Mmm, Bacon. And More Bacon. Seriously, A Whole Bacon Taste Test.
|Photo by Flickr user fotophriendly|
Bacon. Say it with me now: "bacon." Feel happy? Hungry? Of course you do. Because really, what's better than bacon? It brings salt to the savory, crunch to the flaccid, "B" to the "L" and the "T." Could you ask more of anything? I think not. And yet, bacon has more to give, asking for nothing in return but a fat scallop to wrap, a salad to be crumbled upon, a burger to dress. Bacon can open up new worlds, give new meaning to things as simple as peanut butter or brown sugar, take you on amazing journeys of piggy goodness.
But every journey begins with a single step, and to go on a journey of bacon discovery, that step is bacon selection. So I hit up some local supermarkets and collected an array of brands and types to take home and fry up. From Publix Greenwise, I bought some Coleman Natural Uncured Hickory Smoked, from Whole Foods I scored Wellshire Thick Sliced Dry Rubbed All Natural Uncured, and from a standard Publix I bought some Oscar Mayer Bacon (the standard type), some Publix Naturally Hickory Smoked Center Cut, and the one that's intrigued me for months, Luter's Genuine Dry Cured Bacon.
Each bacon was cooked three ways: fried in a pan, baked in the oven, and (thanks to a suggestion from the New Times editor) covered with brown sugar and baked. I don't remember much after that: just waking up from a pig coma and seeing that hours had gone by. Thankfully, I was able to locate some notes I had apparently written while in my pork black out:
Luter's Genuine Dry Cured Bacon: This is the one that is sold unsliced, in a sack, bound shut with a metal clip. At my local Publix, it's not even in the refrigerated section but near it in a basket, making it seem like a real traditional, turn-of-the-century-style bacon. Apropos, since it tastes like it was cured at the turn of the century. Absurdly salty such that a nice warm glass of ocean water would clear my palate, I'd consider eating some of this if it were 1870 and I was locked in an Old West jail waiting to be hung for horse thievery and some old guy named Pappy with one leg shorter than the other tossed me a slab to gnaw on and pass the time. Maybe. Otherwise, I'll pass. Here's a sentence I thought I'd never write: This bacon is disgusting. Think maybe I should have been tipped by the part of the label that recommends you use a stiff wire brush to remove any mold? And no, I'm not kidding.
|Photo by Flickr user Catastrophysicist|
Publix Naturally Hickory Smoked Center Cut: Flavor-wise, it's the least bacon-y of the bunch, and a bit short on salt. Slices are shorter than the other brands, and there's no advantage I can see to it being "center cut" (it's supposed to be a leaner cut, though the Wellshire looked meatier to me). A serviceable bacon, though it fits more on a plate at a cheap diner than at my house. Any other brand here is a better choice, with the exception for the hated Luter's.
I'll be back sometime in the future with another batch of bacon reviews (after the blurred vision and slight dizziness dissipates); there are just too many tasty-looking ones to ignore. Until then, though, grab the Wellshire if you're in Whole Foods and don't mind dropping the dosh for $8-a-pound bacon, and grab good ol' Oscar Mayer if you're anywhere else.
Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and has been known to make clothes out of bacon.