/ Food & Drink

Bringing home the bacon: how do you have yours?


The saying goes that everything tastes better with bacon, and I’m inclined to agree, but does how you cook and serve it make any difference, and will it pay to buy a more expensive cut? 

Whether it’s stuffed between two slices of fluffy white bread with a good dollop of ketchup (sorry, brown sauce fans!), wrapped around a sausage for your Christmas Day pigs-in-blankets, or sat alongside a fried egg, baked beans and all the trimmings for your full English, for me, bacon really is the star of the show.

I personally think the wonderful sizzling sound as it cooks and the resulting smoky, meaty aroma is one of the best alarm clocks around. The smell of it can definitely help to drag me down to the breakfast table in the morning.

But what do you look for when buying your bacon and how do you like to cook it? These days, you can buy smoked or unsmoked bacon, in a range of thickness, cures, cuts, and saltiness, and cook it in the aforementioned ways and more. All of these can affect the flavour.

Or perhaps you like to check the provenance and welfare of your bacon. Outdoor bred vs outdoor reared? Red Tractor vs RSPCA-assured?

Rasher decision

Our expert panel recently blind taste tested 10 premium brands of bacon and they agreed that fat content, saltiness and the thickness of the cut could all affect how much they liked it.

There’s also debate around cooking methods when it comes to bacon. Some people swear by frying bacon, others prefer to grill it, and some even microwave it.

One of our expert panel members suggested cooking it in the oven on a very low heat (130°C) for half and hour. When I tried this method, it produced bacon that was crispy yet succulent, and not at all dried-out.

How do you cook your bacon?

Grill it (46%, 725 Votes)

Fry it (27%, 423 Votes)

I don't eat bacon (17%, 266 Votes)

Microwave it (7%, 106 Votes)

Other (3%, 53 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,573

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So what do you look for when buying bacon? Smoked or unsmoked? Back bacon or streaky? And how do you like to cook and eat your bacon? Grill or fry? Sandwich or roll? Ketchup or brown sauce?


Bacon is so versatile – apart from fried bacon and fried eggs, it gives a lift to cauliflower cheese, adds texture to beans on toast, and to salads when fried and chopped. With tinned tomatoes and fried bread it makes a change at breakfast. We don’t choose smoked bacon, and prefer it thin rather than thick – particularly streaky. But avoid those with added water that leave a grey scum in the shrunken remains.

Go vegan, its so much less cruel, save the pigs, its the least you can do

If everyone went vegan there would be no pigs.

I use bacon in soups, quiches, etc. I don’t fry or grill bacon because high temperature cooking increases the risk of cancer, partly because of the nitrites used in its processing. I wish Which? would mention the safety issue.

UK population at its oldest ever in mid-2014
The population of the UK is ageing. Ageing of the population refers to both the increase in the average (median) age of the population and the increase in the number and proportion of older people in the population.

The median age of the UK population (that is the age at which half the population is younger and half the population is older) at mid-2014 was at its highest ever at 40.0. This is a slight increase from last year, caused by the growth in population at older ages.

Over the 40 year period 1974 to 2014, the median age of the UK population has increased from 33.9 years to 40.0 years; an increase of over 6 years.

Lots of things are not good for us and as we will not live forever we might as well enjoy what we like. It does not look as though bacon is having an adverse effect on our lives.

I know too many people who have developed bowel cancer, Malcolm. Processed meat increases the risk, especially if subjected to cooking at high temperature.

I have just received a bowel cancer screening kit: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/bowel-cancer-screening/Pages/what-happens.aspx

Don’t forget to use it wavechange. It is some reassurance hopefully). The point I was suggesting was that we all succumb at some point, from a variety of causes; we rarely know which one. The main thing is to enjoy your life. If you like fried bacon (me), barbecued meat (not me), then providing you don’t use it to excess, be happy.

I was simply commenting on the greater risk associated with high temperature cooking of bacon. Maybe someone might find it useful.

