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Is air frying better than pan frying to cook bacon?

Starting my day with a hearty breakfast makes me feel warm and cozy. And the star ingredient is the crispy, salty, and smoky taste of bacon.

But the thought of whipping out the frying pan and making bacon in the mornings might be a tall ask, especially on busy work days.

Not to mention the additional oil intake you will be digesting that is used to fry the bacon using a frying pan. So, is air frying better than pan frying bacon? That would be a resounding yes!

Air fryers have become a popular trend in the last decade because they boast that no oil is needed for air frying.

That’s why I’ve decided to put my air fryer (the Ninja Foodi Air Fryer)  to the test against my frying pan when cooking bacon.

In my experiment of air fryer vs pan, the performance factors will be based on taste, texture, color, and juiciness. Also, here’s my air fryer bacon recipe if you want to try it out for yourself.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Aspect Air Fried Bacon Pan Fried Bacon
Taste and texture
Crispy texture with light and natural bacon taste.
Crispy and chewy texture with rich and deep flavors.
Health Aspect
No oil required, excess fat is drained from bacon
Oil required, bacon absorbs this oil while cooking
Ease of Preparation
Select settings, no flipping needed
Needs constant monitoring, requires flipping
is air frying better than pan frying

Air Fryer vs Pan Pros and Cons

Firstly, let’s set the scene by addressing the pros and cons of using the air fryer vs pan.

  • Less Oil Intake: Air frying bacon requires no oil during the cooking process, and some of the fat in the bacon is drained to the bottom of the air fryer. Thanks to the inner air fryer basket with holes allowing the grease to drip through to the bottom basket. It should be noted that bacon is naturally a high-calorie food, so simply cooking it in the air fryer doesn’t magically make it healthier. The air fryer merely provides an alternative way of cooking without adding additional oil to the bacon.
  • Hands-Off Cooking: All that’s needed is to place your bacon in the air fryer basket and select the settings, and that’s all that is required to have crispy bacon cooked. You don’t even have to flip the bacon because the hot air will circulate underneath the air fryer basket to cook it from the bottom too.
Air fryer vs pan
  • Great results each time: Air frying bacon allows the excess fat to drip to the lower basket, and this is important when you have to cook your bacon in batches. This ensures that the next batch of bacon being cooked will not be cooked in the first batch of bacon’s grease. And you won’t be struggling with a sticky pan from the burnt grease.
  • Mess is contained: As the bacon is enclosed during the cooking, all the splatters and grease are contained in the air fryer. There is no need to deal with splatters or grease stains on your stovetop.
  • Easy to clean: Air fryers are easy to clean as they have non-stick surfaces that can be easily wiped down.

Air Fryer Cons

  • Some monitoring: Generally, no monitoring is required when cooking with the air fryer. However, because bacon has a smoke point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit ( 20.4.44 degrees Celsius), it would require a quick glance for any signs of smoke.
  • Deep cleaning after use: The benefit of air frying bacon is that the mess is contained inside the air fryer. This means that after cooking, not only do the detachable baskets need to be cleaned, the inside chamber needs to be wiped down too. This can get tricky around the heating element and fan area, where there can be hard-to-reach areas. That’s why it’s so important to have it done as soon as the appliance is cool enough so that any grease can still be removed easily with hot water and a little cleaning detergent.
air frying vs pan frying
  • Batch cooking: To get the best results and for safety reasons, it is best to place the bacon in single layers in the air fryer basket. Resulting in a few pieces of bacon being cooked in one go. So, you will need to cook a few batches depending on how much bacon you need to cook and your air fryer size.
  • Price: The average air fryer price for a decent air fryer is higher than that of a pan. Of course, there can be pans that can also be on the costly side due to the brand, but the average household usually gets a decent pan for a budget price.

Pan Pros

  • Temperature control: The heat can be adjusted during the cooking process.
  • Visibility: You can see the bacon being cooked in the pan, so you can decide the level of crispness while it’s cooking, unlike air fried bacon, where the settings must be selected before the cooking starts.
  • Availability: The average household would have a pan in the kitchen as standard kitchen equipment.
  • Price: The average pan price is lower than the average air fryer price.
crispy air fryer bacon

Pan Cons

  • Large cleaning area: Pan frying bacon bacon can be messy. The bacon grease can splatter and make a mess on your stove and countertop.
  • Additional oil intake: When pan frying bacon bacon, oil keeps the bacon from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Uneven results: Pan fried bacon is unevenly cooked as it’s based on the heat distribution of the stovetop. Also, when cooking the second batch of bacon, you would often need to remove the excess grease from the first batch to avoid sticking and burning the second batch of bacon. Even after doing this, you often struggle as the bacon sticks to the pan base.
  • Constant monitoring: Pan frying bacon bacon requires full attention during the cooking process to avoid burnt bacon. It also requires flipping the bacon to get it crispy on both sides.

Right, now that we have compared the differences of the air fryer vs pan, we can move on to see how the bacon comes out using these methods.

Air Frying vs Pan Frying Bacon: Comparative results

Cooking method

There were three batches of bacon cooked for this comparison. One batch was cooked in the frying pan. Two batches were cooked in the Ninja Foodi Smart XL Grill & Air Fryer at different temperatures to compare the crispiness results.

