Do You Wash Bacon Before Cooking? The Great Debate Explained

Bacon is a breakfast staple loved by many for its smoky, salty, umami flavor. However, before cooking up a batch, some people like to rinse the raw bacon under cold water first. This controversial technique has sparked an ongoing debate – should you wash bacon before cooking or not?

In this article we’ll dive into the arguments on both sides and look at the potential benefits and drawbacks of washing bacon prior to cooking.

Overview of the Debate

The main question around washing bacon is whether doing so affects flavor, texture, and cook time. Here’s a quick rundown of the key points:

For Washing:

  • Removes impurities from the surface
  • Can reduce shrinkage during cooking
  • May result in crispier end product

Against Washing:

  • Alters flavor by removing salt, spices, and fat
  • Makes bacon wetter leading to less browning
  • Washes away any seasonings/rubs
  • Not necessary for safety

There are good faith arguments on both sides, so it really comes down to personal preference. Let’s explore the reasoning in more detail.

The Case for Rinsing Bacon Before Cooking

Here are the main reasons some people advocate for washing raw bacon under cold water prior to cooking:

  • Cleanliness – Washing can remove any debris, dust, or other impurities that may be on the surface of the raw bacon. This provides peace of mind around food safety.

  • Reduce Shrinkage – Some claim rinsing bacon helps remove excess fat and salt from the surface, which cuts down on how much it shrinks when cooked. Less shrinkage equals bigger, flatter bacon slices.

  • Increase Crispiness – With less fat and moisture present after washing, bacon may end up crispier once cooked. The water rinse can help achieve that desirable crunch.

  • Versatility – Pre-rinsing bacon allows you to pat it dry and then add your own spices or rubs before cooking. It provides a “blank slate” for customization.

  • Habit – For those who have always washed meat before cooking, rinsing bacon is second nature. The ritual itself can provide a sense of doing things “the right way.”

So for proponents of washing bacon, the idea is that a quick cold water rinse can clean it, reduce shrinkage, and allow for a crispier end result It’s a simple way to potentially “improve” this beloved food.

Reasons Against Washing Bacon Before Cooking

On the other side of the debate, there are several reasons why many argue you should never wash raw bacon:

  • Alters Texture – Washing can cause bacon to become soggy by adding extra moisture, leading to less crisping/browning during cooking.

  • Removes Flavors – Rinsing washes away salt, seasonings, spices, and smoke compounds on the surface that provide signature bacon flavor.

  • Safety Risks – Wet bacon is slippery, making it easier for pieces to fall out of your hands. The additional handling while washing also increases risks.

  • Ineffective – Most of the salt and preservatives in bacon are absorbed into the meat, not just on the surface, so washing has a negligible impact.

  • Wastes Time – It’s an unnecessary extra step that doesn’t provide any real benefits. That minute could be better spent on actual cooking.

  • Makes A Mess – Water splashing everywhere while you rinse bacon can create more cleanup work and lead to greasy stovetops/counters.

For bacon purists, washing strips is an undesirable technique that damages texture and flavor. The benefits are considered minimal compared to the drawbacks.

Does Washing Alter Bacon’s Flavor Profile?

One of the biggest points of contention is whether rinsing bacon prior to cooking negatively affects the taste and aroma. But what does science tell us?

The bulk of the salty, smoky flavor in bacon comes from the curing process. Pork belly is cured for days or weeks in a brine solution, allowing salt, nitrites, and sometimes sugar and spices to fully penetrate the meat.

So in theory, a quick rinse under the faucet shouldn’t wash away too much of the deep-seated flavors. However, thicker rubs and seasonings applied before packaging may come off under running water. The rinse could also dissolve some sugar or surface compounds.

When tested, most people can’t discern an appreciable difference between washed and unwashed bacon. But a few do insist the washed version tastes more bland. It likely comes down to the individual bacon’s surface chemistry and the taster’s palate sensitivity.

Does Washing Reduce Shrinkage When Cooking?

Another point of contention is whether washing bacon beforehand leads to less shrinkage during cooking.

Bacon shrinks primarily due to the rendering out of fat as it crisps up. Water in the meat evaporating out during cooking also contributes. Since a rinse can’t remove internal fat, it should theoretically have minimal impact on shrinkage.

However, a very light rinse may get rid of some surface fat bits, helping slightly. And pat drying the strips after washing helps prevent them from steaming as much, which reduces shrinkage.

