Cooking in a DVC Kitchen: Bacon on Vacation

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Some people hold that if you’re cooking then it isn’t vacation.  Others (like me) feel that eating out thrice a day with your offspring is stressful enough to destroy any vacation vibe. It’s not so much that I absolutely adore cooking, as that it seems such a small price to pay for arriving home with the same number of children I left with.

Cooking in a timeshare kitchen can be a challenge since the tools on hand are often more limited than what you’ll have at home, and one food that can be especially tricky and yet oh-so-worth-it is bacon.  It’s a breakfast staple, a crunchy salad topping, and a pillar of many great sandwiches.  I know I’m not alone here in my bacon love, since a menu search using the Lines app returns 24 pages of bacon-containing dishes from eateries around WDW. And did you know that Americans eat almost 18 pounds of bacon apiece each year?

So how can you conquer making bacon on vacation?  Let’s do a comprehensive rundown.

Fully cooked bacon

Fully Cooked Overview
Pros:
  • Shelf stable (depends on the brand)
  • Super-fast cooking
  • Not a lot of cleanup
Cons:
  • Slices tend to be thin, not what you picture for a stand-alone slice
  • If you’re a chewy bacon lover it’s not your strip
Best for: Makes great sandwiches and works well in salads

Pre-cooked bacon that just needs heating is available at many supermarkets. It can seem overpriced, but packages usually contain a similar number of slices to a half pound of raw bacon; they’re just smaller since a lot of fat has rendered off during cooking.  On a per slice basis I find pre-cooked and raw are usually comparably priced.

Fully Cooked Bacon in Package showing price as $3.99 per box
Fully cooked bacon is $3.99 for 9-11 slices; on the same day a pound of regular uncooked bacon was $6.99 for 18 slices.  That’s a difference of about a penny per slice.

The biggest upside to fully cooked bacon is that it if you buy the shelf-stable kind (check the package) you don’t need to refrigerate until after you open it. If you’re working with a mini-fridge or half-size you won’t have to sacrifice any space to your bacon, and if you buy it and don’t end up using it you can just toss it in your suitcase and bring it home. Pre-cooked bacon also has the fastest cook time at 30-40 seconds for two slices in the microwave; not a surprise given that you’re just crisping it.

Microwave

Microwave Overview
Pros:
  • Works when you only have a microwave
  • Easy cleanup
  • Fairly rapid cooking
Cons:
  • Low throughput
  • Not everyone likes the bacon
  • Can take a few tries to get the timing right
  • Lots of grease-laden papertowels if cooking more than one batch
Best for: Opinions vary on use as a side, but makes a solid sandwich

Many studio rooms only have a microwave available.  If that’s you then your best bet might be pre-cooked, but raw bacon can also be cooked in the microwave. Opinions on the flavor of microwave bacon vary widely, with some swearing by it and some swearing to never do it again. In my experience crispy-lovers tend to be more satisfied than chewy-lovers.

Before and after pictures of bacon cooked in the microwave
Left: 4 slices of bacon before cooking. Right: same slices, 4 minutes later.

The general method is to place 4 slices on top of folded paper towels on a plate, top with another paper towel to prevent spatter, then microwave for 4-5 minutes.  Since this method is fast it’s easy to overdo it, and you should be careful of carryover cooking — it will crisp as it cools.

Frying Pan

Frying Pan Overview
Pros:
  • Fairly rapid cooking
  • Can do chewy and crispy in the same batch
Cons:
  • Low throughput
  • Very hands on
Best for: Making a few slices quickly, especially if you’re going to fry eggs or pancakes in the grease.

Pans are routinely panned (see what I did there?) as a low-throughput method, fitting at most 6-8 slices in a 12-inch pan.  You can add more slices as the ones in the pan cook and shrink, but that’s still not going to make it super efficient. It’s quick and no-fuss for a few slices, but enough for a family means multiple batches. Multiple batches means more spatter, and smoke detectors going off if you’re not careful about fishing out the burnt bits. And then there’s the pan: in a timeshare the pan is usually either cheap non-stick that may not heat evenly or stainless steel that won’t be cleanup-friendly.

Image of bacon cooked in a frying pan at various stages of doneness
Left to right: ready to cook, ready to turn at 5 minutes, with a hint of chewy left at 8 minutes.  This is a 12-inch pan; the pan in a timeshare kitchen may be an even smaller 10-incher.

To cook bacon in a pan, lay slices flat and not overlapping on the bottom of a cold pan and cook over moderate heat.  Turn at least once during cooking and more often if necessary for even browning.  Drain on paper towels before serving.

Oven

Oven Overview
Pros:
  • Large batch size
  • Can do chewy and crispy in the same batch
  • Relatively hands off
  • Suitable for a variety of ovenware
Cons:
  • Takes longer if you just want a few slices — a lot longer if you have to turn the oven down to 375
Best for: Cooking the whole package at once, either for a full family meal or to use later

The oven often gets the nod as the best at making bacon for a crowd, and with five in my family it’s the method I turn to the most often. Recipes generally advise using a half-sheet pan, but smaller sizes and roasting pans (even pyrex or EZ-foil ones) can also be used.  That makes this method one of the most adaptable to whatever equipment you have on hand.

