Overnight Sous Vide Bacon Recipe

A little planning ahead yields crisp bacon that melts in your mouth.

Sous vide bacon being crisped on a griddle.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Cooking bacon sous vide overnight leads to extraordinarily tender results.
  • A quick sear on one side only gives you a crisp texture to contrast with the tenderness.

I love the work that they do over at ChefSteps, but when I saw their video recommending sous vide bacon, I have to admit I rolled my eyes a little. This has got to be one of those "everything looks like a nail when you have a hammer" situations, I said to myself. You know, one of those times when sous vide is deployed just for the sake of sous vide, rather than to actually improve things. I mean, can you really improve on plain old fried bacon? What could possibly be the point of cooking bacon at 147°F overnight?

Still, I trust them enough that I decided to give it a spin.

Half-eaten bacon next to some scrambled eggs.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Holy cow pig, that is some good bacon!

I mean, really, really good. The idea of bacon that's crisp and moist at the same time is appealing, but in practice, it ends up crisp in some areas and rubbery in others—which is why I generally prefer my bacon cooked completely crisp. But overnight sous vide bacon using an immersion circulator is the first bacon I've ever tasted that delivers on that moist-and-crisp promise. It's crispy on the exterior as you bite into it, but it quite literally melts in your mouth, like the finest confit pork belly, as you chew.

I suppose this makes sense, because that's exactly what it is: smoked, cured confit pork belly.

The ChefSteps method has you cook bacon directly in its package at 147°F (64°C) for at least overnight and up to two days before taking it out and searing it in a skillet on one side only. To satisfy my own curiosity, I cooked bacon at temperatures ranging from 135°F (57°C) to 165°F (74°C) for times ranging from one hour all the way up to two days.

At temperatures above 155°F (68°C), the leaner sections of the bacon start to dry out, and they stay dry no matter how long you cook it. At 135°F, the bacon takes a full two days to completely tenderize. So the ChefSteps recommendation of 147°F was pretty spot-on. I rounded it down to 145°F (63°C)—I didn't notice that the two extra degrees made any difference, and 145 is an easier number to remember than 147.

Six slices of cooked (but not browned) bacon on a platter.
Bacon cooked at six different temperatures.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

As for timing, you do need to let it go at least eight hours to get the tenderizing effect. A full day or more is marginally better, but I suspect most folks who are going to cook like this are dropping their bacon into the water bath the night before, then searing it for breakfast.

Speaking of searing, I tried searing at various temperatures, as well as on one side only and on both sides. Medium-high heat (around 325°F/163°C, if you have a temperature-controlled cooking surface) produced the best results, and searing on one side is definitely the way to go—if you sear on both, you end up over-crisping the bacon, thereby losing any of the advantages that sous vide offered it in the first place. That said, I do flip the bacon and cook it on the second side for just a few seconds to add some color. If you've got a bacon weight or a finishing trowel, like I do, use it; you'll get better contact with the pan and better crisping.

What's great about this method is that you can cook the bacon directly in the package that it comes in, and searing takes only a matter of minutes, which means that after you drop it in the water bath the night before, breakfast the next morning is lightning-fast. Far faster than cooking raw bacon from scratch on a griddle or in the oven.

Even better is that you can par-cook in bulk. You can cook an entire pack of bacon—or as many packs as will fit into your water bath—all at once, then refrigerate directly in the vacuum-sealed bag. (You can also freeze for long-term storage.) When you're ready to eat, just open the pack, peel off the par-cooked bacon, sear it, and serve. It heats up in about the same amount of time that it takes to sear, which means that you get the best bacon you've ever had on your plate with just minutes of work in the morning.

Author folding up a slice of bacon with a pair of tongs to reveal the browned, crisped underside.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Seriously. All you have to do after you wake up is this...

Author carefully separating a slice of cooked bacon to fry up.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

...followed by this...

Cooked bacon is arranged on a griddle to brown.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

...and you get this:

Several slices of finished sous vide bacon, crisp and browned around the edges.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Oh, by the way, you want to do this with thick-cut bacon. The thicker the better, actually, in order to get a really great ratio of crisp seared surface and melty, tender interior. Want some inspiration? You can read here about our favorite supermarket bacon brands.

This won't be the only way I cook bacon from now on, but it will be my method of choice when I want to impress a brunch guest with something they've never experienced before.

November 2016

Recipe Facts

4.4

(13)

Active: 7 mins
Total: 8 hrs
Serves: 4 servings

Rate & Comment

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450g) thick-cut bacon, still in its package (see notes)

Directions

  1. Preheat a sous vide water bath to 145°F (63°C). Place bacon, still in its original plastic packaging, directly in water bath and cook for at least 8 and up to 48 hours. When ready to serve, remove from water bath and proceed immediately to step 2, or chill in refrigerator or freezer for later use (see notes).

    A package of bacon is placed in a water bath.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  2. To finish, preheat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add bacon and cook, pressing gently with a press or the back of a spatula (just enough to keep it mostly flat), until brown and crisp on the first side, about 2 minutes. Turn bacon and briefly cook on second side, just to remove pale color (about 15 seconds).

    The cooked bacon getting crisped up on a griddle.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  3. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to remove excess fat. Serve immediately.

Special Equipment

Immersion circulator

Notes

You can cook as much bacon as will fit in the water bath used in step 1.

Bacon can be cooked directly in its package. If it's unpackaged, cook in a vacuum-sealed bag or in a zipper-lock bag with the air removed.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Cooked bacon can be refrigerated and stored for up to two weeks, or frozen and stored for months. Defrost before searing in step 2.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
527 Calories
39g Fat
2g Carbs
38g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 527
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 39g 51%
Saturated Fat 13g 67%
Cholesterol 111mg 37%
Sodium 1895mg 82%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 38g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 12mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 561mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)