The Secret to Extra Crispy Bacon? Boiling It (Yes, Really)

Ah, bacon: a crispy, savory delicacy we can’t get enough of. There’s no doubt in our mind that it’s the best breakfast meat of them all, but the best way to prepare it has long been debated by foodies. Pan-frying is the old-school way to cook a few strips. Baking it may be the current fan favorite, since you don’t need to babysit it while it cooks and the heat is more evenly distributed in the oven than in a pan, resulting in evenly crisp results.

Recently, one viral method that we’d never heard of before came across our Instagram feed: boiling. We were skeptical…though we couldn’t help but bite. Read on for the technique, our test and the results.

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We first came across this hack in a viral video by Roice Bethel, the brains behind @noflakeysalt. The Instagram post, which has garnered more than 1 million likes since last June, starts with Bethel saying, “If you want perfectly crispy bacon, you need to boil it; I know that sounds like it wouldn’t work, but it does.”

He says bacon is comprised of muscle (the dark part) and fat (the white part), and explains that muscle cooks quickly, but fat takes a longer time to crisp. He then places bacon strips in a cold pan and adds just enough water to cover them.

“The water prevents the temperature from getting too high, which gives the fat time to render out,” he explains. “So, the meat and the fat finish cooking at the same time. Once the water completely evaporates, the bacon gets nice and crispy, the meat is not overcooked or burnt, the fat is perfectly rendered.”

The comments are, understandably, divided. Many commenters note that they’re devout bacon bakers, and that the oven gives them stellar, consistent results with no fuss. Some, however, sing out in support of Bethel:

“This is a fact. Works every time and flavor is the same.”

“I’ve tried it and it does work!”

Others…not so much:

“I tried this…like shoe leather. Terrible.”

“Big momma neva added water & she cooked it right err time. Y’all can have this….”

“Boil out all the flavor, got it.”

“IDK mane, this seems like a great way to have a grease fire.”

We see Bethel’s reasoning, and his results looked impressive…but isn’t moisture the enemy of crispness? We tried our hand at this unconventional method to find out if it’s the real deal.

viral boiling bacon hack: bacon cooking in a pan with water
Taryn Pire

How We Tested the Hack

We followed Bethel’s instructions to a T. We added four strips of generic thick-cut bacon to a large, cold skillet, then added just enough room temperature water to cover it. He didn’t say how high to turn up the heat, so we started at medium and waited for the water to start bubbling.

He flips the bacon repeatedly before it even starts to brown, so we did the same and continued to do so as the water began to evaporate. (It fully evaporated after about 15 minutes.) We continued to cook the bacon once the water was gone, the entire endeavor taking about 27 minutes until the strips looked crispy throughout; we cooked it for three minutes more for good measure. We finally transferred the strips to a paper towel-lined paper plate to drain and cool.

viral boiling bacon hack: four strips of crispy bacon on a paper towel-lined paper plate
Taryn Pire

The Results

The results were surprisingly delicious. The bacon was evenly cooked and crispy throughout; the fatty parts were ever so slightly softer than the muscly parts, but not so much that they were chewy. We were impressed by how tasty the bacon was, given how many commenters were worried that the water would make it less flavorful.

That being said, the process is kind of…unappetizing to watch. The fat separates and floats around in the water before it renders. When the cloudy, fat-infused water is almost gone, you can hear the bacon really begin to sizzle. Once the water is gone, it’s business as usual. (We appreciated that the water kept the bacon from spitting hot grease and made it really easy to scrape up the stuck-on bits once we were done. If the whole bubbling-pan-of-fat-and-smoke thing intimidates you, boiling may just become your favorite method for cooking bacon.)

The main con? It took 30 minutes from start to finish. Baking takes about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bacon, and pan-frying about 10 to 12 minutes. In the end, boiling is more time-consuming, but arguably less stressful and foolproof for beginners. If you’re cooking for a crowd, baking is easiest. For breakfast in a hurry, pan-frying is definitely your best bet.

But still…that was pretty cool. Science, right?

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Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...