Preventing Bacon Shrinkage: An Experiment

Picture of Preventing Bacon Shrinkage: An Experiment

Occasionally one finds an extraordinary claim being made. This happens in the wilds of the internet quite often. Not so often does it happen that these extraordinary claims are put to the test.

There is a meme making the rounds on the internet that contains one of these claims—that one can reduce the shrinkage of oven-cooked bacon by up to 50% by rinsing the bacon in cold water before cooking.

This claim has been examined, although not tested, by Lifehacker. They kindly assembled a shortlist of the literature on the subject, which we examined in order to determine applicable experimental techniques:

In the spirit of inquiry, we decided to put this claim to the test in order to demonstrate the principles of the scientific method (Also, who needs an excuse to eat bacon? Is it not true that sharing is caring?).

After a quick review of the literature, we looked at the meme and decided it was a great problem statement, which we could use as the basis for a proper scientific experiment.


Step 1: Question

Picture of Question

Is Perfect Bacon Possible?

Seems reasonable enough a question on the surface, but to get results (and real science!) out of the answer, we must establish a few experimental parameters, state a hypothesis, test it, and draw conclusions from our data.

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sharpstick1 year ago

Maybe it is assumed as a given, but you might want to recommend wearing clothing while cooking bacon on the stovetop.

Randy Disagrees!

windshadow1 year ago

I found that if I cook my bacon veerrryyyyy sloooooowww on medium or less in a pan with generous amounts of oil-previous bacon fat. It minimizes curling and reduces shrinkage. I get very flat excellent bacon .

I just set a timer for 12 min. Turn on the stovetop flip once and they come out consistently good.

Yes, that's the way to do it in a pan. I use an "undersized" pan so I don't need to prime it with much if any grease, but the principle is the same.

I do the opposite , I use a hot pan and I often turn them such that they curl in different directions an cook evenly without burning.

yes. this is the correct way. "medium" is just too hot, and the more grease the better, and none of that vegi oil crap :P. if you cook too hot the bacon grease will start to burn, turning dark. you want to keep it light.

I save my grease by stuffing a paper towel (usually the same one used to take up the extra grease from the cooked bacon) into a glass jar to make a filter basket, then pour slightly cooled grease into it, so that the particulates are removed, then store in the fridge. I'm not sure it's necessary to put it in the fridge, but it might keep longer than way.

Zadig1 year ago

How does this change when the bacon is woven? I baked a seven strip by seven strip woven bacon mat in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and found that the bacon shrinkage was minimal. I also found that when quartered, the bacon sheets were perfectly sized for standard bread sized sandwiches.

billbillt1 year ago

Testing and having to eat the bacon results is a rough job, but someone has to do it!....

"Is perfect bacon possible?" There is no such thing as imperfect bacon.

I learned the best way to cook bacon is in the oven on a sheet rack with something to catch the grease. Perfect crispy bacon every time
E_Shires1 year ago

I would like to point out the flaw in their baking technique though. When baking anything, if you put two trays in the oven, one over the other, you are adversely effecting how it cooks. The temperature will not be spread evenly that way. If you have to do that, you need to rotate the pans with equal times. Preferably more than once.

jdjonesdr1 year ago

stack 5 paper towels, lay bacon strips on top towel. Cover with two more towels. Microwave for 5 minutes. Let cool. Ridiculously crispy bacon that tastes GREAT! Virtually no cleanup afterwards.

"stack 5 paper towels, lay bacon strips on top towel. Cover with two more towels. Microwave for 5 minutes" THROW OUT THE BURNT BACON & EAT THE TOWELS

I suspect that what is going on here is that the salt is being washed away from the curing. Less salt, less shrinkage.

Yep, JdJonesdr, that's the way I do it, and I agree. However, I've found that the number of bacon pieces will determine how many minutes it's cooked, so less bacon, less time. Also, if you let it cool too long, the fat that was cooked onto the towels may cool off too much and harden a bit making the bacon stick to the paper towel. I love this way of cooking bacon.

hungrybill1 year ago

You can improve the behavior of your bacon in the skillet by adding a few tablespoons of water as you begin cooking. This is much less messy than rinsing the bacon. The water boils off and the strips of bacon don't shrink as much and don't burn as easily. As in all worthwhile endeavors, don't rush it.

By adding water, you are controlling the temperature to 212º F. The skillet temp cannot rise above 212º until the water turns to steam. You are essentially cooking the bacon at a much lower temperature than 365º, which isn't a bad idea.

