Do you remember this thing? Back in January the internet went crazy for Nostalgia Electrics' Bacon Express, a six-slice countertop bacon cooker with a cool retro aesthetic. Foodbeast told us it would make cooking breakfast A LOT easier (their caps, not ours), Gizmodo said it would make every meal so much better (every meal?), and Huff Po said the appliance is just what we need right now (it goes "water, shelter, bacon," right?).
Needless to say, the Bacon Express sold out immediately. In fact it took all this time—about three months—for our order to finally come in. We cooked with it, and... it definitely isn't "just what we need right now." What we need is a copy of the Amazon return policy, and maybe a link to a bacon-of-the-month club.
What it's like to cook with a bacon toaster
Operating the Bacon Express is cumbersome from moment one. To access the cooking compartment you need to pull on two handles simultaneously and splay open the entire chassis like a book. It's annoying, because once one side releases, you've just lost all of your leverage on the other. But annoying turns to dangerous once the appliance is preheated, or worse: once it's filled with scalding-hot bacon. You'll need to use the heat-safe handles, one on each door, or risk a burn.
Inside the cooking chamber is a vertical heating element, surrounded on all sides by a non-stick, removable cooking plate. You drape your bacon over this plate like you'd dry a towel over a handrail, then let it cook.
This design is fundamentally flawed. Heat rises and collects at the peak of the cooking plate, meaning the middles of your strips will always be cooked more than the ends. Heating is also uneven horizontally, meaning the strips in the center of the Bacon Express will be cooked less than the strips on the sides.
We like our bacon crispy, and set the Bacon Express accordingly, but still ended up with mostly chewy bacon—minus one crispy bite in the middle. For our second trial we set the dial way past "crispy" and into the "thick cut bacon" zone—but still no luck.
Bacon Express vs. the competition
One advantage the Bacon Express really does have going for it is speed. Pre-heat time is just a couple of minutes, so from a cold Bacon Express to cooked bacon (well, cooked in the middle) you're looking at just a 12 minute wait. 18 minutes for crispier or thicker strips.
Now, in our opinion there's really only one way to cook bacon correctly, and that's low and slow in a pan. So we cooked some, for science, and the difference was clear: From cold pan to crispy bacon was an arduous 27 minute wait.
Bakin' bacon in the oven is another popular way to do it, especially if you're feeding a crowd. This method was closer, but still not as fast as the Bacon Express: At 400°F 30 minutes separated us from 11 slices of bacon on a half sheet pan.
Of course it's much easier add a second pan to the stove or sheet pan to the oven than it is to go out and buy another Bacon Express. No, the more important difference here is the quality of the finished product, and there's just no comparison. The uneven bacon cooked by the Bacon Express couldn't hold a candle to the crispy, perfect strips that emerged from the pan, nor the flat, numerous strips baked in the oven.
Cleaning the Bacon Express is a three-step process: first the drip tray, then the cooking plate, and finally the walls of the appliance—surely splattered with bacon grease by now. The cooking plate's non-stick coating is easy to clean, but it's rather sharp on the edges, making hand-washing uncomfortable. The drip tray, elongated as it must be, is a little tippy and hard to manage—not an ideal way to carry around hot grease. At least it has a spout.
Who should buy this?
Considering how readily available better ways of cooking bacon are—namely pans and ovens—the Bacon Express is a tough sell. In fact, if you'd rather not deal with pans or ovens, there are even a few handy microwave bacon solutions, like the Joie Piggy Microwave Bacon Tray, which is $12 on Amazon. We've also heard decent things about pre-cooked bacon, which only needs to be warmed up for an instant bacon fix.
We think the Bacon Express is best as a gag gift for the bacon enthusiast in your life. At the end of the day, if you know someone that loves bacon enough to own a specialized appliance for it, they probably cook it better than this device can.