We covered cancer health scares in May and it looks at various food products and whether you should be concerned. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/04/which-debunks-cancer-health-scares/

It might be helpful to you Wavechange

Thanks Alex, but it’s a very complicated subject and there is conflicting evidence. I was not intending to start an off-topic discussion.

So here I am at 77, free of cancer, and I fry my bacon. Arguing from the particular to the general of course!

Many heavy smokers have not developed lung cancer but others have and smoking is the main risk factor for developing COPD for those unaffected by occupational exposure. The health risks of smoking, obesity, eating red meat and drinking alcohol are well known and moderation is the sensible approach. I was not trying to take this Convo off-topic but to mention a concern that many may not be aware of. If you have reached 77 then there is a good case for carrying on doing what you enjoy.

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That’s true but is not the only factor. If a parent suffered from bowel cancer, you are at more risk, in the same way that fair skinned people are at more risk from sun. We have no control over the genetic aspect, of course, but we can choose what we eat.

I followed the link to this :
27 Jan 2011 Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2011/01/too-much-water-in-supermarket-bacon-242253/ – Which?

What I found interesting is lower on the same page as the bacon story there is 2013 stuff. ” People who switched with us between 1 October and 31 December 2013 are predicted to save an average of £234 a year on their bills.”

Rather disconcerting.

I am a fan of bacon and it is interesting to read of the slow bake method. I will try that when I next have some in the house.

I have been using the microwave for bacon at about 45 seconds per rasher and as you cover the slices with kitchen paper there is no splatter and restricted grease. As rashers differ in size length and depth; and people like them in different crispnesses feel free to dial in different times.

If one has no dry-cured bacon and are forced to cork scummy wet bacon then the microwave method does still work – assuming of course you have a ridged platter underneath the slices.

Sorry, Patrick, we’ve got to disagree here. I cannot microwave bacon, I like mine crispy – the kind of crispy that it breaks when you put your fork in to it. There’s no way a microwave could do that (or so I am aware). My partner gets so annoyed when we’re in a restaurant/cafe and I ask for the bacon to be well done.

I am with Patrick on microwaving bacon. We used to grill it but started cooking it like this on a ridged platter when we had no cooker. So no more burnt bacon fat splashes to deal with.

Our bacon comes from our local butcher and is not full of water like some supermarket bacon.

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I’m friends with quite a few people who don’t eat bacon and I’ve become a bit of a fan for Facon. Definitely not the same as bacon but it’s quite nice in a BLT (or a FLT)

Hadn’t thought of trying Facon, might give it a go Alex. Have been a vegetarian for years. Husband loves bacon though, likes it crispy and fried. He definitely would not microwave it.

What does any food do for you however it is cooked ? all food just stops the pangs of hunger ,it might taste different but just does the same thing no matter how its cooked or how expensive it is and it all ends up in the same place where no one can tell the difference Does it really matter what you eat ?

Sadly, yes. It’s what it does in between that provides nutrition or does the damage.

I’m curious to know what the two people who voted ‘other’ do…?.?.?

I’m one of the ‘other’ votes, Joe. As I explained, I use bacon in soups and quiches.

Wrap it round a large potato, parcel it in foil and cook it in a moderate oven for an hour and a half, while cooking other things. Alternatively put thick sliced potatoes (painted with oil and seasoned) on a ‘Pyrex’ plate (silicone glass if you prefer) in a hot (200 degrees centigrade) oven for fifteen minutes, add the bacon and cook for a further fifteen. Serve with veg or, for a flatulent delight, baked beans. Substitute bacon can be meat balls, gammon, or chicken portions, but these need cooking for as long as the potatoes and, in the case of the chicken, fifteen minutes more. Parsnips can be cooked in this way instead of, or as well as, potatoes.

We sometimes cook a bacon/ham joint in the slow-cooker. It turns out very moist and tender.