However, though the bacon shrinks less using the oven method, you raise the cost of the bacon by running the oven at 365 degrees to cook it for 40 minutes. But who cares? Viva bacon!

mrdovie1 year ago

From "The Great Depression", coat the bacon in all purpose flour, by patting the bacon, both sides in the flour on a plate, then fry of bake. Not for the purist, but Oh My! for the rest of us! My dad taught me this trick.

cpedersen11 year ago

Ok Craftclarity, time for full disclosure. This is a contest where you use scientific method, right? So you use bacon in your experiment. And who was one of the fathers of scientific method? Francis Bacon ! This is absolutely the most blatant pandering for votes that I have ever seen! Of course I voted for you !

spyderjohn1 year ago

Soak in bourbon for 15min prior to cooking in the oven at 300deg for 35min. the result is amazing.

Now you're talking. Booze up my bacon, please.

Great! Even if the hypothesis hasn't prooved, its a very important result and base for further research in baconology. Btw, there are serious researchers doing that since decades. A small tip to reduce systematical errors and better measurement: Do not use one block of Bacon for each grouped Test. If you are mixing them after slicing (Test 1 (T1) to Test i (Ti)) and ignore the sides (just eat them anyway) (So you get ( 0 | T1 | T2 | .. | Ti | T1 | ... | Ti | 0 )) This will reduce systematical bacon-block based errors and one can use a precise weighing scale and correlate that with lenght. Also the process of watering the bacon should be varied and controlled. Just a few more weeks of work and it is worth to get published ... voted ;)

Not to mention that the temperature of "cold" water is subjective. Rinse times. The type and cut of bacon. Curing methods used. Thickness. I could go on. But my suggestion is you need to get back in the kitchen and perform more experiments. This is hardly settled.

But, it was enough for a vote. LOL

Oh, and make enough for everyone. Flavor is a big subjective wrench. Must use a large sampling....

jdawgaz1 year ago

ahhh. chicken fried bacon with white gravy. yum.

clazman1 year ago

I was really interested when I read of the "scientific method" being used to perform a qualitative analysis.

The bar chart was "neat" but it displayed what.

Was I disheartened to find no scientific analysis.

All I see is a two dimensional analysis. No measurement of the thickness

No discussion of weight before and after no measurement of the amount of water driven off. No discussion of the amount of fat that exude from the bacon. No discussion of weight of the bacon before and after. Oh, I'm wrong, the initial weight of the bacon was noted.

QED. yuck!

lbrewer421 year ago

Try getting bacon from a local, private butcher sometime. I have found that the amount of meat per strip is much higher than store bought and its a LOT better tasting IMHO. As I have gotten older I have seen store bought bacon go from being like the private stuff - meaty - to being little more than strips of fat.

My guess is that over the years the way they raise the animals has changed to one of trying to be more rapid in fattening them rather than waiting for the animal to grow (hence more muscle), but I admit this is all just a guess.

also, the corporate meat machines soak their bacon (and other meats) in water to add weight and therefore less meat overall--akin to the butcher putting his thumb on the scale.

This was silly overall, and 'bacon-abusive' with reference to the 'skillet' group. Blackened bacon...mppht...

agreed: severely overcooked. the intrepid experimenters should be flogged with raw bacon for their affront to baconage worldwide.

Heck Yeah!!!! The burnt bacon was the first thing I noticed. SEVERE bacon abuse, bordering on bacon blasphemy!

willco11 year ago

It's Bacon. I'm not sure you can ruin bacon. Test material being otherworldly good regardless of prep.

Perfect beacon recipe:

1/2 Cup Canola oil

1 Slab Thick Cut Bacon (peppered preferable)

Put Oil and slab of bacon in skillet large enough to hold it. turn on to medium heat cook till done separating bacon as you cook. Once bacon is to desired level of cooking remove. Consume immediately at kitchen counter the moment it is cool enough to eat.

Serve crumbs with eggs on the plate to who ever was stupid enough to believe it would make it to a plate to be served.

Buy the way great post keep up the good work.

Perhaps the perfect Instructable.
Except no parmesan cheese, the other perfect food.

Thank you for your great work.

jrfrank1 year ago

We bake our bacon on parchment paper, not aluminum foil, at 400 degrees F. Works great!

castleroc1 year ago

A cast iron bacon press is the key. Used in restaurants, it should be preheated before use so that one side of bacon does not cook slower. Pinned by the weight, the bacon cooks without shrinking nearly as much. a recent find in walgreens

Maple Bacon Jerky... My newest vice. loved your 'ible

I appreciate all the work that went into this project. Superb effort. I always do mine in the oven too sometimes adding some maple syrup

Thank you for drawing our attention back to this most wonderful and nutritious food! I'm sure you had an awesome time working up this one! Bacon favorites, anyone? Peanut butter/bacon sandwiches are The Best!!!

jsadler11 year ago

There is a creature called a bacon iron. One simply uses a flat pan or griddle and the bacon is cooked while being pressed by a flat iron weight. It works.

wonderful instructable, i do hope you win the contest and get rich and famous!

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