BB Video: The Flaming Bacon Lance of Death, from Theo Gray's book "Mad Science"

FLAMING BACON LANCE - THEODORE GRAY MP4 Download here. Or, watch this video on YouTube here.

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Yesterday, I blogged about the release of Popular Science columnist Theo Gray's new book, MAD SCIENCE.

In today's episode of Boing Boing Video, a collaboration with PopSci, we debut the world-premiere of the first video documenting the sort of experiments you'll find in this book -- in which Theo cuts steel with bacon. It's a FLAMING BACON LANCE OF DEATH.

Yes, that's right, using nothing but bacon -- okay, prosciutto -- and an air hose, Mr. Gray constructs a high performance thermic lance that seriously cuts sheet metal.

In this video, you'll also see a purely VEGAN THERMIC LANCE built from one cucumber and several dozen thin vegetable-oil coated breadsticks. (Tip: the performance is all about the oil). This hotrod burns fast and furious, but does not last long enough to initiate a cut in steel sheet. The flame front travels towards the back of the cucumber and endangers the operator when it reaches the rubber connector.


Theo also built a CUCUMBER-BEEFSTICK LANCE. A high-performance thermic lance constructed from seven beefsticks and a cucumber. Later versions used Pup-Peroni brand dog treats, which are exactly like beef sticks only cheaper.

In some ways this device out-performed the Bacon Lance, and it's much easier to build.

But it's not made of bacon.

Theo tells Boing Boing,

"Cucumber is an *excellent* base for these things because it's air-tight, moist (to resist fire), easy to core, and has a rubbery skin that makes an air tight seal. About the only thing wrong with cucumbers is that they are not made of bacon. (I have a thing called a "fruit coring tool" which is like a very small round cookie cutter on a stick. You drill it down the middle of the cucumber until it comes out the other end, then stuff the cucumber with the chosen fuel.)"
Here are Theo's columns at And more on the flaming bacon of death at

These devices were created by Theodore Gray. Videography in this BB Video episode by Nick Mann (shot on the 5D Mk II). Stills are by Mike Walker.

Previously: Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do at Home, But Probably Shouldn't (Book)

Special thanks to Boing Boing Video's hosting partner Episodic.





  1. How does someone come up with the idea to cut steel with bacon? I mean…that must be a pretty entertaining train of thought.

  2. Okay, dibs on the name “Cucumber-Beefstick Lance” for when my porn career finally gets rolling.

    1. @Anonymous, there are two cucumber variants of the flaming bacon lance of death. One is made with cukes and breadsticks (vegan), one is made with cukes and beef sticks (obviously not vegan). Mr. Gray referenced both in this video.

  3. Prosciutto is not bacon, it’s ham. This is The Flaming Ham Lance of Death. With a credibility gap such as this it’s no wonder the scientific community hasn’t taken Theo’s porcine technologies more seriously.

  4. That’s the first time I’ve seen the quote “About the only thing wrong with cucumbers is that they are not made of bacon.” I must concur though.

  5. I almost hate to point this out, since a bacon (ok prosciutto) thermic lance is AWESOME, but it’s really the oxygen that’s cutting the steel. The bacon just gets the steel hot enough to burn on its own. and adds flavor.

  6. it seems to me that bacon would be a suitable matrix to impregnate with boron-bearing compounds.
    Could we then look forward to eventually seeing the Bacon Moderated Experimental Pile? Little windlasses to raise and lower the bacon to control the chain reaction? Perhaps in brass and oak?

  7. I’d think something fatty like an avocado would work better than breadsticks. Maybe with some steamed rice and nori as an insulator.

  8. Thank you for my next column idea. It has now become my life’s work to construct an atomic pile from bacon. Its application as a moderator is obvious, but using uranium fuel would be cheating because uranium is not made of bacon. I could use neutron irradiation to convert a fraction of the sodium atoms to Na-24, a well known marker for neutron exposure. It would still be bacon because the chemical composition has not changed, only the isotopic mix. With a half-life of 15 hours this would make for some pretty hot bacon, but the beta particles are not useful for generation a spontaneous nuclear chain reaction. Further research in this area is required to determine what fissionable element can be created in-situ.

