The bellies to put in yours
By Jerilyn Covert, Jennifer Messimer, and Christa Sgobba
Bacon: If you're human, the mere word summons an immediate Pavlovian response. Simply reading the list of bacons that follows may warrant a bib. For the good of all mankind, we took it upon ourselves to try more than 60 different kinds of bacon-from nationwide to boutique brands-and came up with a ranked list of the best bacons you seriously need to try. And if you're worried about bacon's supposed artery clogging effects, research has shown that there is no evidence that the saturated fat in bacon increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. Not too shabby at only 45 calories per slice. So go on, enjoy.
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1. Beeler's Uncured Garlic Pepper Bacon
Call it the baron of bacons. Unlike some gimmicky flavored bacons we tried, Beeler's uses additional flavorings to enhance and complement the pork. This bacon is just fatty enough and just salty enough, and it carries a light garlic flavor, according to our tasters' notes. Try it in pasta, added to sautéed vegetables, or, hell, all by itself.
$14 for 12 oz. package, baconfreak.com
2. North Country Smokehouse Applewood Cottage Bacon
Because it's cut from the center of the pork butt (rather than from the fatty belly), this "cottage" bacon is leaner than traditional bacon but more intensely flavored than Canadian bacon. Our testers immediately picked up on the hint of sweetness that comes from its maple syrup cure. Its round slices look more salami than bacon, but it does help with one very important function: Bacon burger, anyone? Need some more must-have grub suggestions? Try these: 40 Foods with Superpowers.
$30 for 4 12 oz. packages, ncsmokehouse.com
3. Burgers' Smokehouse Applewood Country Bacon
Great bacon, like fine wine, needs time to reach its full potential-no rushing allowed. This brand adopts a "slow-cure," which allows its rub of salt, cane sugar, and spices to absorb and penetrate the pork. The result? A whole lot of flavor crammed into each slice-and even more love from our testers, who praised its rich yet slightly sweet flavor, which mellows out the Applewood smoke.
$46 for 4 16 oz. packages, smokehouse.com
4. Surry Farms All Natural Dry-Cured Bacon
Berkshire hogs are to mass-raised industrial pigs as Kim Kardashian is to Khloe: Although they're considered same animal, Berkshire pork is more attractive, robust, and voluptuous-the fat's in all the right places, you might say. That's why Surry Farms bacon, made exclusively from purebred Berkshire hogs, tastes so superb. The finished product has a buttery taste, followed by a kick of salt and, finally, a meaty finish.
$30 for 3 12 oz. packages, surryfarms.com
5. Farmland Thick Sliced Hickory Smoked Bacon
This is old-fashioned hickory-smoked bacon at its best. The thick slices cook up crispy but still have a slight chew when you take a bite. Testers also praised the flavor-there's a hint of sweetness without being too salty.
$8 for a 12 oz. package, farmlandfoods.com
6. MH Homemade Cured Bacon
As we were making calls to nearly 40 of the best bacon companies in the country, we thought to ourselves, "What if we made our own bacon and sneaked it into the taste test with all the professionally made stuff?" Little did we know that our DIY bacon would beat out most of the major league brands.
Check out the easy recipe we used for our homemade bacon and you too can enjoy this, as one taster raved, "thick, chewy, salty, wonderful" bacon.
7. Nueske's Thick-Sliced Peppered Bacon
This bacon owes its robust flavor to a combination of fresh-cracked peppercorns and 24-hours of smoking over Wisconsin Applewood. Unlike some of the more in-your-face flavored bacons we tested, Nueske's gave a "nice light, peppery taste" without overpowering. Sure, you can eat it plain, but you can also use it to kick up the heat on a tired BLT. Or sprinkle chopped-up pieces inside a goat cheese omelet-the peppery bite complements the creamy, mild cheese.
$23 for 32 oz., nueskes.com
8. D'Artagnan Uncured Smoked Duck Bacon
These dark, meaty strips may give the pigs a free pass, but they don't skimp on the rich bacon taste. Made from duck breasts smoked over wood chips, the bacon is subtly smoky and savory. Most of our testers could tell this wasn't your average bacon, but these hearty strips inspired some of our most raving superlatives. "Incredibly deep-dreamy," one wrote. "I'm in bacon heaven," said another. Let this bacon garnish your plate of traditional scrambled eggs-but why not give the chickens a break too? Try them with duck eggs from your local farmers' market or specialty store for an even richer flavor.
$13 for 8 oz. package, dartagnan.com
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9. Bac'n Tastes Good Hickory Smoked Peppered Bacon
More than one taster compared the meatiness of this bacon to that of steak. Unlike many larger bacon producers, the folks from Broadbent's farm-the Kentucky-based, family-run operation behind Bac'n-do not add water to their product, which means the weight you see on the front of the package is the same amount that winds up on your plate. Hand-rubbed with coarse black pepper, this bacon has a bold, fresh, almost lemony zing.
$20 for 14 oz. package, bacn.com
10. Lobel's Double Hickory Smoked Slab
The Lobel family has been butchering for more than 170 years. Who better to bring us bacon that comes as a giant slab? Apart from the flavor is the versatility of having an entire unsliced pork belly. Cut it into thicker pieces for soups, stews, sauces, and pretty much anything that needs some meaty flavor.
$35 for 1 slab, approx. 2.5 lb., lobels.com
Although we'd like to believe bacon is the only logical food choice, there's more to life than sizzling pork. Stock up now on these 125 Best Packaged Foods.
Oscar Mayer Center Cut Bacon
This one just missed the top 10, but it so surprised us that we thought it deserved a shout-out. Let's be honest: You don't always have the time to order bacon online and wait for it to be delivered. Sometimes you need bacon more imminently than that. In those instances, rely on good ol' Oscar Mayer. This bacon has a flavor that's as classic as the brand itself.
$5 for 12 oz. package, available at most food stores nationwide.
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