Tag Archives: best bacon

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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We will meet again on Sunday, with Weekly Menus and a Bonus Recipe!

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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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On Sunday, special birthday edition of Weekly Menus!

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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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Bacon Brackets: It’s Not Madness, It’s Delicious.

Gentle Readers, thought it is just a little early, March Madness has struck The Practical Cook. Traditionally, this means basketball. Here in the test kitchen, this is going to mean bacon. Yes, we will be working on Bacon Brackets, which will culminate in a Final Four, judged by a panel of fried pork experts. Why? Because how else do you know which bacon is the very best one.

When in doubt: bacon is the answer.

When in doubt: bacon is the answer.

Special thanks to Improv Cook for this challenge, and for her able assistance in executing. Here is how it will work, and what we need from you.

Bacon Brackets

We need nominations from you Gentle Readers. Here are the brackets, and we’ll have 4 contenders in each category. We’ll declare a winner from each, and then host a final four. All nominations for these categories must be submitted by February 23 to be considered. So here we go, let the games begin.

Bacon Frying in the Pan

Bacon Frying in the Pan

1. High-End Mail Order. The catalog stuff, but still accessible by everyone.

2. Organic. High-end, but available in the local store or butcher. We’re looking for the national brands here.

3. Local. You may have met the pig. This will be local to you. Feel free to submit suggestions for your region, we’ll share them with sourcing info as we have it.

4. Grocery Store. Bring it. If you want to nominate Oscar Mayer, and have a case for it, let’s hear it.

We’ll compile the brackets and report in on Fried Fridays during March, ending up with the Final Four. What do you get out of this? Hopefully some serious bacon know-how and some favorites. Because if you’re going to eat bacon, shouldn’t it be the very best?

Smile, You've Got Bacon!

Smile, You've Got Bacon!

So post a comment, send and email, tell a friend. Let March Madness begin, potentially with a BLT. Send us your bacon suggestions!

Compliments, queries, and challenges can be emailed 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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Tomorrow, Gentle Readers, It’s Time for a Change.

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