  9. Concerning avacado, thought of that, but it won’t work because there is too much moisture. You need something fatty and dry. And for the insulator you need something wet and airtight. I considered wrapping the cucumber in tightly stretched collard greens, but this turned out to be unnecessary as the pressure containment capacity of a standard cucumber is quite remarkable.

  10. @ Theodore:

    Firstly, that’s a fantastic video and I’m looking forward to reading your book.

    Secondly, I think we should start pushing for “the pressure containment capacity of a standard cucumber” to be accepted as an SI unit. Or at ISO standard at the very least.

  11. Pffft…we were building hybrid rockets out of pepperoni back in the 90’s. Make me an oxidizer out of Redi-Whip and then I’ll be impressed.

    -Former Univ. of AL-Huntsville, Propulsion Research Center, GRA.

  12. I thought John Scalzi owned the copyright on bacon (or is that only when it’s taped to a cat?).

  13. @Smonkey #27, I imagine such would emit Cerenkov radiation in perhaps the 510nm range. An enclosure of course is required; could you, would you, in a box?

  14. The pepperoni rockets were delish…a big hit at the corporate dog & pony shows when sliced and served on a Triscuit.

    -Former Univ. of AL-Huntsville, Propulsion Research Center, GRA.

  15. a copy? A copy?!! Pah sir! Pah I say! Animal protein cutting and welding apparatus are long recognized by international scientific convention as being in a distinct class separate from farinaceous endeavors. You can hardly compare the two.

  16. It’s just a nozzle made of bacon and/or other food items attached to a standard blow torch set up. He’d have safer, better control over the flame with a proper tip.

  17. @#11: Screw the jetpacks, where’s my bacon flying car?!? DAMMIT. THEY PROMISED US BACON FLYING CARS!!!

  18. In reply to EVIL JIM: No it’s not. The bacon is the fuel, notice there is only one gas hose coming in the back. That supplies pure oxygen, no fuel gas (not even I am crazy enough to pre-mix fuel and oxygen in a hose like that, it would be suicide).

    If you find this hard to believe, try burning something, anything, in a stream of pure oxygen. This torch is basically a grease fire pumped up with oxygen, which is a very strong oxidizer.

  19. What does the bacon and/or cucumber do…….? other than to channel the ignited (thus the cutting ability) oxygen onto the steel…..?it seems pretty stupid…pointless.

  20. I sure am glad that compressed o2 can still cut through a dinner serving pan. you pump enough o2 through anything to get that result

  21. i dont know whats so special about this. he’s just focusing oxygen gas so i can cut steel. i guess its special that the bacon and cucumber dont burn.

  22. what an amazing waste of bacon, cucumbers, time, and energy. i thought we were all supposed to be going green. some dude playing in his garage wasting food and fuel definitely can’t be good for mother earth.

  23. Come on people it is the oxygen gas that is cutting. Oxygen gs is very flammable. He is just trying to make it look cooler by using unordinary items to make it look like they are doing the work.
    The Internet sure can make people believe dumb stuff.

  24. Is all of the USA retards can no one see he has thorch cutting rods inside the bacon hes just cutting the metal with the same rods you would use any given day damn we are STUPID AMERICANS you ppl make me sick.. Open your eyes and see what is right in front of you. anyone who has cut metal with a torch knows what the hell im talking about.. its just wraped in bacon.. good job a bacon lance. fancy name for a torch cutter lol morons

  25. Step 1 in becoming a permanent professional researcher: find small commercial applications for your product that may fund your research indefinitely.

    Mr. Gray? Repeat after me: Bacon, Zippos.

    First one’s free. Next one’ll cost ya.

  26. May I suggest trying a similiar experiment with Brazil nuts. They make great fire staters on their own due to the high oil content.

  27. I agree Bacon Lightsaber, but for right now Incendiary Bacon Bullets, that will stop terrorists dead in their tracks, if the bullet doesn’t kill them the sure fact they are tainted by a pork product will.