Pan fried bacon: Turn the gas high and drizzle the oil in the frying pan. Then, place the bacon strips in the pan and flip the bacon when cooked.

air frying vs pan frying

Air fried bacon (Batch 1): Preheat the air fryer for 2 minutes. The temperature for the air fried bacon was set at 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit), and the timer was set for 5 minutes. Lay the bacon strips in a single layer inside the air fryer basket. Ensure that there are small gaps between the strips. Then, place the air fryer basket into the air fryer. Have an eye on it to make sure that there is no smoke coming out of the air fryer. If you notice any smoke, then stop your air fryer and set the temperature one or two degrees lower, and test to see if this resolves the issue.

Air fried bacon (Batch 2): No preheating is required as the air fryer is still hot from the previous batch. The temperature for the air fried bacon was set at 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit), and the timer was set for 5 minutes. Lay the bacon strips in a single layer inside the air fryer basket. Ensure that there are small gaps between the strips. Then, place the air fryer basket into the air fryer. Have an eye on it to make sure that there is no smoke coming out of the air fryer. If you notice any smoke, then stop your air fryer and set the temperature one or two degrees lower, and test to see if this resolves the issue.

Air frying vs pan frying: Taste

The pan fried bacon had rich and savory flavors. These flavors were boosted by the absorption of the oil’s flavor. In contrast, both batches of air fried bacon had the natural flavors of the bacon and were not disrupted by the added oil taste.

Air Frying vs pan frying: Texture

In terms of texture, the pan fried bacon was crispy. In comparison, the first batch of air fried bacon was lightly crisped. The second batch of air fried bacon was crispier than the first but not as crispy as the pan fried bacon.

Air frying vs pan frying: Color

The pan fried bacon had irregular spots of golden brown, along with some charred spots, especially at the edges. Both batches of air fried bacon had uniform and consistent browning on all sides.

Air frying vs pan frying: Juiciness

With the pan fried bacon they were chewy and dry compared to both batches of air fried bacon. Although both batches of air fried bacon retained the moisture of the bacon, the first batch was noticeably juicier than the second.

is air frying better than pan frying

The winner: Air fryer vs pan

In my experiment of air frying vs pan frying, I would say that air fried bacon is better than pan fried bacon. Air fried bacon has a cleaner, natural bacon taste that’s juicy with consistent browning. However, the crispiness level was not reached with the air fried bacon in this experiment. That’s not to say that the level of crispiness cannot be achieved. Because I have seen other air fried bacon recipes showing crispy air fryer bacon with the same crisp as pan fried bacon by extending the time to 10 minutes.

Is air frying better than pan frying for bacon?: The verdict

Overall, air frying bacon has many more perks that make it more convenient, and it helps to manage your oil consumption. Remember that bacon is naturally a high-calorie food due to its fat content. So, cooking it in the air fryer only helps reduce the oil by cutting out the additional oil that would have been used when pan frying and by extracting some of the fat.

Air Fryer vs pan to cook bacon

In my air fryer vs pan bacon experiment, the bacon has a light and natural taste that is evenly browned with a juicy bite. Although the crisp levels were not the same as the pan fried bacon, you can try extending the cooking time to get that result. Pay special attention to the air fryer bacon time and temperature to avoid smoke, as bacon has a smoke point of 204.44 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit). In my experiment, both batches of bacon were set below this smoking point.

Based on my air frying vs pan frying experiment results and the pros and cons discussed around these two cooking methods, air frying bacon is better than using a pan.

However, there will be times when you crave the rich and savory flavors that come with the added oil when pan frying bacon. So, I wouldn’t toss out your pan just yet. It’s worth noting that the added oil when pan frying depends on how much oil is added. If you have a good-quality pan, you may only need a few drops. In that case, having pan fried bacon occasionally could be a treat!

compact air fryer

Frequently Asked Questions

These questions reflect the common concerns and considerations on air frying vs pan frying.

Is air frying healthier than pan frying?

Air frying is generally considered healthier than pan frying due to its reduced oil usage. Air fryers require only a fraction of the oil that pan frying does, resulting in lower calorie and fat content in the final dish. This makes air frying a popular choice for those who enjoy crispy foods with fewer unhealthy fats.

Air frying vs pan frying: Which method produces crispier results, air frying or pan frying?

Both air frying and pan frying can produce crispy results, but the texture may vary slightly. Pan frying, with its direct contact with oil and high heat, can result in slightly crunchier edges and a more pronounced chewiness. Air frying, on the other hand, delivers a crispy exterior while often retaining a lighter, less greasy texture.

Does air frying alter the flavor of food compared to pan frying?

Air frying and pan frying can lead to subtly different flavors. Because pan frying uses oil, it imparts a rich, savory flavor to the food. Air frying, using less oil, tends to showcase the natural flavors of the ingredients, resulting in a cleaner taste.

Are air fryers more versatile than traditional pans for cooking various foods?

Air fryers offer a degree of versatility beyond just frying. They can bake, roast, and even reheat a variety of foods. However, traditional pans still hold the edge when it comes to techniques like sautéing, searing, and simmering. Air fryers are best suited for dishes that benefit from convection-style cooking, while pans are better for techniques that require direct contact with heat.

Air frying vs pan frying: Which method is more convenient and requires less monitoring?

Air frying is generally more convenient and requires less monitoring than pan frying. Air fryers have timers and preset functions, allowing you to set the desired cooking time and temperature and walk away. They also eliminate the need for constant flipping and turning, as the hot air circulation ensures even cooking. Pan frying involves more hands-on monitoring and flipping to prevent burning or uneven cooking.

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