How to use an air fryer to make mess-free bacon in less than 10 minutes

A pile of crispy bacon on a white plate
Hot air circulates around the bacon in an air fryer allowing it to crisp quickly. Dendron/Getty Images

When you’re craving crispy bacon but don’t want to deal with the mess that comes with frying it on the stovetop or the time it takes to preheat the oven, an air fryer provides the perfect solution.

“Bacon is an ideal food to cook in the air fryer,” says recipe developer and cookbook author Jim Mumford. “That’s because it cooks best with even, dry heat, which an air fryer provides.” Not only does the air fryer provide the perfect kind of heat, it also makes the cooking process all but foolproof.

Cooking bacon in an air fryer also offers several advantages over other cooking methods:

  • Faster than baking: It only takes one minute to preheat, and six to eight minutes to cook.
  • Hands-free: No need to stand by the stove and flip the bacon over halfway through cooking. It’s cooked from all sides at once in the air fryer basket.
  • Less mess: No grease splatters.
  • Easy cleanup: Most air fryer parts are dishwasher-safe.
  • Extra crispy results, thanks to the high-speed circulation of hot air
  • Less fat: The bacon doesn’t sit in its fat while cooking, since it drips off and through the basket.

Still, if you’re used to cooking bacon in the oven or on the stove, using an air fryer requires some special considerations. Below professional chef and Home Kitchen Land founder Heloise Blause provides some expert-approved guidance on how to cook bacon in an air fryer.

How to prevent your air fryer from smoking

When bacon grease drips down below the basket and burns, that can cause white smoke to pour out of your air fryer. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid this:

  • Air fry at a lower temperature: The smoke point of bacon fat is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can play it safe by decreasing the temperature and increasing the cooking time to compensate. If your model tends to smoke easily, Mumford recommends air frying bacon for five minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, wiping out the grease that’s collected at the bottom, and then air frying for another two minutes at 375 degrees.
  • Work in smaller batches: This translates to less grease in the tray.
  • Add water: A ¼ cup of water in the drawer below the basket prevents the grease from getting too hot, says Mumford. Make sure the water is not touching the bacon at all, or it may turn out soggy rather than crispy.
  • Catch the grease with bread. Place a piece of sandwich bread in the lower pan to absorb the grease before it hits the metal pan and burns.
  • Wash all parts thoroughly. Always clean any leftover grease out of the bottom of the air fryer once it’s cooled down. Wash all parts with soapy water between uses. This prevents residue from building up over time that can burn.

What to do with bacon grease

Provided you didn’t add water or bread to the air fryer to soak up the bacon grease, it will collect at the bottom – and you have the option of either disposing of it or saving it to cook with later.

Bacon fat can be used as a substitute for butter – some enjoy the rich flavor it adds to salad dressings, potatoes, and fried eggs, or baked into biscuits and pie crusts, for example.

If you decide to save it, wait until the grease has cooled slightly but hasn’t solidified yet. Then, cover a sealable container with a strainer, cheesecloth, or coffee filter to eliminate any bacon remnants and carefully pour in the grease through a funnel. Store the bacon fat in the refrigerator for up to three months, or the freezer for longer.

Not interested in cooking with bacon fat? Pouring it down the drain while it’s still a hot liquid could cause the pipes to clog when the grease rehardens – so, instead, wait for it to solidify completely before scraping it into the trash with a spatula or paper towel.

Tips for the best air fryer bacon

A pile of bacon on a dark background
Every air fryer model cooks differently, so babysit your bacon until you learn how yours behaves. bhofack2/Getty Images

  • Don’t overcrowd the basket, which could cause your bacon to cook unevenly, says Blause.
  • Try cutting the bacon strips in half before cooking it. You may be able to fit more strips into your air fryer. It’ll also help it cook faster.
  • Check on the bacon intermittently to make sure that it air fries to your liking. Different models can cook at varying intensities.
  • Keep in mind that your bacon will continue to cook and crisp up a little more as it cools, so you may want to pull it just slightly before you think it’s done.

Insider’s takeaway

Air frying bacon is not only a fast and easy process, but it consistently yields crispy results with less of a mess to deal with afterward.

Adding a small amount of water or a slice of bread to the bottom of the air fryer, as well as cooking at a slightly lower temperature, may help to prevent the grease from smoking.

The bacon won’t crisp up if it’s overlapping, so be sure to leave some space in between the strips.

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