Category Archives: Bacon Brackets

Is Turkey Bacon Real Bacon?

Gentle Readers, this post is coming to you from the San Jose airport, and thus will be brief. Apparently, California is already experiencing a bacon shortage. This broad statement is derived from a small data set. Twice, yes twice, I went to breakfast establishments that didn’t carry “real” bacon. Shocking!

Smiling does not improve turkey bacon's taste. Just saying.

Smiling does not improve turkey bacon’s taste. Just saying.

Mind you, I was too busy stuffing my face full of coffeecake on both occasions to audibly complain. But it raised an important question. Is turkey bacon real bacon?

For our taste test purposes, we decided it was not worth the caloric spend. I found it to be more like facon than bacon. It was crisp and salty, but why not just eat a bit less bacon? I’ve never understood substituting as a reason to consume more of something less tasty.

Mmmm coffeecake from Hobee's.

Mmmm coffeecake from Hobee’s.

Not that I am biased. Perhaps we will do bacon brackets with alternative bacons this March. Stay tuned.

Real bacon spotted!

Real bacon spotted!

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The Tower of Bacon

Gentle Readers, sometimes, bacon is more than the flavoring, more than a garnish, more than a bit. Sometimes, bacon is the guest of honor. Recently, in my professional life, I had cause to order 100 pieces of bacon. Just bacon. It was for a Tweetup called #vBacon, and I was not kidding. To the extreme credit and creativity of the staff at Cable Car City Pub, they brought this out.

Behold the Tower of Bacon!

Behold the Tower of Bacon!

That’s right, it’s a tower of bacon. Essentially a deconstructed BLT, lettuce and tomato served as garnish. It was bacon shock and awe. There were pictures taken, poses with, bacon inception even.

Bacon Inception

Bacon Inception: Photo credit @revolize

I’m well-documented as being a bacon fan, and this bacon was tasty. Lesson here, sometimes, when you have an event, less is more. Beer and bacon, yes, that is enough. They tried to push me into fancier appetizers, but I kept saying, just bacon please. The result was 150 happy technologists.

Will don ears and bacon for charity! Annual #v0dgeball tournament for Wounded Warrior Project.

Will don ears and bacon for charity! Annual #v0dgeball tournament for Wounded Warrior Project.

Have you ever thrown a party around a single ingredient? Post a comment below, or Tweet at me with #vBacon in your Tweet!

Send your bacon photos, your kitchen questions, and your food confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Bacon on Bacon, or the Bacon What? Log Recipe

Gentle Readers, this post will be picture-heavy, because sometimes words just won’t do. Today’s recipe comes from the hands of a colleague and friend, a fellow bacon fan, whom we shall call BaconFreaky. When someone tells you, first you weave a bacon basket, you simply must stop what you’re doing and listen.

How to Weave a Bacon Basket. Wow. Just wow.

How to Weave a Bacon Basket. Wow. Just wow.

And because this is total dude food, I’m leaving this in dude speak, as was shared with me. Because this recipe is not meant for the faint of heart. Literally.

Bacon What? Log Glamour Shot: I'm heartstoppingly hungry.

Bacon What? Log Glamour Shot: I’m heartstoppingly hungry.

Bacon What? Log Recipe

 Stuff:

Bacon What? Log Shopping List

Bacon What? Log Shopping List

16 strips THICK bacon
cheese (TPC: I would recommend a sharp cheddar or a pepper jack)
sausage (hot) (TPC: I would use mild, but I’m not a dude)
chopped pickled jalepeños (TPC: you can use the whole or the pre-diced pickled ones, up to you)
pepperoni (TPC: why not at this point?)
BONUS: sausage links FTW! (TPC: Again, why hold back now?)
(TPC: Unlisted, but apparently a tanker of beer is needed as accompaniment)

 Do This:

On a sheet of aluminum foil: Make bacon weave. Spread sausage over 1/2 of the weave!