Overall though, the rinse itself provides negligible benefits compared to proper cooking methods. Going low and slow while spreading out the bacon allows for less shrinking and curling versus high direct heat.

Proper Procedure for Washing Bacon

If you wish to wash your bacon before cooking, be sure to follow proper protocol:

  • Use only cold water, not warm or hot. This prevents partial cooking or melting fat.

  • Run bacon under a gentle stream rather than soaking it. Quickly rinse just to remove debris, not infuse water.

  • Pat the bacon thoroughly dry with paper towels before cooking to remove excess moisture. Wet bacon leads to steaming.

  • Avoid additional handling beyond the rinse. Repeated touching can rub off seasonings and spices.

  • Discard any bacon water down the drain rather than letting it accumulate on counters or the stovetop.

  • Wash hands and prep surfaces after handling raw bacon to prevent cross-contamination.

Following these tips minimizes the potential downsides of washing. But ultimately, skipping the rinse altogether avoids the various risks and disadvantages.

Better Alternatives to Pre-Washing Bacon

If your goal is perfectly cooked, crisp bacon without shrinkage or curling, here are some alternative approaches:

  • Bake in the oven – Use a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a wire rack. Bake at 400°F for 15-25 minutes, rotating halfway through.

  • Use a splatter screen – This keeps grease contained while allowing steam to vent out, reducing shrinkage.

  • Start with cold bacon – Take strips directly from the fridge to prevent excess steaming.

  • Cook over low, indirect heat – Keep the temp low and flip frequently for even cooking without curling.

  • Drain on paper towels – Let cooked bacon rest on towels to soak up residual grease.

These methods allow you to skip the questionable practice of pre-rinsing while still achieving perfect results.

The Verdict on Washing Bacon Before Cooking

At the end of the day, whether or not to rinse bacon comes down to personal preference:

For washing:

  • May remove some surface impurities
  • Provides peace of mind for those used to rinsing meats

Against washing:

  • Minimal effects on taste, texture, and shrinkage
  • Adds time, handling risks, and potential mess

Given the minor benefits compared to potential drawbacks, most experts recommend against washing bacon prior to cooking. The exception would be if you have a thick seasoning rub applied that you want to rinse off before custom seasoning.

While a quick rinse seems harmless, it’s an unnecessary step that provides little advantage. For optimized flavor, texture, and safety, your best bet is to cook bacon straight from the package. But if washing it makes you feel better, the effects are likely quite minimal.

So what’s your take – to wash or not to wash? Let the great bacon debate rage on!

You Should Be Doing This To Bacon Before You Cook It


What to do before cooking bacon?

Using Cold Bacon Remove the bacon from the fridge at least 15 minutes before cooking. Then place the strips in the cold pan. This lets the fat and the meat get to the same temperature and cook evenly.

What’s the cleanest way to cook bacon?

If you want all the joys of bacon without the river of oil, try making bacon in the oven. Cooking bacon in the oven doesn’t take any longer than in a pan. Oven bacon gets just as crispy, if not crispier, and there’s very little mess to clean up after.

Should you put bacon in water before cooking?

The addition of water keeps the initial cooking temperature low and gentle, so the meat retains its moisture and stays tender as the fat renders. Plus, since the water helps render the fat, there will be significantly less splatter as your bacon finishes in the pan.

Why do I need to wash my Bacon before cooking?

More fat = more shrinkage. Bacon injected with lots of water for curing will lose a lot of water when cooking due to evaporation. Rinsing your bacon with cold water just gives you wetter bacon. Free Bacon T-Shirt! #BACONSTRONG Think about it. Where was your bacon before you got it ready to cook?

Should Bacon be rinsed in water?

If you rinse your bacon in water all you will do is to likely rinse off any seasoning rub and perhaps even some of the salt, while warming up the bacon because the tap water will often be warmer than the fridge. And, of course, you’ll have wet bacon. Some bacon is injected with extra water.

Do you rinse Bacon before cooking?

Rinse your bacon before you cook it and you’ll have longer strips to enjoy. This tip has been circling around the interwebs for a while. Fran at the Franalan blog put it to the test and confirmed her bacon did not shrink. I, sadly, do not have any bacon on hand to rinse, but if it’s on a Snapple real facts cap, it’s definitely worth a try.

Should you cook bacon in water before it evaporates?

However, one theory as to why you should cook your bacon in a little water until the water evaporates, is that the water makes the bacon cook more slowly so that the fat can render slowly, and this ends up making crispier bacon and doing some other magical things. Once again, it’s not rocket science.

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