Images of bacon cooked in the oven at various states of doneness
A full pound of bacon cooked in a 9×13 pyrex pan of the kind often found in timeshare kitchens. Cooked at 375, this is probably as slow as it gets. Clockwise from top left: All 18 slices ready to go, after 20 minutes ready to separate, 1 minute later separated, after 45 minutes ready to turn, after 60 minutes fully cooked but quite chewy, crispy after 75 minutes.

Lay bacon on the bottom of the pan. Since the bacon doesn’t rely only on contact with the pan to cook it, it’s fine to overlap the slices. Bacon cooks more slowly in the oven, so you’ll have time to get in there and separate them as the fat starts to render and before they stick together. Cook at 400ºF for 20-40 minutes until desired degree of doneness, then transfer to paper towels or a rack to drain before serving.

You might notice that this is a pretty wide range of timing — it depends on what the pan is made of and how much you’ve overlapped the bacon — but it’s all hands off. You can start in a cold oven if you prefer, and it’s safe to turn down the heat to 375 or even a bit lower if you’re worried about your unfamiliar oven smoking. Lower temperatures will add quite a bit to the cook time.

Grill

Grill Overview
Pros:
  • Easy cleanup if you use foil
  • Nice smoky flavor in the bacon
  • Can do chewy and crispy in the same batch
Cons:
  • Can make regular pans sooty and hard to clean
  • Can be tricky anticipate cooking time unless you have some experience with this method
Best for: Making bacon to go with other grilled items — bacon cheeseburgers anyone?

Like the microwave, sometimes a grill is the only thing you’ve got in vacation lodgings.  What not to do: put bacon on the grates directly over the flame.  Been there, done that, got the adrenaline rush to prove it!  Instead, use indirect heat or a pan set on the grate — you can even make an impromptu pan out of foil, it just needs to be sturdy enough to keep grease from dripping straight onto the fire and causing flare-ups. Cooking times and the need for turning will vary with the heat and setup of your grill.

For the Truly Committed

… or perhaps those who should be committed: sous-vide bacon. It can take a couple of tries to master this, but once you’ve got it under your belt I would put this as a serious contender on the understanding that you sous vide at home, freeze for transport, and then just do the final sear on site. The obvious negative of sous-vide bacon is that it takes some pre-vacation overhead and you have to live close enough for transport to be an option. The up side is that finishing only takes about 2 minutes in a pan, giving you large-batch throughput as good or better than the oven, and the bacon it makes is really, really delicious.

Do you cook with bacon on vacation? Do you have a favorite tip?  Let us know in the comments.

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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer Heymont has a background in math and biology, but since she couldn't pick between the two she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

10 thoughts on “Cooking in a DVC Kitchen: Bacon on Vacation

  • November 9, 2021 at 6:43 pm
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    We end up doing some cooking when we stay in a one bedroom, but bacon is too much work for me on vacation. I’ll order a mess of it from the quick service if I need to get my DS to protein up for the day. At home, I’m firmly in the oven cooking camp.

    Reply
    • November 9, 2021 at 9:11 pm
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      Hi Julie – That’s a good idea! I’m usually cooking something else to go with it, but if I just wanted the bacon this is definitely a solid option.

      Reply
  • November 9, 2021 at 7:43 pm
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    Yeah, so I was frying up some bacon on the stove in a rental joint (not at Disney, this was a lake property in Wisconsin) but the punch line is: it set the fire alarm off and in the middle of the Covid epidemic I had all the fire trucks in town show up and ruin our brunch. Forehead slap!

    Reply
    • November 9, 2021 at 9:13 pm
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      Oof! That definitely sounds like one those situations that you look back on fondly from the distance of 20 years — but at the time they are not so funny.

      Reply
  • November 9, 2021 at 11:34 pm
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    Yep. We tried to make bacon once on checkout day at Old Key West. It didn’t go well. Even though we called the front desk immediately when the alarm went off to tell them there was no fire, the guys at Reedy Creek FD still came out (very quickly, since the station is just around the corner). Very embarrassing. We have sworn off cooking bacon since, even at home: our family pact is to only eat bacon prepared by others from now on! Needless to say, we usually have PILES of the stuff at buffets on vacation, and I can now laugh about the whole thing (my husband is still working toward that stage 10 years later, though).

    Reply
    • November 10, 2021 at 12:53 pm
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      At least you can feel safe at WDW in the future, knowing how rapidly the FD can be there in case of someone else’s bacon incident? I don’t know that I could swear off cooking bacon forever, but I can definitely see some advantages to your strategy from the healthy eating perspective. 🙂

      Reply
  • November 10, 2021 at 8:29 am
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    We generally buy the pre-cooked for vacationing. However, if we’re going to fix it in the oven, then we spring for the aluminum pans that don’t have to be cleaned afterwards! You can let the grease set up in the pan, then fold it in on itself to throw away. (Granted, not the most environmentally friendly option, but I think it’s worth it for keeping the grease out of the sink!)

    Reply
    • November 10, 2021 at 12:56 pm
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      Hi Michelle, at home we usually pour off into a jar and let it solidify, but we’ve used your disposable pan strategy when on vacation or making large quantities for a party or the like. Sometimes you gotta do whatever lets you get it done, right?

      Reply
  • November 10, 2021 at 2:43 pm
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    I always do bacon in the oven, whether at home or at a DVC resort. I line my pan with several overlapping layers of foil… making cleanup an absolute breeze.

    Reply
    • November 11, 2021 at 10:21 am
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      Hi Jennifer, thanks for weighing in! It looks like team Oven is cleaning up in the comments. 🙂

      Reply

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