Layer sausage over 1/2 the weave, and add a generous layer of chopped pickled jalepenos.

Layer sausage over 1/2 the weave, and add a generous layer of chopped pickled jalepenos.

1/2″ thick layer pepperoni (ridiculous layers), layer jalapeños (lots make it GOOD!), layer cheese (little makes it BETTER!).

Layer the pepperoni and cheese: too much cheese leads to the dreaded ooze. Use wisely.

Layer the pepperoni and cheese: too much cheese leads to the dreaded ooze. Use wisely.

One LINE of sausage links across. Roll up in aluminum foil like a burrito.

Beautifully rolled Bacon What? Log is ready for its closeup.

Beautifully rolled Bacon What? Log is ready for its closeup.

Make it look nice.

Bake at 250 1 hour for each inch of Bacon Log. (TPC: Buy a meat thermometer to test this!)

Let sit for 1 hour after you take it out of the oven. Enjoy.

So, there you go folks. Are you ready for that much bacon? Post your comments below! I have an urge to have a slice of that for breakfast on a biscuit. Perhaps that’s just me.

Send your defibrillators, statins, and PX90 tapes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Friday, Ode to Flatbread Crackers.

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Burger Wars: Shake Shack NYC Review

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook does not imagine that she will emerge from this entry in the burger wars unscathed. For the past year or so, I’ve been sampling the wares of the various high-end fast burger joints. I’ve been to Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger, and now Shake Shack.

The Practical Cooks Junior at Work: Shake Shack Reviewing

The Practical Cooks Junior at Work: Shake Shack Reviewing

Thankfully I brought my favorite team of critics, The Practical Cooks Junior, to back me up. It was a very hot day in New York, and we’d been running hard. Shake Shack near the Museum of Natural History was crowded. All this background to say, we didn’t love it. Not one of us.

The SmokeShack and Fries: Shake Shack

The SmokeShack and Fries: Shake Shack

The fries were pretty good when they were hot. We got them plain, sans cheese sauce. I got the SmokeShack because, well, bacon. The Eldest got a plain burger, and the Youngest got a hot dog. We got a vanilla shake and a peanut butter one for good measure.

Everything was okay, but not great. We ended up having to eat outside, so heat was a factor, but it just wasn’t memorable. We even ended up tossing some of the peanut butter milkshake, which borders on sin for me, but it just wasn’t doing it for us. In-N-Out’s chocolate shake is better, in my opinion, and Five Guys fries are my fave of the three. As for burgers, I’m voting for In-N-Out Animal Style.

Fries, Chocolate Shake, and Cheeseburger from In-N-Out Burger

Fries, Chocolate Shake, and Cheeseburger from In-N-Out Burger

Native New Yorkers tell me that Shake Shack isn’t the great institution it once was, and it is certainly far better than the golden arches. However, I had a burger last week at G2B Pub, a local joint, and it’s hard to think about other burgers now. Since I have genetically crappy cholesterol (looking at you TPC’s Mom), I can’t eat endless burgers, and I want to love the ones I eat. Shake Shack is a pass for me.

Meet my new BFF: burger from G2B Pub with sweet potato fries

Meet my new BFF: burger from G2B Pub with sweet potato fries

Okay Gentle Readers, that’s my final round-up in the burger wars. Hit me with your best shot. What’s your favorite? Agree or disagree with my take on the big three? Post a comment below, or Tweet at me with #burgerwars as your tag.

Send your kudos, complaints, and general shenanigans to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Bacon Quest: Bacon Bacon Truck in San Francisco Reviewed! (with video)

Gentle Readers, it has been too long since The Practical Cook broke out the video review. Fear not, she is reunited with her camera and on the road. Better still, she is stalking that crowd favorite, bacon.

I learned about the famed Bacon Bacon SF food truck a few months ago, when I was, well, talking about bacon at a Tweetup. You would be shocked how often that happens to me. They have everything from your standard bacon grilled cheese to bacon popcorn and chocolate bacon.