  28. hey theo, have you considered using peanut butter or peanut brittle? one day after learning that higher calories equals more fire(in simple words), I looked around the kitchen for high Calorie foods. peanut butter has THE MOST… at least in my kitchen. it might require alot of oxidizer though, will pure oxygen gas work?

  29. whoa! that cucumber cutting tool is awesome where it just cuts all the skin off in a perfect cylinder. gotta get me one of those

  30. What’s the point? I could make tires out of lettuce, but the car will only travel two feet. Without the internet, people would have to do real things, instead of insanely boring things, and I wouldn’t have just wasted two minutes of my life.

  31. And what did you carry the unused ham away on after you torched the cookie sheet? That grease is dangerous, too. The guys who tested space lab’s components in enriched O2 fires called chapstick a “NASA standard ignitor”.

  32. isn’t it just the heat that is doing it, the bacon and cucumber are just there to make people think this is cool? Our society is so stoopid!

  33. This is so stupid. Its the oxygen that’s cutting the steel. So its a bacon hose essentially…. big deal.

  34. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
    To play with food, the live-long day.
    Intellect-smarts with kiddish fun,
    For with these gags, we all can run.

  35. Not cool…I mean it would be if you were doing this without oxygen hooked up to it, but as is, it works almost the same way as any other steel “cutting” tool

  36. what cuts the steal is the oxygene, not the bacon, come on,do little thinking, oxygene will burn without or with the bacon, you can cut anything with the oxygene

  37. Personally I use my own methane, and a lit fireplace match aimed it the proper direction.

    > < • • [=====]] Boomerfartz

  38. its nothing more than an oxygen fire. he even said he hooked it up to an oxygen tank. nothing more than oxygen passing through a tube of bacon. you can replace the bacon with just about anything cause its the pure oxygen that makes the flame burn so hot it will cut steel. thats why blow torches used in any metal shop have OXYGEN tanks.

  39. to theo –

    my understanding is that the coffee bean contains a large amount of chemical energy , do you believe it would be possible to take , lets say expresso grounds , and form a structually solid tube out of them , then use that ? it would likely smell terrible , but i’m confident vaste amounts of energy could be had with such a design . let me know what you think .

  40. Sure it’s ridiculous, but it (and all these comments) made me laugh out loud, and I needed it…

  41. To everyone saying it’s ‘all’ because of the oxygen. Duh, because without oxygen, almost nothing burns. The oxygen reacts with the ‘bacon’ or breadsticks to create the inital flame hot enough to get the pan to burn. Withouth the bacon/bread acting as a nozzle, the 02 would disperse broadly in the air and do nadda
    And just one or the other won’t do squat. Just oxygen will slowly rust the pan. Just bacon will pre-grease it for cooking. Not that that’s a bad thing.
    As for why? Why do you freeze bananas in liguid nitrogen in highschool chemistry? It’s fun!

  42. “I am using an engineering grade of Bacon called prosciutto.”
    Bwahahahahahaahaaaaa! love it!
    an engineering undergrad

  43. There seem to be some certain misconceptions about combustion here… Fires require two things: a) something to burn, and b) oxygen to oxidize the reaction. Obviously the O2 hose is providing the oxygen. It’s the *bacon* and *breadsticks* that are burning, though. If they weren’t present, you wouldn’t have fire (or you would, but it would be your rubber hose burning and that would be a bad thing). Oxygen can’t burn on its own. Clearly this clever bacon-based invention represents a vast stride in self-cooking nozzle technology.

  44. people people, oxygen is a oxidizer not a fuel, to have fire u need a fuel AND and oxidizer, therefore the bacon acts as a “solid” fuel. kind of like the solif fuel engines that sent men into space. the oxygen just accelerates the process and heat to the point of being able to melt steel. so this is actually possible. don’t know honestly whether this gut isn’t hiding a torch tip in there, but it’s totally possible “in theory”

  45. 7 bacon tubes… wrapped in a big bacon tube… wrapped in more bacon!!!

    that sounds so good!

