Bacon cooked in water is more tender, but is it still crispy? I compared it to a traditional cooking method to find out.
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!), but for the sake of science I decided to put it to a test.
Recently, 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 commenced with a little Googling, and decided to do my own side-by-side taste test.
The three methods I chose were: full water (a name I lovingly gave it), which covers a pan of bacon in enough water to completely submerge the slices; less water (another name of my choosing), which puts 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.)
Cooking Bacon in Water
For the "full-water" method, I started 4 strips of bacon in enough water to cover them (probably 2 cups). I suspected this method would take the longest, since all of the water has to evaporate before the bacon starts 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 of water, I would suggest skipping this cooking method.
Cooking Bacon in Less Water
In the less-water scenario, I started with 4 strips of bacon but just a couple tablespoons of water. The water evaporated in two minutes, and then it was off to crispy-town for those strips. 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 all at once, and didn’t sacrifice any of bacon’s beloved ridges.
Cooking Bacon on the Stove, in a Hot Skillet
As usual, the fat became glossy a minute after the pan had been on the heat, and it started making those signature bacon noises (crack! pop! splat!). The regular method definitely splattered a bit more, and also 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.
There were some surprises upon tasting. The bacon cooked in by "full-water" method lost tons of its salty appeal (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, which, if you ask us, had the perfect balance of salt and fat.
The verdict: Unless you want un-salty, oddly-colored, tender bacon, don’t use the "full water" cooking method. It took more than twice as long than the other two methods, and the result left a lot to be desired (salt, crispiness). Between the other two, it's a toss-up. If you are looking for bacon that is more tender than usual, splash a bit of water in your skillet. It sacrifices a little bit of flavor for maximum tenderness, which in cases where you want to be able to pierce your bacon with your fork and have it stay together (instead of crumble to bits) is super worth it. If you want the full salty flavor of the bacon you grew up with, skip the water all together. It’s a classic for a reason, and no one wants to mess with perfection.