The Menu at the Bacon Bacon SF Food Truck

The Menu at the Bacon Bacon SF Food Truck

Accompanied by fellow bacon fan, whom I shall call Semper Fried, we decided to try as much as we could across the menu, for science of course. In our meager defense, we walked to and from the truck, and that was some reasonable distance.

Pork Belly Taco and Pork Belly Fries: Delicious in a box

Pork Belly Taco and Pork Belly Fries: Delicious in a box

I had the Bahn Mi and Chocolate Bacon, he went for the Pork Belly taco and Pork Belly fries (they made me think of Southern BBQ, a win). The bacon was exceptional. I am in the process of determining where it came from. My sandwich was good, the pork meatballs were nice, but I’ve had better pork belly. The money is really on the bacon here, it is outstanding, thick without being jerkylike, not overly hammy or salty, very balanced with a pronounced bacon flavor.

Pork Meatball Bahn Mi with Bacon!

Pork Meatball Bahn Mi with Bacon!

Would I go back? Absolutely, if only to buy more chocolate bacon. Yeah, it’s good, don’t try to kid yourself about that. Go early, the line forms fast. I think I’m going to try the vegetarian option next time, with bacon.

Chocolate, Meet Bacon.

Chocolate, Meet Bacon. ❤

Will you go out of your way to eat bacon? Tell me your story or issue a bacon challenge in the comment box below!

The Bacon Bacon Food Truck in San Francisco! Hunt it down today!

The Bacon Bacon Food Truck in San Francisco! Hunt it down today!

Food truck recommendations, kudos, and culinary challenges can be sent to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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The Best Bacon: Bacon Brackets Winner Declared, Stunning Upset (with video)

Gentle Readers, the smoky haze is clearing, the fat has been rendered, and a winner has been declared. The Practical Cook can now resume purchasing and consuming bacon in rational rather than rasher quantities. So who won?

Bacon Smackdown!

Bacon Smackdown!

Let’s roll the tapes:

That’s right, out of all the fancy pants brands we tried, the victor is Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon, sold at a reasonable price at your local grocery store. The results are so shocking, I plan on doing a blind taste with some local food talents, just to confirm or deny. If you’re interested in running your own test, or participating, let me know.

Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon: Winner of the Grocery Store Round!

Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon: Grand Champion, Best Bacon

You see, the favorite going in, by far, was Nueske’s. I thought it would win, easy. The fabulous Wonder Woman surprised me with a 3 pound sampler pack of the stuff, and having mowed through the two more unique varieties, I spared the standard hickory smoked for the Bacon Brackets. I couldn’t eat it.

Blind Tasting Bacon!

Blind Tasting Bacon!

That’s right, bacon I could not eat. It was so smoky, though I admittedly have a problem with high smoke, it was inedible to me. Improv Cook backed me up on this one, though she’s not as put off by smoke as me. I went and bought another sample, this time sliced to order. Better, but I loved the cherrywood smoked Nueske’s way more.

Beauty in bacon can be deceiving. This is the Nueske's!

Beauty in bacon can be deceiving.This is the Nueske's!

So the champion went down. I consolidated this final post, as the first place winner in the Mail-Order is hard enough to source, and not delicious enough to bother, in my opinion. So here’s the Final Four, ranked from last to first:

4. Applegate Sunday Bacon. This only won the Gourmet grocery store bracket by being the least unappealing. Not recommended if there are other options.

3. Niman’s Ranch. This was the barely named winner of the mail-order category. It was smoky, salty, and a bit chewy with some good fat, but neither Improv Cook nor I loved it enough to stake our bacon reps on it.

2. Bacon from Cliff’s Meat Market. Proving that butchers know what they’re talking about, the mysteriously labeled “Bacon” from Cliff’s in Carrboro, NC, was really good. I would eat this very versatile locally-obtained bacon any time.

1. Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon: Grand Champion. This bacon was flavorful, meaty, with some smoke, extremely versatile, and really just a pleasure to eat. And isn’t that what bacon is all about?

Thanks to everyone for joining us on this journey, and my comrade in tasting and the founder of this awesome quest, Improv Cook. Special thanks to Cliff’s Meat Market, Brinkley Farms, and John at Eco Farms for the great info and the bacon.

Keep your French Toast company with some bacon, and grits, and eggs, and . . .

Keep your French Toast company with some bacon, and grits, and eggs, and . . .

And another special thank you to Neal’s Deli, for hosting the Bacon Summit that led to the Bacon Brackets. I’m coming in soon for another one of those pastrami biscuits, or perhaps the egg and garlicky spinach. I need a little bacon break . . .

Neal's Deli Biscuit with Egg, Swiss Cheese, and Garlicky Spinach: It's a Health Food Really

Neal's Deli Biscuit with Egg, Swiss Cheese, and Garlicky Spinach: It's a Health Food Really

What a long salty trip it has been. So I challenge you to go try this bacon and post a comment! What do you think?

Send your fresh veggies, challenges, and actual cooking questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Bacon Brackets: Round 3, Local Edition!

Gentle Readers, this was a very exciting round of bacon tasting for The Practical Cook and Improv Cook. First, we limited the selection to two kinds of bacon, which allows for more tasting of each kind. Win. Second, because this is a local round, it was fun to gather up the contestants, and to talk to real live people who love bacon about bacon.

Bacon Spinach Pita Pizza Before Baking

Bacon Spinach Pita Pizza Before Baking

So a huge special thanks to Cliff’s Meat Market and Brinkley Farms (home of my CSA) for the bacon. Thanks to John at Eco Farm for local bacon insights.

Bacon Spinach Pita Pizza After Baking

Bacon Spinach Pita Pizza After Baking

Enough delay of game, here are the results for the brackets for Local Bacon!
To be clear, we decided to include “locally sourced” for this, as we learned that there is one smokehouse that is licensed to handle/process/deliver bacon for reselling by farmers. This explains why the local bacon tastes very similar between local sources. As I’m inordinately fond of the Brinkley Farms pork chop, I can testify to the deliciousness of their pigs.

Beautiful Pork Chops

Beautiful Pork Chops from Brinkley Farms

Brinkley Farms Bacon: Good pig flavor, not as much hammy as it is like pork tenderloin. Not overly salty, thicker and chewier than some, good for cooking, delicious fat. Second Place in overtime. (This was almost too close to call.)

Brinkley Farms Smoked Slab Bacon

Brinkley Farms Smoked Slab Bacon

Bacon from Cliff’s Meat Market: This was their “house bacon,” which we believe was sourced outside of the area. It was a bit more thinly sliced. Very balanced, cooks fast, not too salty, no one note jumps out. Good bacon taste, great texture for BLTs. First Place.

Cliff's Meat Market House Bacon, wrapped in butcher paper, of course.

Cliff's Meat Market House Bacon, wrapped in butcher paper, of course.

This was an exciting round for us, because we were struck by how much more complex and delicious the local bacon scene has become. We know there are some folks making bacon for personal consumption, or in-restaurant use, but for the rest of this, it’s nice to have options. I was a big fan of the Brinkley bacon on a biscuit, hitting the sweet spot between a pork tenderloin and a country ham biscuit, without so much salt. If you’re a fan of slightly crunchy fat, this is a good one for you.

Bacon and a guilt grapefruit.

Bacon and a guiltfruit.

Coming up next week, it’s mail-order bacon time in the final round. Will your favorite make it to the Final Four? Tune in next Friday to see! In Bacon Madness, it’s anyone’s game.