  46. @#88
    “I am using an engineering grade of Bacon called prosciutto” – hee hee hee!! Can I quote you the next time I need something clever for class??

    Another engineering undergrad

  47. must’ve been home cured bacon – loaded with potassium nitrate –> KNO3 + glycerine(bacon fat) + 02

    I wonder if this can be outdone by a kielbasa-sparkler stick combo?

  48. its not the bacon or the cucumber its the O2 he hooks it up to thats what burns the steel not the meat or veggies just they are hollowed out to let the air flow thru

  49. Bacon can’t cut anything. Only thing that the bacon did here was funnel the gas (fuel) that did the work. The bacon was the object that directed the gas to feed the flame that did the cutting. Bacon itself did no cutting at all.

    1. I’m so excited to hear that we can burn oxygen. This will completely end our dependency on fossil fuels. Why didn’t anyone figure this out sooner?

  50. To #95. Yet again, without fuel, oxygen does -squat-. It’s a matter of basic chemistry. You need a tiny amount of activation energy to ignite the bacon in the presence of a lot of 02 (like a venting tank of it). In turn, you need waaaaay more to get a metal pan to -melt-. Exposing the bacon-nozzle to the propane torch is enough to start it reacting with the oxygen, which puts off more energy than it uses once it starts. In turn, that huge amount of heat can start the pan going. Notice that the pan stops burning when the hose is pulled away. It’s not for lack of 02 (the air still is about 20% 02 unless Mr. Grey was an idiot doing it in an air-tight room). It stopped because without a constant supply of -heat-, the energy to keep reacting is gone.

  51. only pure oxygen?

    It works by blowing pure oxygen gas through a pipe packed with iron and magnesium rods. These metals are surprisingly flammable in pure oxygen, releasing a huge amount of heat as they are consumed. The result is a jet of superheated iron plasma coming out of the end of the pipe.

    Bacon is fattening because it contains a lot of chemical energy tied up in its proteins, and especially in its fat. You can release that energy either by digesting it or by burning it with a healthy supply of oxygen. The challenge isn’t creating the heat; it’s engineering a bacon structure strong enough to withstand the stress of a 5,000°F bacon plasma flame.

  52. very challenging.. but he did it!!! now we will be so much more enlightened and we can make more lances out of bacon in the future! (or HAM for the stiffs out there) yay for super high and important technology such as demonstrated here!!

  53. Okay, don’t think this will actually cut through anything without some acetylene, but what ever! That bacon isn’t going to provide enough fuel to cut through steel, that is for damn sure!

  54. These comments are stoopid. I agree with all the more literate folk out there who recognize that the bacon is the fuel source.

  55. um… until you PROVE that it was the meat and not the oxygen, by doing a comparison with the control of just oxygen alone then I call BS and say that this is a hoax….

  56. I would just like to clear up a few things here…. People who are saying it’s just the oxygen that cuts the steel are partly right, but partly not right. Yes, oxygen alone will burn and cut steel: In an ordinary oxy-acetylene torch you can turn the acetylene off and cut with pure oxygen.

    BUT ONLY AFTER THE STEEL IS HOT ENOUGH. And hot enough is very hot. Watch the video again closely: The point at which the oxygen starts interacting directly with the steel is not until you see a shower of fine sparks coming from the pan, after it has been raised to yellow heat. Before that it’s all bacon burning, generating the heat necessary to raise the steel to its ignition point.

    And since I can’t “turn off the bacon” in the same way you would turn off the acetylene, there’s always bacon burning, not just steel.

    Is this all pointless? Absolutely! Guilty as charged. Unless it inspires one or two kids to think about a career in science, in which case it’s worth every hour of my life I’ll never get back.

    And finally for those who say it’s faked, there is nothing I hate more than fake science videos. I absolutely swear on a stack of bacon bits that there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING fake in this video. The art people at Pop Sci wanted to photoshop some extra sparks into the picture we printed just to make it look a bit prettier, and I said, no way, do not touch that picture because people are going to say it’s fake, and I don’t want any trace of photoshop artifacts for people to jump on.

