I was recently on a radio program talking about everyone’s favorite breakfast meat when the host asked me if I’d heard of the Bacon Wave, a device that claims to make perfect bacon in your microwave oven. “I haven’t used one,” I told him, “but I firmly believe that bacon categorically does not belong in a microwave.” I stand by this. Even if you use the Bacon Wave, the Original Makin’ Bacon, the WowBacon, or any other of these cheap plastic “As Seen on TV!” devices, there’s no possible way that your radioactive microwave bacon is going to be better than smoky, salty pig candy fried or baked the old-fashioned way.

Enter the Bacon Express.

Unlike the odious glut of microwave bacon gadgets, the Bacon Express doesn’t require an additional oven, be it micro, macro, or whatnot. It’s a standalone device that cooks up to six strips of bacon (depending on thickness) draped vertically over a non-stick heating element and enclosed in a pair of sleek, reverse DeLorean-style gull-wing doors. It’s basically an electric nonstick skillet that cooks bacon upright, in which the hot, rendered fat easily slides down into a removable drip pan for easy saving or disposal. The device promises easy, crispy bacon that cooks evenly, doesn’t fry in its own grease, and cleans up on the quick.

Its design is decidedly futuristic. It’s sleek and black, with chrome accents and rounded edges, resembling on first glance little more than a fancy toaster. There is only one control, a large round button surrounded by a ring that rotates from a preheat setting to desired levels of crispiness. When deployed to preheat or cook, the Bacon Express looks like HAL 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, the infamous A.I. who had a penchant for murdering poor astronauts by jetting them off unknowingly into the dark depths of outer space. I admit, I had a hell of a geeky good time saying, “Lower the bacon-bay doors, HAL” and making whooshing spaceship airlock noises as I pulled down the side panels, much to the chagrin of my wife. That alone was worth the $35.57 price tag.

But as impressed as I was with its appearance, the question remained: How well would this thing actually cook bacon

Pretty well, it turns out. I was just as shocked as you probably are, but really, it shouldn’t be so surprising. It’s essentially just an upright plancha, right? Set to medium-crispy, the bacon came out quite nicely once the cooking cycle had ended and the device sounded a series of pleasant beeps (ten altogether, though I thought five would probably suffice; beep overkill here). The result was six strips of evenly cooked, nicely crisped up bacon with a good “wave” to them and no curled ends. Having been draped over the heating element, I suspected that the strips might come out weirdly U-shaped, but that just didn’t happen. If you were to serve this to someone who didn’t see what you were up to in the kitchen, they’d surely be none the wiser.

One thing to be aware of: The Bacon Express instructions specifically warn NOT to overlap your bacon slices before entering the cooking cycle, what I imagine to be the makers’ “don’t cross the streams” admonishment. So of course I overlapped two slices juusssssst a little bit to see what would happen. Because I’m a rebel like that. What happens is that the two strips fuse together at the overlap point, making an inextricable union of whatever bacons are involved. So if you’re looking to experiment in creating some FrankenBacon, you can crossbreed two different brands or styles of bacon to create a new, wholly original bacon hybrid, which of course is a lot of fun. Oh, the possibilities! 

Cleanup was easy, as advertised on the box. A quick wipe-down of the heating element, the metal interior door liners, and the drip pan, and my Bacon HAL was ready to rock and roll. While I’m not one for unnecessary kitchen gadgets, if you’re going to buy one standalone device solely related to bacon cookery, I’d heartily recommend this nifty machine, which is easy to use, easy to clean, easy on the eyes, and actually does a decent job at cooking bacon. 

As I explored the device, my mind started wondering how I could bring Alexa into the equation via a smart plug in my kitchen and my Amazon Echo. Wouldn’t it be grand to say, “Alexa, cook bacon,” when you first wake up and have it be done by the time you get to the kitchen? Alas, the Bacon Express requires a manual push of the blue control button to get going. Maybe with its next incarnation I’ll have hands-free bacon cooking in my house. 

Bonus Bacon Reviews

I employed three different bacons in the process of testing out the Bacon Express: D’Artagnan, Nueske’s, and Mariah. I’m sure you’re wondering how these varieties fared in the Bacon Critic Gauntlet, so here were my findings:

D’Artagnan Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon

I’ve written about D’Artagnan in these pages before in reference to their duck bacon. They also offer hickory-smoked and applewood smoked bacons, the latter of which I threw onto the Bacon Express. It was on the fatty side of the fat-to-lean ratio, which meant that the finished product came out a little on the thin side, since a lot of that fat rendered out and dripped down. Solid pork flavor here, however it definitely skewed salt-forward, which tossed the balance off for me a bit. Still, a solid entry, which I look to try again cooked in more traditional means.

Neuske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon

A classic breakfast bacon, if ever there was one. Neuske’s is a great all-around bacon, and always will be, at home on its own next to bacon and toast, chopped up for salads, or topping a burger. The quality is always dependable, with a consistently even balance of fat and lean. As for flavor, Neuske’s is definitely for smoke-lovers, with a heavy hand on the applewood that might throw some folks for a loop, especially if you’re looking for a solid balance of smoke, pork, and salt. I tend to like smoke, so naturally I tend to like Neuske’s.

Mariah Ranch Brand Peppered Bacon

Some people are purists when it comes to flavored bacon, but I’m an equal opportunity bacon employer, so long as those employing the flavors do so judiciously. Mariah is a quality bacon, with a porky lean and lovely striations of fat, but this version is all pepper, all the time. When it comes to bacon flavors, pepper is a natural and one that I usually enjoy, however Mariah—made in Indiana—doesn’t bring the other natural flavors of its bacon to the fore to compete with that spicy pepper, and it ultimately overwhelms the product. Not that it’s inedible, by any stretch of the imagination; it would be fantastic in a B.L.T. or wrapped around shrimp or scallops, and would be awesome binding the outside of a filet mignon. But on its own, that black pepper jumps out at you like an angry tarpon on the line. Settle down now, little bacon. Settle down.