Repeat after me: “bacon.” Doesn’t that word feel good rolling sliding off your tongue? It makes you happy, doesn’t it? No wonder, either, with bacon bringing salt to the sweet (The Office in Delray serves bacon sprinkled glazed donuts) and “b” to an otherwise boring “l” and a simple “t”.
But before you can save an unwrapped scallop or prime a batch of barbecue sauce, you’re going to need to buy a pound or so, and you choice can make or break your day. I’m assuming most folks don’t have access to the kitchen at Café Boulud, so you’re going to have to make the trek to the prepared meats section of your grocery store. That’s what I did, and I grabbed a few pounds of the slippery stuff to see what’s what. I cooked it three ways: fried, baked, and sugared (yes, covered in brown sugar and cooked). The blackout lasted a few hours, but I found the following notes lying on the floor when I woke up:
Coleman Uncured and Hickory Smoked: Consistent slices help if fry up well without curling too much. The first bite brings a sweet blast followed by a nice smokey follow-up. Problem is, it’s a little too sweet (did I say that out loud?) for use with pancakes and a pool of maple syrup. Nice with eggs though, and good for a few tasty slices.
Publix Hickory Smoked Center Cut: Not as much rich bacon flavor as the rest and actually under-salted. Short slices (due to the center cut, I suppose), just made me feel like I was cooking for children and should have gotten out my Easy-Bake oven. Center cut is supposed to be leaner, but it didn’t look it to me. Not a bad bacon, and cheap, but I’d expect to find it at a diner, and not in my fridge ever again.
Oscar Mayer: More pounds of OM Bacon are sold every month than there are stars in the sky (or close, anyway). Wide slices due to the generous helping of fat on each, these feel far less dense than other brands. The XX-wide nature makes ol’ Oscar great for sandwiches and provides plenty of coverage while the fat content reduces crunch and prevents the thing from exploding when you bite into your burger. OM fries up well and actually tastes a bit less salty than many brands, which is a nice switch. This stuff just tastes like bacon, and that’s a good thing. Surprisingly, it’s my favorite all-around, every-day bacon of the group.
Wellshire Thick Sliced Dry Rubbed: I’ll tell you up front that I simply didn’t want to like this, because it’s the most expensive and I didn’t want it to be any better than the rest; all talk, if you will. And their label is talky: this stuff is massaged with natural spices and they apparently let slabs of the stuff stand for seven days before they smoke it in hickory and apple wood smoke. To my dismay, though, it works. Minimal curling during cooking is always a welcome thing, and it was delicious, not too salty, and had a perfect fat/meat ratio with just the right amount of smoke for my taste. I’d eat it all day, every day, on anything, including a dirty stick. Not only the best in context of a salad (ick) or a burger (yum), this stuff was the best baked in brown sugar. Six dollars for three quarters of a pound is too rich for my blood, but for the usual suspects that shop at Whole Foods this is a great choice for store-bought bacon.
I’m well aware I missed quite a few, so I’ll do a part two in the future (once my heart begins to beat regularly again). Until then, if you’ve got the dough, I’ve got the bacon, and it’s the Wellshire. Otherwise, Oscar Mayer is a safe bet in a pinch.