I Tried Cooking Bacon in Water—Here's What Happened

Boiled bacon is more tender, but is it still crispy? I compared it to a traditional bacon-cooking method to find out.

Bacon in Pan
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Most of us who eat bacon have a favorite way of cooking it, whether it's baking it in the oven for maximum crispiness or cooking it in a pan. I am loyal to my method. (I put the bacon in a cold pan and then put it on a burner at medium heat—it works!).

Recently, though, word has been spreading on the internet that the (new) best way to cook bacon is in water. Yes, water. According to Dawn Perry, Real Simple's food director, cooking bacon in water could keep it tender on the inside while still crisp on the outside. How? The bacon fat would render into the water. Once the water evaporates, the bacon would crisp in its own fat. Intrigued, I decided to do my own side-by-side taste test.

The three methods I chose were: full water (completely submerging the bacon in a pan full of water); less water (putting just enough water in the pan to coat the entire bottom), and regular (which is my normal, at-home cold-pan, cold-bacon, hot burner method). I used the same skillet and type of bacon for each method.

Full Water Method

For the "full water" method, I covered four strips of bacon in water (probably 2 cups). I suspected this method would take the longest, since all of the water would have to evaporate before the bacon started to crisp. I was right. If you feel like adding an extra half hour to your breakfast routine, this may be the method for you. But for those of us who don't want to spend our time watching bacon boil in a pan, I would skip this method.

Less Water Method

In the "less water" scenario, I added just a couple of tablespoons of water to four strips of bacon. The water evaporated in two minutes, and then the strips were off to crispy-town. They browned super evenly, didn't splatter too much (since most of the rendered fat had evaporated with the water), and didn't burn at all. In terms of tenderness, the less water method was the clear winner. It was chewy and crispy and didn't sacrifice any of bacon's beloved ridges.

On the Stove, in a Hot Skillet

A minute after the pan hit the heat, the fat became glossy and started making those signature bacon noises (crack! pop! splat!). The regular method splattered a bit more and got some burnt edges, but it was bacon at its best. The regular bacon was as tender as bacon normally is, and definitely a bit crisper (thanks to those burnt edges) than the "less water" strips.

The Verdict

There were some surprises upon tasting. The bacon cooked with the "full water" method lost tons of its saltiness. (I mean, that's half the point of bacon!) The "less water" strips retained some of their savory appeal, although they were still far less salty than the regular bacon. (And if you ask me, they had the perfect balance of salt and fat.)

The bottom line: Unless you want un-salty, oddly-colored, tender bacon, don't use the "full water" cooking method. It took more than twice as long as the other two methods, and the result left a lot to be desired (salt, crispiness). Between the other two ways to cook bacon, it's a toss-up. If you are looking for more tender bacon than usual, splash a bit of water in your skillet. It sacrifices a little bit of flavor for maximum tenderness. But when you want to be able to pierce your bacon with your fork and have it stay together (instead of crumbling to bits), it's super worth it. If you want the full salty flavor of the bacon you grew up with, skip the water altogether. It's a classic for a reason, and no one wants to mess with perfection.

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