    It’s about 15 slices of prosciutto from SAMS club, oxygen from a cylinder, and a couple of pipe fittings to connect them, period. The only way I could make it more pure bacon would be to use a pork stomach as a gas bladder and connect the torch to it with a section of intestine. But that would be gross.

  57. Useful ideas for bacon:
    -Feeding myself…yes
    -Feeding others…good
    -Feeding animals…alright
    -Welding torch…needs work.

  58. theo.. you are the man for responding and reading these comments man, really. i wouldnt have the stomache for such criticism (my own included). as for getting people involved in science by making this video, i hope you can. i wish there was more thought provoking (however i dare say useless) info out there as opposed to millions of daily ‘casts on celebrity hookups. you should put that info you gave us IN the video. even though we like to know its bacon (or freakin ham or whatever- its all just a PIG to me lol) I personally would like to know more about the “science” of it and not just the “oh cool that food gets so hot it burns s— up”. im not trying to be a scientist but i would like to be informed just to know. just my ten cents. stay cool theo

  59. “Is this all pointless? Absolutely! Guilty as charged. Unless it inspires one or two kids to think about a career in science, in which case it’s worth every hour of my life I’ll never get back.”

    Here HERE!

  60. Mr. Gray,

    As a chef & as a biologist you have appealed to my two favorite worlds – food & science. Thank you!

  61. ok for you people out their try it and see for yourself. it’s as simple as that. propain and other gases can cut metal depends on the thickness and type, but not just by it’s self. but, but, if ou don’t belive it try it. i did and it works.

  62. @Theodore Gray, who wrote:
    In reply to EVIL JIM: No it’s not. The bacon is the fuel, notice there is only one gas hose coming in the back. That supplies pure oxygen, no fuel gas (not even I am crazy enough to pre-mix fuel and oxygen in a hose like that, it would be suicide).

    Ohhhhh. In that case, it’s pretty cool. I thought I understood the setup but evidently not. Please forgive my lack of blowtorch knowledge.

  63. Aha!! So this is why my thermal lance page is getting hit a bit more!
    ( )

    We (Fuckin’Jerks MC-Oakland Chapter) started messing around with our own thermal lance design and builds a few years back and ended up taking it to the playa to mess with minds and melt some granite. ( )

    But let me chime in here and be a dillweed, Theo; [ No, I’m not gonna spout off on thermite and the evil 9/11 fascist interdimensional machine elf conspiracy.]
    Your lance is technically not a “thermal lance” but an “oxy lance” and I do believe someone above has already addressed the misappellation of “bacon” for prosciutto.
    But perhaps, Theo, your lance is a new variant deserving its own name and corresponding study and development! Maybe “Sacrificial Oxyporcine Torch”. Whaddya think?

    P.S. Did you happen to check your cutting tip with an IR/laser temp gun to check out what deltaT you managed?
    We still haven’t managed to get ahold of anything that measures in the 6000F+ range… Ho hum.

  64. The bacon and cucumber are just being used as consumables. Nothing special except this dude is making it smell like burnt bacon and a big oily mess.

  65. I wish I could end internet stupidity with blog comments…

    Anyway, cool stuff… But I would be much happier if you had just sent the prosciutto to me. Mmmm, proscuttio

  66. Nothing special here… except an absolutely brilliant demonstration of just how much energy our food really contains!

    This is so much better than the high school chemistry demo where the instructor burns a lump of sugar with a bunsen burner.

  67. Ok, i bags the name Flaming Bacon Lance Of Death for when i finally get a band together.

  68. ok for you people out their try it and see for yourself. it’s as simple as that. propain and other gases can cut metal depends on the thickness and type, but not just by it’s self. but, but, if ou don’t belive it try it. i did and it works. evden eve nakliyat

  69. What if you just used a pig? Stick an air hose up the pig’s ass and blow the flame from his lips. Would that be better than prosciutto?

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