Here’s Why Bacon Curls Up When You Cook It

Have you ever cooked bacon and noticed that it curls up? It’s a phenomenon that has long puzzled chefs and bacon lovers alike. But what is the reason behind this odd occurrence? Some say that it’s because of the fat content in the bacon, while others claim that it’s due to the way the meat contracts as it cooks.

In this post, we’ll look closely at why bacon curls up when it’s cooked and find out what causes this curious phenomenon.

Why Does Bacon Curl Up?

Strips of curled-up bacon

The reason bacon shrinks and curls up when it’s cooked is due to the difference in how fat and muscle react to heat. When bacon is heated, the fat begins to render out or melt. This liquid fat then starts to seep into the muscle fibers of the bacon, causing them to contract.

As a result, the contracting muscle fibers pull on the connective tissues that connect them to each other, which causes the bacon to curl up into its now-familiar curly shape.

Exposure to Heat Also Results in Curled Bacon

Another reason bacon curls up is its exposure to heat, especially on one side. When you cook bacon in a pan, one side is constantly exposed to more heat than the other. This causes that side of the bacon to cook faster, which results in the muscle fibers on that side contracting more than the ones on the cooler side. This uneven contraction is what causes bacon to curl up as it cooks.

To avoid this, you can cook your bacon in the oven where both sides are exposed to a somewhat even amount of heat, or you can flip your bacon frequently while cooking it on the stovetop.

How Much Will My Bacon Curl Up After Cooking?

The amount of curl that you’ll see in your pieces of bacon depends on the ratio of fat to muscle in the bacon itself. The higher the fat content, the more pronounced the curl will be.

Bacon frying in pan after chef learned if you need to oil the pan for bacon

That’s because more liquid fat is available to seep into the muscle fibers and cause them to contract.

Additionally, the connective tissue in bacon is more elastic than the connective tissue in other meats, such as steak. This means manufacturers can stretch it out more before it reaches its breaking point. As a result, bacon is able to curl up into tighter curly shapes than other meats without breaking.

Which Factors Affect How Much Bacon Curls Up?

The degree to which bacon curls up when cooked is affected by three factors:

  1. The amount of fat
  2. The type of meat
  3. The cooking temperature

The higher the fat content, the more curly the bacon. Likewise, bacon cooked at a higher temperature leads to muscle fibers contracting more, resulting in curlier bacon.

Additionally, the loin, where bacon comes from, is a very lean muscle, so it doesn’t shrink as much as other meats. If you cook the bacon slowly over lower heat, it will render out less fat and be less curly.

So there you have it: the reason bacon curls up is due to a combination of high heat and high fat content.

How to Prevent Bacon From Curling When Cooking

Large, flat strips of bacon in a pan on low heat so they won't curl up

Do you like straight bacon that’s less curly? No one likes bacon that shrinks down to half its size when cooked. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can prevent this from happening.

Cook It Slowly on Low Heat

This is the most important tip. If you cook bacon on high heat, it will shrink and curl up. So always cook bacon on low or medium-low heat until it reaches the desired crispiness. However, cooking bacon slowly will take longer. So if you’re in a hurry, you can cook it on medium heat for a shorter period of time.

Use a Weight

Another way to prevent the bacon from curling is by using a weight. You can use a cast iron skillet or another heavy object to weigh down the bacon and keep it flat. Just make sure the weight is evenly distributed so that the bacon cooks evenly on both sides.

Remove It From the Heat When It’s 75% Done

You might be tempted to cook bacon until it’s nice and crispy. But if you do, you’ll end up with curly bacon. To prevent this, remove the bacon from the heat when it’s about 75% done. It will continue to cook a bit after you remove it from the heat and reach perfect crispiness.

Strips of bacon in pan on low heat so they won't curl up

Let It Cool on a Wire Rack

Finally, you can let the strips of bacon cool on a wire rack. This will help prevent it from shrinking and curling up as it cools. The wire rack will also allow the delicious bacon to cool evenly, so you don’t end up with some overcooked pieces and others undercooked.

Cook Bacon in Water

Place your uncooked bacon in a pan, cover it with a bit of water, and cook it over medium heat. Allow the water to evaporate as the bacon fat melts. After all the water evaporates, continue cooking the bacon to your preferred level of crispiness.

While this method will leave your bacon straighter and less curled, it also changes its taste and texture.

Now You Know Why Bacon Curls Up

If you want to prevent the bacon from curling, cook it slowly on low heat or use a weight. And don’t forget to let it cool on a wire rack before enjoying it!