“Candied bacon” is a phrase that almost feels like a cheat code. In the early 2000s, it was ubiquitous, so much so that I almost got tired of seeing it in every menu I opened. Candied bacon made its way into French toast, cupcakes, and cocktails, where it would often distract from and obfuscate other ingredients, sometimes to the detriment of dish. (A maple bacon doughnut is worthless if you lean too heavily on the bacon and forget to make a good doughnut.)
But even if you lived through The Great Candied Bacon Over-Saturation of the aughts, you cannot deny that strips of salty cured pork that have been coated in some sort of sugary syrup taste very good. Unless you avoid either sugar or pork wholesale, it is most likely a combination you find deeply appealing. Salt, fat, sugar, meat — it’s all there. And, just like candied bacon is itself a cheat code of sorts, I have found my own cheat code for making it in a matter of minutes.
I hadn’t thought of, much less eaten, candied bacon in years. Not until I returned from a camping trip, and unpacked our uneaten food to find a package of pre-cooked, shelf-stable bacon I had packed with the intention of making breakfast every morning. (I did not do this.) “I bet this would crisp up real quick in the air fryer,” I thought. I was right — the bacon was ready before the air fryer even finished pre-heating — but it had a distinct fast-food bacon vibe. (It was somehow crispy and limp.)
Rather than eat it with a perfectly cooked egg, or even toss it on a sandwich, I decided to slather the kinda-wimpy strips in maple syrup and air fry them. The result was candied bacon that was ready to eat in a couple of minutes, rather than the better portion of an hour.
Do you have to use pre-cooked bacon to make candied bacon in your air fryer? No, but it certainly is faster and much less greasy, which cuts down on waiting and cleaning and lets you get to the fun part — the eating. To make the easiest candied bacon ever to exist, you will need:
- Pre-cooked bacon (You can find it in the grocery store unrefrigerated. I found mine near the bread.)
- Maple syrup (You can also use a simple syrup made of equal parts water and brown sugar.)
Heat your air fryer to 200C and place as many strips of pre-cooked bacon as you can fit in a single layer in the basket or on the tray. Brush the top of each strip with maple syrup, let cook for 30 seconds, then flip and repeat with the other side.
Repeat this little song and dance, brushing, cooking, and flipping, until the bacon is as candied and crisp as you like it. I did two brushings of maple syrup on each side (and two minutes of cooking), and found it just candied enough — sweet and salty, but still heavier on the bacon than the candy. Remove from the air fryer and place on a wire rack for a minute to let the sugar set. Repeat until your sweet and salty tooth is sated, or until you run out of bacon.