Do you have a challenge for The Practical Cook? Email me your ideas at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Bacon Brackets, Round 2 Results: Gourmet Grocery Store (with video)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook has exciting results to share. This week’s Bacon Brackets involve the first of a series of upsets. And really, aren’t we in it for the Cinderella story? In searching for the best tasting bacon, Improv Cook and I just assumed, right or wrong, that the gourmet shops would have something up their porcine sleeves.

Let’s roll the game day footage:

We were wrong. Here are the contenders:

Bacon Brackets, Round 2: Gourmet Grocery Store

Bacon Brackets, Round 2: Gourmet Grocery Store

And here are the stunning results of the Gourmet Grocery Store Bacon Brackets:

1. 365 brand. $4.99/12oz Some shrinkage during cooking, low salt, crisp chewy, meaty but more like beef than pork. 4th place “not good” (Yeah, we said it.)

365 Bacon is not delicious

365 Bacon is not delicious

2. Wellshire market style. $7.99/16oz This bacon had moderate salt, some chew, some bacon flavor, okay texture, good on a biscuit. 3rd place with texture caveat  (as in if you have texture issues with thicker bacon at all, don’t buy this one)

Wellshire Farm bought in bulk

Wellshire Farm bought in bulk

3. Pederson apple smoked. $7.99/16oz This bacon was noticeably sweeter, had a slight chew, some smoke, good for salad or bitter greens, 2nd place, best to cook with this one instead of eating straight up

Pederson Apple Smoked bought in bulk

Pederson Apple Smoked bought in bulk

4. Applegate Sunday bacon. $4.99/8oz This bacon suffered shrinkage, but was bacony with moderate to high salt. However, it was not crispy, so we award it a  reticent 1st place.

Reluctantly, we've crowned Applegate Sunday Bacon as the winner this time.

Reluctantly, we've crowned Applegate Sunday Bacon as the winner this time.

The big shock: the gourmet grocery store bacons got their porcine behinds handed to them by the plain old grocery store bacons. We tasted these back to back, and though I hope our finalist judges aren’t reading this, we agreed we wouldn’t go out of our way to eat any of these “gourmet” bacon contenders.

Beauty in bacon can be deceiving.

Beauty in bacon can be deceiving.

Up next week, Round 3, Local Bacon! I’ll let you gather your local bacon and test along. Do you have a favorite so far? Post a comment, even just to cheer us on or provide exercise tips. 🙂

Got bacon? Send your challenges, ideas, and vegetarian recipe requests to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Bacon Brackets Results: Round 1, Grocery Store (with video)

Gentle Readers, who knew there was so much variety in the bacon world? Tasting so many back to back was very instructive. But this task is not for the faint of heart. My partner in crime, Improv Cook, and I took it upon ourselves to taste the first 8 contenders in one day.

Have you hugged your bacon today?

Have you hugged your bacon today?

That’s correct, we ate at least 8 pieces of bacon apiece. Wow. That was a lot of bacon. I’ve been working out double-time in an effort to complete the Sweet Sixteen. And the water consumption went way up after that little extravaganza. But enough delay, let’s roll the tape:

Never fear my vegetarian friends who have read this far, I’ll be doing a whole series on vegetarian dishes and salads coming soon, by double request. Do you suppose there’s a connection?

The Results for Bacon Brackets, Grocery Store Edition
We were shocked at the outcome, here they are in order:

Bacon Brackets!

Bacon Brackets!

1. WINNER, ROUND 1: Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon. Not salty, high bacon taste, balanced smoke, meaty, would work in a BLT or beside pancakes. $8.49 24 oz

Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon: Winner of the Grocery Store Round!

Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon: Winner of the Grocery Store Round!

2. Oscar Mayer Uncured Bacon: moderate salt, more smoke on the backend, chewy but not unpleasant, good for BLT or pancakes, thinner than Wright. This bacon was a dark horse, and we were both surprised how much we liked it. NOTE: This bacon had a great texture if you like thinner, crunchier bacon, but I found the smokey aftertaste too strong. $6.99 12 oz

Oscar Mayer Uncured Bacon: 2nd Place in the Grocery Store Round!