For breakfast? Use a non-stick frying pan. Add mushroom, tomato, lean bacon, and a little water in place of fat. Add lambs kidney and or liver to taste. Boil on moderate heat. The mushroom absorbs a little of the bacon taste. Don’t boil dry. Add an egg. Toast brown bread. Serve the breakfast. Put the toast in the frying pan to absorb the remaining juices and add to the plate. Enjoy a delicious healthy breakfast.

Martin I might try this but I’m going to skip on the kidney/liver!

All this talk of bacon is making my mouth salivate. Think I might have to have spaghetti carbonara for dinner tonight and use the remaining rashers for a sandwich tomorrow.

On another note, I’ve added in a link to our taste test results.

It’s always a good day when there’s bacon news – https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/10/best-bacon-for-your-buttie-or-fry-up/

If you want to lather breakfast with red or brown sauce, forget the bacon, use thin cardboard. It will taste the much same and be cheaper.

@martinscherer do you have a little sauce on the side or not at all?

I am more than a little disappointed that you did not include ‘free range’ in your list headed ‘The lowdown on labelling’. These are pigs that are born outside – and which remain entirely outside until the day they are taken to the abattoir. In my view, ‘Outdoor reared’ pigs and ‘Outdoor bred’ pigs are terms which are easily misunderstood by the public, who believe them to be genuinely free range pigs – which is clearly not the case.
We (along with many other small-time breeders) rear genuinely free range, rare-breed pigs, and the bacon produced from them is – in my opinion – far superior to that which is available in supermarkets.

Alan Ward says:
21 October 2017

My first choice in choosing bacon is that it MUST be British, unsmoked & a thicker slice.
I’ll usually grill, as always use grill for accompanying sausage & hash browns. Maybe halved tomato & mushrooms.
For a quick butty it’ll be microwave, pouring off excess fat every minute or so.
In all cases I’ll slice into fatty edge (doing all slices in a pack in one go) at intervals which stops slices from curling up and helping crisp up fatty edge, my preference.
Am looking forward to trying the oven method in the article.

All modern bacon contains some water, even today’s dry cure. Im my youth dry cure was commonest in our part of the world, and was as solid as parma ham. Today it would have a label like salami “product contains (well over 100gm) pork per 100gm of product. Cure is also at a lower strength than historically, to limit the ingestion of nitrates / nitrites, hence todays bacon is not so dry.
Wiltshire traditional wet cure involved a long soak in a swimming pool sized bath of brine. Today this is hurried up by injecting the cure into the meat, but the water content is about the same (12-13%). The main problem with cooking wet cured bacon comes if you buy a thin sliced product. Oh for the days of the countertop bacon slicer! However Lidl do a thick cut bacon (smoked and non) for just over £4 a kilo and it cooks and tastes well. £10 a kilo bacon is just a “lifestyle” choice – if the testers buy this, you’re paying them far too much…..

My grandson has a severe gut problem which has been treated by the ‘top ‘ specialist in UK, and then various others for the last 3 years.
So far nobody has been able to make a clear diagnosis.
At this time we have been referred to a paediatric nature doctor who we are very enthused about, and as my grandson more or less exists on bacon she is very happy for him to continue but with NITRATE free bacon!!
Can anyone tell me where this is available, and also WHY has all the bacon I have so far looked at (top supermarkets) got nitrates in? I realise it is to prolong the life? but surely we should be able to have the choice!
My grandson cooks the best bacon – slowly fried streaky, turned occasionally for about 15 minutes….. shown an old dog new tricks!!

Hi Wendog – it would be interesting to know if the nitrate-free bacon helps your grandson, I hope it does! I found this article from The Guardian which I hope helps 🙂 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/dec/29/nitrate-free-naked-bacon-rashers-to-reach-british-supermarkets

Nitrites are added to processed meats as a preservative to prevent food poisoning and nitrates used to prevent the pink meat becoming an unappetising grey colour. I’m all in favour of getting rid of nitrites and nitrates but wonder about the safety of not having a preservative. Maybe the salt content has been increased.