extra layer of baking paper to prevent scorching.
  • Set your microwave on high and cook for around 6 minutes till crisp and golden in color.
  • Once done, empty them onto a plate and pat the excess grease away with kitchen paper towels.
Male Hands While Using Microwave

Is It Safe to Eat Partially Cooked Bacon?

Absolutely not!

Remember, bacon is made from raw pork, turkey, or beef. It is therefore smart to err on the side of caution. Do not eat undercooked bacon under any circumstances.

Just like is the case when you eat bacon raw, undercooked bacon can still put you at risk of food poisoning associated with the consumption of raw pork and poultry. Raw bacon could contain disease-causing pathogens which bring with them a set of very unpleasant symptoms. Trust me, you do not want that.


1. How Long Does It Take to Cook Bacon?

Most bacon recipes call for a cooking time of 10-20 minutes. That said, the total cooking time will come down to the pan you use, the cooking temperature, the temperature of the bacon, and ultimately how crispy you like your bacon.

2. Should Bacon Be Crispy or Chewy?

Chewy bacon is usually indicative of a shorter cooking period. The crispier the bacon, the longer it has been cooked.

Whether you like chewy bacon or fully cooked bacon, it should achieve some degree of crispness depending on the fat and moisture lost in the cooking process. Whatever you do, do not eat raw bacon as this can cause unpleasant symptoms.

Just a Run-through

There are several key indicators that will tell you when bacon is done. First, the color will shift from a raw pink hue to a delectable golden brown. Second, the texture of the bacon will alter significantly, transitioning from a slimy feel to a firm and crispy consistency. Additionally, as the bacon cooks, it will render more fat, resulting in an increase of grease collected in your pan or baking dish. Lastly, when it’s nearing its perfect point of crispiness, the bacon will shrink in size and its edges will begin to curl up.

Once you learn to use these 4 signs together, telling when your bacon is fully cooked will become more intuitive. If you are new to cooking bacon, roll with the punches as you learn what works and what doesn’t.