Oscar Mayer Uncured Bacon: 2nd Place in the Grocery Store Round!

3. Hormel Black Label Hickory Smoked Bacon: Thicker, not much shrinking, salty but not overly so, more bacon taste, more chewy than crispy, better beside pancakes than in a BLT. $4.49 16 oz

Hormel Black Label is often a gold standard for bacon, but not here.

Hormel Black Label is often a gold standard for bacon, but not here.

4. NOT RECOMMENDED: Smithfield Hickory Smoked Bacon: Thin so it burns quickly if you’re not watching (or you’re shooting video while you’re cooking, just saying). Not much shrinkage, very salty, not much bacon taste (more like country ham), okay for BLT, very crispy. $3.99. 12oz

Glad I got the smaller package of Smithfield Hickory Smoked Bacon.

Glad I got the smaller package of Smithfield Hickory Smoked Bacon.

Next Friday, we’ll share the results from Bacon Brackets, Gourmet Grocery Store Edition. Here are the contenders:

Bacon Brackets, Round 2: Gourmet Grocery Store

Bacon Brackets, Round 2: Gourmet Grocery Store

To translate if there’s a photo fail: 365 Hickory Smoked Bacon, Wellshire Market Style Bacon, Pederson Apple Wood Smoked Bacon, and Applegate Sunday Bacon. Tune in next Friday for a stunning upset. I promise you won’t see it coming.

Okay sports, um, bacon fans, what do you think so far? Thanks to everyone who submitted a suggestion. Do you see your favorites up here?

Send your bacon samples, pancakes, and cholesterol reducing drugs to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Bacon Brackets: First Round, Supermarket Style

Gentle Readers, the people have spoken. Here is the Round 1, Bacon Brackets: Supermarket Style. Remember, the goal is for you to play along at home, so feel free to test these fine bacons yourself. Some themes have been emerging.

I love bacon this much. And coffee isn't half bad either.

I love bacon this much. And coffee isn't half bad either.

Bacon Trends:

1. Keep it thin. I’ve seen several posts condemning floppy bacon, though thick-cut is marketed left and right as being gourmet (possibly pronounced with a hard “t”). Thick has been equated with “chewy” and generally unpleasant. Who knew?

When in doubt: bacon is the answer.

When in doubt: bacon is the answer.

2. Crispy rules, briquette does not. See above.

A BLT, recently ordered and consumed with glee by The Practical Cooks Junior

A BLT, recently ordered and consumed with glee by The Practical Cooks Junior

3. People like bacon. A given, but bears repeating.

So how do you cook the bacon? Though Cook’s Illustrated promotes the oven-baked method, which I’ve used, I have never been completely satisfied with the crispiness of the results. They advocate 400 degree oven, rotate, I think 20 minutes total. For me it worked okay, but caused a lot of smoke and heartache.

Bacon on a Baking Sheet

Bacon on a Baking Sheet

I like the skillet method, working in batches, draining the grease for disposal (can headed for the recycling bin) or use (glass jar). My friend, FoodEngineer, advocates cooking bacon in your cast iron skillet on the grill. Why? Because you can re-season your skillet and avoid a mess, all at once. If you’ve never cooked in your cast iron on the grill, you should try it. It’s fun and functional.

Enough with the pre-game commentary, the Supermarket Bacon Bracket is as follows:

Supermarket Bacon Brackets: Round 1

Supermarket Bacon Brackets: Round 1

If you can’t read that, it’s Oscar Mayer Uncured, Hormel Black Label, Wright Hickory Smoked, and Smithfield Hickory Smoked. Thanks to all who submitted favorites, and there’s still a little time to submit for the other categories, listed here, so get on it.

Ideas, compliments, queries? Email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Sunday, it’s time for Weekly Menus!

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