Place an oven rack on the center shelf and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If you’re cooking two sheets at once, place the racks on the upper and lower third shelves. Line a large plate or cutting board with paper towels and set aside.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper (foil will make cleanup easier but parchment is still better than nothing). Optional but recommended: place a wire cooling rack on top of the baking sheet, which will allow the bacon to cook from all sides and crisp up more evenly.
Place the bacon in a single layer on the baking sheet, leaving a small amount of space in between each piece to prevent sticking.
If preparing sweet and spicy maple bacon variation, combine the maple syrup and cayenne pepper in a small bowl, then use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer of the syrup over the top of the bacon.
Bake until golden brown and crisp, approximately 15-20 minutes (times will vary based on personal preference for doneness and thickness of the bacon). Start checking after 15 minutes. If you’re not using a wire rack, you may want to pour off excess fat once midway through the cooking process.
Remove the bacon from the oven and, using tongs, transfer to the prepared paper towel-lined plate to drain off excess fat. Serve hot!
Leftover bacon (what’s that?) can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or frozen for several months. Briefly reheat in the microwave or in a skillet before serving.
This recipe scales up or down to make as much as you need. 1 pound is an example amount.
I like reserving the excess bacon fat to use for other cooking applications (especially since it can’t be poured down the drain). After the bacon fat has cooled slightly but before it solidifies, pour into a small airtight storage container. Store in the refrigerator and use to cook eggs, sauté veggies and pan fry meat!