An Opinionated Ranking of Bacon Brands

Boars head bacon on silver background

In our Taste Test series, Bon Appétit editors conduct blind comparisons to discover the best supermarket staples (like vanilla ice cream or frozen pizza). Today, which bacon will steal your heart?

Enjoying bacon was a personality trait for a few years in the 2010s. (Remember bacon milkshakes and chocolate-covered bacon?) But even if it’s not in the spotlight, bacon has staying power because at the end of the day it just plain tastes good. Over a decade later it’s still living large on menus across the country—and it’s still a staple in our kitchens at home.

Take a stroll down the packaged meats aisle in your local grocery store and you’re likely to be inundated with bacon options. There are different curing techniques, smoking processes, and cuts. And there’s also Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, and vegan bacon, which are a story for another day. Here we’re focusing on American-style bacon made with pork.

Even if the labels claim otherwise, all bacon is cured. Curing bacon extends its shelf life and affects how the product tastes. But this process has become less popular in recent years, as health-conscious consumers try to limit nitrate intake. Some bacon is labeled “uncured,” even though it undergoes a curing process, because the USDA only considers bacon cured if it’s cured using synthetic nitrates. So “uncured” bacon is cured using naturally occurring nitrites in things like fruits, vegetables, and sea salt. (The terms nitrates and nitrites refer to sodium nitrite and potassium nitrate, both curing agents used in meat manufacturing.)

When we asked tasters to describe their ideal piece of bacon, the first thing they mentioned was flavor. Bacon should have a hefty, meaty taste—fatty but not too fatty. It should be salty, not overly sweet, and each bite should have an initial crunch, with a slight chew and minimal crumbs.

We blind tasted seven popular brands, choosing what’s widely available in grocery stores, including generic options. While you can cook bacon in a skillet or even the microwave, we love the hands-off approach of the oven. We cooked several slices from each brand in a 400° oven on wire racks over baking sheets until they were browned and crispy. Though the thicknesses of the products were comparable, there were subtle variations, so we closely monitored their progress for even cooking.

Many of them we’d kick out of bed—we have high standards!—but two of them we’d invite back, with eggs, pancakes, and maybe even a mimosa.

Photograph by Isa Zapata

Not Our Favorite: Boar’s Head Traditional

What’s inside: A notable ingredient here is sodium erythorbate. When you see sodium erythorbate on a bacon package, you know it was cured using a method called pumping, in which the curing chemicals are injected directly into the meat. Since this method introduces more moisture into the bacon, it’s more likely to shrink as it cooks.


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Author:Sam Stone | Website:www.bonappetit.com

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