From breakfast tacos to waffle platters to overstuffed BLTs, a crispy slice of bacon is a peak eating experience. But I’m here to tell you: It could be even crispier.
While I was hunting for the simplest possible recipes for my new cookbook, Simply Genius, I stumbled on a trick used by the third-generation stewards of Joe’s Bakery, established in 1962 in Austin. It’s so effective that their customers assume their bacon has been fried, state fair style.
“People, it’s not deep-fried,” co-owner Regina Estrada said, as she described her family’s technique for writer Paula Forbes’s The Austin Cookbook, where I first saw it. So what is it that makes Joe’s bacon so incomparably crisp?
A time-tested trick:
This trick dates back to Regina’s grandfather, Joe Avila: With a flour coating and an overnight chill, bacon both kept its shape better and stayed crispier in their bean-and-egg tacos. And the shape is important, Regina emailed me: “Always strips of bacon 🥓. Never crumbled.” (Any crumbly bits and bacon grease go into their beans.)
At the bakery these days, the kitchen team dredges 15-pound cases of bacon, slice by slice, in all-purpose flour; refrigerates them on a sheet pan overnight; then cooks them on the griddle at around 4 a.m. to use throughout the day. But for beginners and busy cooks at home, the easiest way to evenly cook a batch of bacon is in the oven, right on the same sheet pan.
How does flour make bacon crispier?
As Southern cooks like my late grandmother Grace could tell you, pretty much everything—and especially proteins like ribs or catfish—is better when coated in seasoned flour, then shallow-fried. Grace’s Sunday specialty was thin slices of pork belly cooked this way, alongside biscuits and gravy. (She lived to be 98, so feel free to consider this a prescription for a long, happy life.)
Here’s why: When you douse anything in flour before frying, it jump-starts delicious browning, dries the surface for maximum crisping (and minimal spattering), and protects the ingredient’s exterior.
But with an all-in-one ingredient like bacon, which brings its own seasoning and cooking fat to the party, there’s no need to season the flour or fill a pan with oil for frying. You just need high heat and the bacon goes right ahead and fries itself.
Can you swap all-purpose for another flour?
At Joe’s Bakery, the classic dredge is all-purpose flour, but if you’re serving folks who are gluten-intolerant, or you just want to tinker with other flours and starches in your pantry, they’ll all bring their own personalities to the breaded crunch.
Sweet rice flour leaves a delicate, shattering edge. Nuttier whole-grain sorts like rye are more prone toward chew and unmistakably earthier, bringing out the bacon’s smoky vibes. Cornstarch leaves a fine, flaky crunch (just be sure to shake off the excess—it’s a clinger).
And like all good bacon, any of these riffs will be the best part of your club sandwich or pancake breakfast—except now, with Joe’s simply genius trick, it will be even better.
How to make the crispiest bacon:
The night before you want bacon, dip bacon strips (2–3 per person) in a medium bowl of flour to coat completely. Shake off any loose flour and lay the strips on a parchment-paper-lined sheet pan in a single layer (if you need to stack the bacon, lay parchment between each layer), cover the pan with beeswax wrap or a final layer of parchment, and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, heat the oven to 400° and bake the bacon uncovered in a single layer (not stacked) right on the parchment-lined sheet pan(s). When the bacon is starting to brown, about 5 minutes, use tongs to flip the slices over, and continue cooking until the bacon is evenly browned and crispy, about 10 minutes total. With the tongs, move the cooked bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain briefly. Serve warm.
Reprinted with permission from Food52 Simply Genius: Recipes for Beginners, Busy Cooks & Curious People by Kristen Miglore, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Just add bacon:
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