Tag Archives: wright hickory smoked 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 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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On Sunday, it’s time for Weekly Menus (with bonus recipe)!

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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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