Sugar, spice, everything nice: The ultimate guide to seasoning your bacon

Of course, you don't have to season your bacon — but after reading these suggestions you'll probably want to

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published March 20, 2023 2:30PM (EDT)

Bacon Strips (Getty Images/Westend61)
Bacon Strips (Getty Images/Westend61)

I believe bacon is best made best made: 1) on a sheet pan in the oven 2) using thick-cut varieties 3) as well-done as possible, and 4) with seasonings and flavor additions to gussy up the taste. While many people use bacon to flavor other foods, many home cooks haven't discovered the culinary possibilities that come with treating bacon any other cut of meat and seasoning it before or after cooking.  

As the MTA would say, though, "You do you!" I'm just here to provide some ideas, but you're the one eating the food and it's your kitchen, so tweak it to your tastes and as you see fit. If adding syrups, sugars, seasonings, or spices to your bacon isn't on the docket, that's all good! If you like the idea of adding extra flavorings to your bacon but don't want to turn the oven on, cool! If you're into chewy, not-well-done bacon, no biggie! Do whatever you like and as you please; at the end of the day, you're eating it. Use whatever might work for your tastes and discard the rest. 

Meat-free? Consider trying some of the vegan or animal-free options available right now; there are some really terrific brands and products (I've never been a huge proponent of turkey bacon, so I've been pleasantly surprised with some of the plant-based additions now on the market). 

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As far as flavors go, while I think a good miso-maple combination is ideal, there are many other directions you can go with the flavoring or customization of your bacon:

Sweet components
Not a fan of maple? Try agave, honey, molasses, or even brown sugar. If you're spooked at the thought of burning the sweet addition, then add towards the second half of the cooking process. If using the brown sugar, sprinkle across and over the bacon, but don't pack it on. 
Spicy components
Into the sweet-spicy-savory interplay? Add some paprika, dried chiles, red pepper flakes, or the sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to the mix. You can even opt for Sriracha! 
Savory/umami components
Looking for another flavor profile altogether? Why not a swig of balsamic, rice wine vinegar, mirin, or even fish sauce? The world (kitchen) is your oyster. (speaking of, maybe try brushing some oyster sauce on your bacon?)
Dry seasonings
An interesting approach could be incorporating other spices, such as garlic or onion powder, coriander, or even everything bagel seasoning to amp up the textural and flavor appeal. You could even try sprinkling some espresso powder over the bacon for a real breakfast-forward flavor and aroma sensation.


The one thing I'd advise against is anything inherently salty; the pork-y, salt-forward essence of the smoky bacon has that component down pat. 

Be mindful that spices and seasonings might burn, so if you are planning on making super-crispy bacon, keep an eye on your sheet pan or skillet. Also if you're using sugar or any other sort of syrup, don't over do it: you don't want your sugar or agave to caramelize before the bacon has a chance to cook. 

Or, conversely, go minimalist and throw some bacon — and nothing else — into the pan or oven. If this is up your alley, perhaps this might resonate with you: in culinary school, when making bacon that was going to be chopped and added to a Cobb salad, our instructor actually recommended taking one sheet tray, laying down a sheet of parchment, laying out the bacon end-to-end but not overlapping, and then *topping* that sheet tray with a second sheet tray. This helped to keep the bacon straight, flat and evenly cooked, with no wavy pieces or irregular, burnt ends. I don't often employ this method (washing the bottom side of the top sheet tray was always a step I wasn't willing to do!), but it's definitely a great idea if you want perfectly aesthetic and picturesque bacon (of course, though, this method restricts your use of toppings or additional flavorings). 

Paraphrasing, "Mean Girls," "the limit does not exist" when it comes to the ways in which you can make bacon. 

By Michael La Corte

Michael is a food writer, recipe editor and educator based in his beloved New Jersey. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, he worked in restaurants, catering and supper clubs before pivoting to food journalism and recipe development. He also holds a BA in psychology and literature from Pace University.

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