I tried air-frying bacon and it's changed my breakfast habits for good

Air-fried bacon on top of scrambled eggs on toast
(Image credit: Future)

Ah, the perfect bit of bacon. An elusive, tantalizing prize for your dutiful cooking efforts – but what if you could replicate these results more easily, quickly and, depending on how you typically cook bacon, perhaps more healthily?

Smoke warning

Especially at higher temperatures, bacon and other fatty foods are liable to spit, which could land on your air fryer’s heating element and create smoke. If your uncooked bacon looks particularly moist, dab it with kitchen paper before cooking. You may want to repeat this at the halfway point of cooking, too.

If you ever see or smell smoke coming out of your device, turn it off immediately and finish cooking your meal elsewhere. If your air fryer leans on the hotter side, or has a lower heating element, I’d strongly recommend supervising the machine whenever you're cooking bacon. Always read your device’s manual for cleaning and maintenance instructions.

My personal preference for bacon is crispy, but I don’t often indulge. Cooking in a pan feels too luxurious, given how much oil I need to use; cooking on the stovetop requires constant supervision, too. Alternatively, the results when using the oven can be hugely hit or miss, varying based on the thickness of the bacon – and if my oven is deciding to play ball.

I’ve tried a fair few of the best air fryers in my time, most recently the Instant Vortex Slim 6-quart Air Fryer, and have used these culinary powerhouses to cook everything from chicken to tofu, and even brownies and cookies. Generally, these devices enable me to throw together a meal in the basket, put it in for 50-60% of the time I’d need to cook it in a conventional oven (and with a far shorter pre-heating cycle), and enjoy the results.

Methods for cooking bacon in an air fryer are abundant online, citing tips and tricks such as adding water or rinsing the bacon beforehand; but I've found the simplest route to success works best for me, resulting in perfect bacon every time. I’ve included my tips for both crispy, fully rendered bacon as well as meatier, just-cooked bacon (including back bacon for the Brits) below. 

Perfectly cooked air-fried bacon

(Image credit: Future)

Perfectly crispy streaky bacon

When cooking crispy streaky bacon, temperature is everything. Too hot and you’ll end up with hard, crunchy bacon – or worse, a kitchen full of smoke. Too cold and your bacon might cook unevenly.

Similarly, time also has a big part to play; you want to recreate the process of frying bacon as closely as possible to achieve perfectly crispy yet still succulent bacon. 

Typically, I cook bacon that's at medium thickness, aiming for a temperature of 390°F / 200°C for 8-10 minutes. For thinner slices of bacon, knock those figures down to about 360°F / 180°C for 6-8 minutes; for thicker rashers, keep the temperature the same but shoot for 10-12 minutes. 

I tend to turn the bacon when my air fryer prompts me to shake the basket, just to ensure I achieve even results. However, if your main goal is minimal washing up and effort, the results are still great without flipping it. 

Naturally, the settings you use in your air fryer may vary depending on the designs and components, but these settings have produced pretty consistent results across the different air fryers I’ve used.

Perfectly crispy bacon sizzling in an air fryer

(Image credit: Future)

Just-cooked streaky bacon, or back bacon

If you prefer the slightly paler, more chewy variety of bacon, you’ll want to adjust your tact slightly when cooking in an air fryer. Alternatively, if you’re a Brit, you’ll want to follow this logic to cook back bacon, which is the standard cut we’re more familiar with for our full English breakfasts.

The key here is to give the bacon longer to cook but at a steadier, lower temperature, which ensures the fat doesn’t render so aggressively. That way, you don’t lose the meatiness of the bacon. 

When cooking with thin to medium-thickness bacon, I set the temperature to 320°F / 160°C for 10-12 minutes, and cook thicker cuts at 360°F / 180°C for 12-15 minutes, checking regularly for any evidence of the meat turning too quickly. 

Again, and as I mentioned above, results are naturally going to vary depending on the air fryer you’re using.

Bacon air-frying tips and tricks

While I personally haven’t found the need to go above and beyond for my air-fried bacon, there are a few ways keen cooks can elevate their porky goodness.

Air-frying rapidly cooks food using surface-level moisture, but in general, the results are still pretty succulent. However, bacon is already prone to drying out, so if you find your air fryer is quite aggressive, and turning down the temperature isn’t enough, it might be worth trying to add a few drops of water in the base of the air fryer to help retain moisture. However, always check first to see if this is safe to do in the make and model of your air fryer, and proceed at your own risk. 

If thick, fatty bacon is your preference, or your bacon seems quite moist out of the packet, gently dabbing the meat with a paper towel will help to reduce the oiliness of the results – while also protecting your air fryer's heating element and basket from erroneous sprays of fat.

The most important thing is to never overlap your bacon strips. As with all air-fried foods, the primary goal is to have as many exposed surfaces on your food as possible to allow the air in the fryer to circulate evenly throughout the basket and cook every inch of your delicious treats.

As with pretty much all of the foods we cook in air fryers, we find the best way to learn is to experiment and keep track of what nets the best results according to your preferences, using guides such as ours as a baseline. So, grab yourself one of the best air fryers and get cooking!

If you're still sitting on the fence and wondering whether to buy an air fryer, you may want to read our article to decide whether air fryers are worth it? 

Josephine Watson
Managing Editor, Lifestyle

Josephine Watson (@JosieWatson) is TechRadar's Managing Editor - Lifestyle. Josephine has previously written on a variety of topics, from pop culture to gaming and even the energy industry, joining TechRadar to support general site management. She is a huge advocate for internet safety and education, and has also made a point of using her position to fight for progression in the treatment of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and neurodiversity in corporate settings. Generally, you'll find her watching Disney movies, playing on her Switch, or showing people pictures of her cats, Mr. Smith and Heady.