I have never believed there is a “best way” to cook any particular food. I have my favourites, and recognise that some techniques are more effective than others, but there is no one, perfect way to fry an egg. (There are at least eight.)
Culture, personal experience, access to ingredients, and preference all influence how we enjoy food, and cooking lets one tailor their meals to these preferences. (Besides cost, I think this is one of the primary reasons people bother cooking at all.) Some people like chewy bacon, some people like it shatteringly crisp, and some like it microwaved and borderline gummy. All bacon styles are valid, and twisted bacon lets one enjoy more than one style at once.
I am old and not on TikTok, but my younger, more hip friends often send me videos, or someone will share one on Twitter (where I go to do my shouting), and I’ll see it there. I don’t remember how twisted bacon made its way into my line of vision, but I’m pretty glad it did. It’s crisp on the outside and — depending on how long you cook it — a little to a lot chewy on the inside, and its stick-like shape makes it perfect for dipping.
The original, viral recipe for twisted bacon is executed in the oven, but you can get there faster in an air fryer (a smaller, more powerful convection oven).
How to make bacon twists in your air fryer
Rather than preheat the air fryer before adding the bacon, I like to place the twisted strips in a cold air fryer and let it heat with the appliance. It not only saves time, it lets a lot of the fat slowly render out of the salty pork, resulting in a more evenly cooked twist with crisp fatty portions.
The procedure is simple: Twist the bacon, set the twists in an un-preheated air fryer, heat the air fryer to 160°C, then let the twists cook for 8-12 additional minutes, depending on how crisp or chewy you like your bacon. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind.
Lower heat makes for a straighter twist
You may have noticed that my twists are little more windy than the ones in the TikTok video. This is because the bacon constricts as it cooks — fat renders out, changing the shape of the meat and causing it to curl. The faster you cook your bacon, the more suddenly it will constrict, and the more it will curl.
Cooking the twists in a conventional oven subjects them to a much gentler ambient heat than the whipping winds they see in an air fryer, but you can achieve similar results by dropping the temp down and increasing the cook time.
Meatier bacon makes a sturdier, chewier twist
The bacon I used to make the twists you see above was very fatty, especially in the middle, which led to some issues around structural integrity. The meatier your bacon is, the stiffer and chewier it will be, but you want to strike a balance. The best bacon for twisting is not too heavy toward meat or fat, with roughly equal amounts of each throughout the length of the strip. Stiffness isn’t crucial if you plan to lay your twists on a sandwich, but it matters a little more if you plan to use your twists as a Bloody Mary garnish, or if you plan to do a lot of dipping.
Thinner bacon makes a crispier twist
As one might expect, bacon that is more thinly sliced cooks up quicker and more crispy. If you want a hearty, jerky-like twist, reach for the thick-cut stuff; if you want a snappy, crumbly texture, grab a cheaper brand (which tend to be a little more flimsy).
The twists will harden as they cool
Hot fat is more malleable than cold fat, so your bacon twists will feel kind of soft when you take them out of the air fryer. Make a test twist or two if you’re not great at visually recognising when bacon is “done,” and let your twists cool on paper towels for a few minutes before deciding if they’re as stiff and crisp as you want them. You can always pop them back in for a few minutes if needed, but you can’t un-crisp bacon.
Don’t forget the grease
Collecting bacon grease from air fryer is easy if you have one of the basket models. Just let it cool a bit, remove the tray (mine has a tendency to fall out of the basket when tilted), and pour the liquid bacon fat into a coffee mug, glass jar, or other heat-safe container. Fry some eggs in the grease and eat them on a breakfast sandwich with your twists, with even more twists as a side. (Twisted bacon stays on a breakfast sandwich like a dream. It’s so grippy!)