Bacon is a very important subject, so I won’t keep you waiting: always start with a cold pan. Whether you like your bacon shatteringly crisp or chewy, the goal is strips that are evenly cooked, without burnt bits of meat or rubbery pockets of fat. Which means that the pan—and the bacon—needs to heat up slowly.
When you put cold bacon in a hot pan, it will seize up, making the fatty parts of each strip flabby. You want the fat to render slowly, especially if you’re hoping for lots of drippings. (Of course you are.) As the pan heats up, the fat will melt and the meat will crisp up and cook through, making wonderfully crunchy slices.
Start with a cast-iron skillet. Aluminum pans heat up more quickly, which isn’t what you want when you’re cooking bacon. Lay the bacon strips in the cold skillet, then place the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Pan fry the bacon until the strips are crisp and deeply brown, flipping as needed. Transfer the cooked bacon to paper towels to drain and reserve the drippings.
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If you’re cooking bacon for a crowd, the stovetop method might not be the best way to go. You can bake bacon in the oven with fantastic results—although the cold pan rule does not apply. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Arrange bacon slices on a wire rack and place the wire rack over a sheet pan to catch the drippings. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
You can put the uncooked bacon in a cold oven, then heat the oven and let it cook slowly, but we’ve found that it doesn’t make a bit of difference in the end results. It just takes more time—which is precious when you have a crowd of hungry people waiting for a side of bacon with their pancakes and eggs.